Pencils marked "Osborne" on the clip, especially those with their trademark black and white striped pointed caps, are such a common sight at flea markets and antique shows that the quality with which they were made is easily overlooked.
Recently, I stumbled across a book by Dan Capper, titled Crossroads of Commerce: The Pennsylvania Railroad Calendar Art of Grif Teller, in which I was surprised to find a comprehensive history of The Osborne Company. Osborne, it turns out, was not nearly as famous for the pencils it produced as it was for the advertising calendars it printed!
The Osborne Company, according to Capper, was founded by Edmund Burke Osborne in Red Oak, Iowa in 1888. Osborne, a newspaper man, had the unique idea to print calendars with advertising on them as promotional givaways. Osborne moved to Newark, New Jersey in 1899, to be closer to artists (such as Grif Teller) who were painting the artwork Osborne would purchase and print on its calendars; in 1932, the company moved to nearby Clifton, New Jersey. Edmund, Sr. died in 1917, but one of his sons, Edmund, Jr. remained active in the company until his death in 1951. After Edmund Jr. died, the board made the decision to sell the company, and in August, 1953, Osborne announced the sale of all its assets to Kemper Thomas of Cincinnati, Ohio, a competitor in the advertising calendar business.
The renamed company, Osborne Kemper Thomas, continued in business in Cincinnati until at least the 1970s, and was eventually absorbed by the Hallmark Greeting Card Company.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
Osborne took the logical step of adding calendar pencils to its line of products in around 1938 (at least, I haven't found calendar pencils dated any earlier). The example on the left, dated 1940, is shown here next to a Diamond Medal "Diplomat" from the 1920s to illustrate that Osborne Calendar pencils were probably supplied by National Pen Products Co.
As these three examples illustrate, Osborne also had Salz supply them with pencils during the late 1930s.
Here is a selection of typical Osborne middle-joint, rear drive pencils. The quality on these is really outstanding for advertising pieces.
Whether these were also supplied by National Pen Products Co. is unknown. The brown example is very unusual and closely resembles the color on some pencils made by Eagle.
Here is a closer view of three distinct styles of clips I have found: a ball clip with a rounded top, ball clip with a pointed top, and a straight clip with no ball.
Note that the one on the right is marked "O-K-T", which means it was produced after Osborne was sold to Kemper Thomas in 1953 and the company was renamed "Osborne Kemper Thomas."