Friday, March 23, 2018

Three of a Kind . . . and Maybe Four

Here are three more of the pencils I picked up from Ed Fingerman at the DC show last August:

The top one in that first picture I had to keep just fort the size of it - large magic pencils are a commanding sight, and they don’t come around all that often.  The imprint on the extender did my heart good to see, too:

That F in a shield signifieds Fairchild & Co., and I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for all things Fairchild due in part to the fact that my friend David Nishimura wrote a substantial piece of Fairchild which appeared in the last issue of the Pennant I edited (“Leroy W. Fairchild: The Little-Known History of a Well-Known Company,” Winter, 2016).

In the article, David indicates that after the shuttering of Leroy W. Fairchild’s operations in 1896 and subsequent takeover of the firm’s assets by a firm established by his son, Leroy C. Fairchild, another of Fairchild’s sons, Harry P. Fairchild, established a firm with Ephraim S. Johnson, Jr. (The son of another famous New York maker, Ephraim Johnson) in October, 1898.  The firm, Fairchild & Johnson, used a hallmark of a F and a J inside a shield separated by a diagonal line.

The center pencil from that first picture has the Fairchild & Johnson mark:

After Ephraim apparently got bored with the enterprise and left to pursue other interests in 1905, the company name was changed to Fairchild & Co., and the J was deleted from the shield.

The lower pencil is unusual since it’s hexagonal - and like the first pencil, it has the Fairchild & Co. hallmark:

Then there was this other pencil in Fingerman’s stash, one that I just couldn’t bear to let slip away:

Such an interesting shape certainly calls to mind Fairchild & Johnson.  Unfortunately, the hallmark isn’t very clear:

It looks like it might be the top of an F stamped on there, but without any shield around it.   Or maybe it’s something else . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2018

One That Has Me Thinking

Another mystery pencil today, one with just enough tantalizing things to grab my attention:

It isn’t working, although something feels like it was supposed to be happening at the nose end.  The top pulls off to reveal a lead magazine:

So here’s the things that I think are interesting.  First, at the nose is a “Pat. Pend.” stamp . . . and rather crudely done:

Then there’s the chasing, nearly identical to what I’ve found on an odd, more lightweight Sheaffer “bowler clip” Sharp Point than the others in my collection.

And that clip . . .

Here’s the mystery pencil shown alongside one of the earliest Sheaffer Sharp Points, with the straight clip mounting.

Have a closer look . . .

These don’t just kind of look similar - they are identical.

Does this mean the pencils is another David J. LaFrance invention?  That’s a possibility, except I’ve never committed to the notion that these clips weren’t jobbed out, since they do appear on several unmarked variations on this theme (none of which I can conclusively trace back to LaFrance).  Also, the only pencil patents LaFrance received were put into production in the DeWitt-LaFrance “Superite” series, including related subbrands.

It could be that a patent for this design that was never issued – perhaps because the unknown inventor couldn’t get the damned thing to work. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Moore of an Imprint Than Expected

This is another one that Jerome Lobner had listed online:

There were two things that attracted me about this one.  First is the color: while jade green pencils are common in Moore’s earlier bell-top incarnation (the Liddell 1925 patent models - see pages 100 and 101 in The Catalogue), once Moore went to a more conventional and streamlined shape, this color is practically nonexistent.  It’s the first post-1925 patent example I’ve found in what should be a common color.

The other thing that was unusual was the fact that it is a ringtop.  While Moore offered large and small pencils, even the small ones were normally fitted with clips.  Have a look at the streamlined pencils pictured on page 101 of The Catalogue:

However, when the pencil arrived, even with the naked eye I could see some roughness on the center band.  I was disappointed, and it was so uncharacteristic of Jerome to sell something with an undisclosed defect that I pulled out my loupe for a closer look to see what was going on.  No, it isn’t damage strictly speaking, and it provided me a bit of insight I would not otherwise have had:

The factory imprint was placed just a little too low, so that the bottoms of the lettering clip the metal trim.  I always assumed that imprints were heat-stamped, so that the lettering would be melted into the barrel rather than stamped in with enough force to break the plastic . . .

