This week, I bring you a collaboration none of us saw coming: TWA and Blackwing Pencils. If you think about it, they did exist in the same sphere— both prominent artifacts of the 1950s era. Trans World Airlines (TWA) was formed in the 30s and finally took the name TWA in the 50s. As the decades passed, TWA was known for being an industry leader in innovation: In the 1960s, they introduced in-flight movies and were one of the first airlines to use Doppler radar. The 60s also saw the birth of a brand-new terminal at John F. Kennedy International airport in NYC. TWA was innovative in the sense that they had a keen eye for design and concept— they, along with Delta, were one of the first airlines to introduce the spoke-hub system (this is where airlines had a central hub location and routes were organized in “spokes” around a central hub) which boosted efficiency and allowed for fewer routes and is something every airline does today. In addition to having a handle on productivity, their design of the terminal at JFK was revolutionary and boasted closed-circuit TV, interior passenger jetways, a PA system, baggage carousels, an electric arrival and departure flip-board system, and a robust selection of dining (Dunlap, 1994). All of the things travelers take for granted started with the TWA Flight Center.
More recently, starting in 2016, the TWA Flight Center, dormant since 2001, began its journey to restoration. New York City-based Morse developers collaborated with MCR, a large hotel development company, to re-create the feeling of the early 60s excitement felt in the terminal. They have dubbed their creation TWA Hotel, a 512-room hotel with 45 event rooms and five hospitality suites that host up to 1,600 people. Each of the 512 hotel rooms are furnished with mid-century modern furniture. From retro-fitted rotary phones, walnut martini bars, tambour walls to walls adorned with vintage TWA advertisements, each stay takes one back to what I could consider the Golden Age of commercial airlines. Some rooms have a runway view where you can see planes take off and land (this makes me SUPER excited as I am an airplane enthusiast). In order to negate the LOUD jet engine sounds, all rooms have a 7 pane, 4.5 inch glass window. I WILL be staying here sometime soon. Anyhow, I digress. On to the pencils. In each hotel room there are Musgrave pencils— I just wanted to mention that as they have a pretty cool write-up on their website about them— perhaps a review is in order. We are really here to talk about the TWA Hotel X Blackwing pencil, so let’s go:
First off, pictures do not do this pencil justice. The red is SUPER red, and SUPER glossy and overall fabulous. As someone that is not a fan of red anything, this pencil wins me over. To compliment the nice, bright red, there are two white stripes stamped on one side and Blackwing X TWA HOTEL on the other. I’m a little underwhelmed with the lack of iconography here. I know one side of a pencil is small, but I wish they were able to use the original TWA logo on one of the sides. I’m sure there was good reason to use the design they chose, but it’s kind of meh. The ferrule is a shiny silver with a bright white eraser to go with the print on the barrel. This pencil’s core is “balanced” which means it has a Pearl core. A few things that I wish they did with this pencil— first, the design I griped about earlier— something a bit more flashy would have been cool. Also, I was almost expecting a little paper inside the box with TWA history/facts kind of like how Blackwing does with the limited editions. I am sure it would have increased the price of these, but it would have been a nice touch. Especially since a lot of folks that buy things from a TWA Hotel gift shop will probably be enthusiasts of the brand. Overall, I’d only recommend these pencils if you are a collector. There is nothing different about these other than the finish. They also retail for $29.95— two more dollars than the volumes editions. If you are interested, they can be purchased here.