And certainly not with enough force to also stamp metal, or enough heat to melt it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Needle In A Haystack

This one probably would have been slipped right on past me, had it not been accurately listed by an online seller:

If I saw this one at a show, I probably wouldn’t have given it much of a thought.   It looks like it was made by Cross, and it’s a magic pencil:

The pencil is as pristine as you’ll find – note even that the lead inside still has its presharpened point.  It also can be removed completely from the sheath:

However, there is no familiar AXT imprint to be found.  In its place is the word “Simmons.”

Pencils such as this were made, by Cross as well as by other manufacturers, over a period of decades, through as late as the 1930s.  Given the location of the imprint, I’m thinking this might have been a jeweler’s house brand . . . but with such a generic name and more than half a century of production, I haven’t been able to narrow this one down to any specific source.

I do have one clue, but it might be nothing more than a red herring.  In American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, I did include a registration for a Simmons trademark in connection with pencils:

Registration number 138,922 was issued to the Simmons Hardware Company in 1920, on an application which alleged that this Eversharp-like logo (which is in turn Winchester-inspired) was used by the company since September 9, 1910.

It is interesting that Simmons claimed something like this before the Eversharp logo was adopted by Charles Keeran in 1913; however, I don’t think this one is much help for us.  Note the letters “E.C.” nested within the S, completely abasent from our pencil du jour – as is any other hint of this distinctive logo.  A check of E.C. Simmons advertising does turn up something interesting - the “Keen Kutter” logo that so closely resembles the Keen Point trademark Charles Keeran later adopted was for Simmons’ house brand of cutlery:

In fact, my book also includes the Simmons Hardware Company’s trademark of the Keen Kutter trademark specifically in class 37, for pencils:

One source (a history of the company compiled by Elaine and Jerry Heuring and posted at indicated that a 1909 Simmons catalog was 5,000 pages long, so prolific was the company’s output.  Certainly the company could have had Cross make some pencils branded with its name, although these seem a little more highbrow than the company’s typical offerings.  Then again, if the Simmons Hardware Company went to the trouble to have pencils made with its name, why wouldn’t it ask that the imprint match its trademarked logo for pencils? 

According to the Heurings, E.C. Simmons went bankrupt in 1939 and was acquired by the Shapleigh Hardware Company in 1940.

I would estimate that this pencil dates to the 1930s, and there’s plenty of people out there who have Simmons Hardware catalogs from the decade . . . unfortunately, though, none have been posted online that I’ve found.   For now, while this is the best lead I’ve got, it’s an interesting possibility but not a particularly strong one.  With luck, someone with access to a later Simmons catalog will stumble across this article and verify whether pencils such as this one were offered by the company.

Monday, March 19, 2018

On The Level

The first thing I bought at the DC Show last August might seem a little odd . . . but then again, I’ve got something of a fetish for “trick” pencils that do something else in addition to writing:

It’s another Monroe, and I thought it was unusual first because I didn’t know Monroe made a level pencil, and second because you don’t usually see Monroes in anything other than black.  This one is marked “The Musical Sales Company”:

Level pencils came into vogue just before America got dragged into the Second World War.  Ralph N. Skrainka of University City, Missourit filed an application for a utility patent for a level attachment, for either a pen or a pencil, on March 27, 1940, and it was issued as number 2,251,640 on August 5, 1941:

Meanwhile, Morris Gurtov of New York took out a design patent for a pencil with a ruler on one side and a level built into the other, filed January 25, 1941 and issued as Design Patent 126,555 on April 15, 1941:

Here’s a couple other level pencils from my collection:

These were usually advertising pencils, with “Always on the level” surrounding the bubble to hint at the honesty and trustworthiness of the proprietor:

The pencils themselves are identical, but there’s two distinctly different clips::

One is the “Pencilevel,” and the other reads “On the Level” on the clip – along with a breadcrumb: “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.”  That suggests a trademark was registered for the phrase.  Did I find and include a trademark for “On The Level” in American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953?  Why yes . . . yes I did . . .

Abraham Schlosser, of New York, filed an application for trademark number 373,010 on June 23, 1939 for the phrase “On The Level” in connection specifically with mechanical pencils – a year before Skrainka applied for a utility patent and two years before Gurtov applied for his design patent.   What’s more, Schlosser claimed to have used the mark since 1936!

I don’t know what else “On the Level” could have meant other than for pencils with built-in levels such as these, so that raises some questions how a utility patent applied for four years later might have been issued, or whether it was ultimately invalidated. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trick Pencils . . . For Tricks

Sometimes “trick” pencils, in addition to writing, help you calculate tricks, as in bridge hands.  As I was cleaning up around the museum a few months ago, I finally got around to photographing three examples I’ve had laying around for awhile:

The top one doesn’t have a clip, but it does have a hexagonal bushing under the cap which keeps it from rolling off of the table.  The name on the pencil is “Vanco”:

I’ve got a few Vanco pencils, but they are all Japanese-made duplex pencils, meaning that they contain two leads inside so that turning the cap one way advances one color lead, and turning it the other way withdraws that one and advances another color.  This one isn’t anything like that – in fact, if it weren’t for the name I’d think it was made by Ritepoint. 

In fact, there is no connection between this pencil and the Japanese company.  I found an advertisement for the Vanco Bridge Scoring Pencil in the June, 1936 edition of Popular Mechanics, providing an address of 210 South 16th Street, Philadelphia:

As for that middle example, I don’t have any idea who made it.  There were two of these that came my way in a collection, the second of which was missing a cap.  There might have been a clip under that cap which has gone missing:

The third one is a bit easier to figure out.  That clip and the rosette molded into the top of the cap are calling cards of the Welsh Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Few Tricks from Monroe

“Trick” pencils . . . that’s the name by which I like to refer to pencils which, in addition to writing, do something else.  It’s like this pencil collecting business is two different hobbies for me: on the one hand, sometimes I’m exploring the history and showing off the artistry of some serious artifactsone is serious, delving into the history and art of (what I consider to be) some pretty valuable collectibles.

And then on the other, I get just as much a kick out of a lighter pencil, that goofy Golf-Meter pencil from the other day, an Apex “Magic Multiplier” pencil.   I could probably save myself a ton of money if I just went down the trick pencil rabbit hole and stayed there. 

I won’t.  I’m to omniverious when it come to this stuff.

One of my favorite trick pencil makers is Monroe – no affiliation with the Eclipse “uberbrand” with classic deco stepped-end deco styline and stepped-up price stickers, but Monroe as in these:

The company made the most of this format, and these are just the most recent versions which have turned up recently.  The top one is one of the coolest I’ve seen, the “Monroe Slide Rule Pencil Pat. Pend.,” which changes the numbers in the window with a turn of the cap:

I haven’t found the patent for this one.  It’s possible one was never issued.  The next one is one I spent some time hunting down for a reasonable price: the “Monroe Cocktail Pencil.”  Turning the cap reveals the ingredients for several adult beverages:

From one extreme to the other, here’s the “Way of Life” pencil.  Turning the cap takes you from “Hell Bound” to “Heaven Bound.” 

Last for now is just one of the many variations of measuring pencils.  These came tailored for a variety of applications, from lumber estimating, carpeting, paint . . . this one is for wallpaper:

And then there’s even more . . . have a look at these two:

If you look at the trim bands, they match what you’ll see on a Monroe exactly.  And they have a different trick: the perpetual calendar complication at the top end:

The clip rotates with the calendar to the correct day of the month, lining up with the numbers to make it even more clear which numbered days correspond to that day of the week.  Like the Monroe Slide Rule Pencil, this is also marked “Pat. Pend.,” and also like the Monroe, I haven’t found the patent.