Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's More in the Family than I Thought

A while back a pretty nice Esterbrook set showed up on ebay, and even though I already had the pencil (and didn't really need the pen), I was unable to resist:


The set is as new in the box as you can get.  Here is a closeup of the price bands:


But since I have the pencil (and didn't need the pen), it wasn't the minty condition of the set that attracted me.  This set also came with the original paperwork.  Here's the paperwork for the pen:


and the back side shows the nib selections that were available:


But, you may ask, if he doesn't need the pen, why does he need the instructions for it?   Ah, it's the last piece that came with this set is the part that really got my attention.  I'm not an Esterbrook expert and I have a lot of respect for the guys that know everything about this brand, so I hope I don't sound like I've been living under a rock when I say that I've not seen this before:


and the best part of the best part . . .


Patent number 1,702,780 was issued to Robert H. Ingersoll of New York, New York on February 19, 1929, but the application was filed on July 7, 1925.  In fact, the application took long enough to be granted that Ingersoll died while it was pending, so the patent was granted to his executors, who assigned it to Robert H. Ingersoll, Inc.:

The second patent, number 1,725,585 was also issued to Robert H. Ingersoll, on August 20, 1929.  It was also assigned to Robert H. Ingersoll, Inc.:

Now I'm going to step back and tell you why I think all of this is so neat.  First and most obviously, before now I haven't been able to track down what the patent was for the Esterbrook pencil.  Now I understand why:  neither of these looks like an Esterbrook repeater on the outside, and neither patent was assigned to Esterbrook. 

But that's not it.

When I first started this blog, one of my first articles was about Redipoint (later Ingersoll Redipoint), and I corrected something that I got wrong in The Catalogue.   Redipoint, I explained, had nothing to do with Charles H. Ingersoll, who organized the Charles H. Ingersoll Company and made the metal dollar pens.  It was Charles' brother William who went to St. Paul and joined Brown and Bigelow to form Ingersoll Redipoint.

That was in 1922.  Before 1922, when Charles and William went their separate ways and coincidentally both wound up in the writing instruments business, they worked together at a company famous for making "Dollar Watches" . . . Robert Ingersoll & Bro.  

According to "Webster's American Biographies," at page 531, Robert Hawley Ingersoll was born in 1859, died in 1928, and in addition to owning a major watchmaking company, he developed a toy typewriter, a patent key ring, bicycles, sewing machines . . . and a patent pencil. 

So there were three Ingersolls in the pen and pencil business -- two had their names emblazoned on their company's products, while the third quietly slipped into obscurity as the silent inventor of a pencil that posthumously became one of the most instantly recognizable writing instruments ever made.

But that's not all, as Billy Mays would say.  Compare Ingersoll's second patent to the "Selfeed":


In The Catalogue, I attribute the Selfeed to Kemper Thomas, a Cincinnati firm that produced mostly advertising calendars and other advertising specialties.  That conclusion came from an example of the Selfeed I found with complete paperwork:


Although the Selfeed (and the nearly identical Dunn pencils) are both stamped "Patented," I've never been able to track down the patent.  I've thought it was odd, paperwork notwithstanding, that Kemper Thomas would manufacture these pencils, since they were geared up to print calendars, not make pencils.  Am I ready to retract my statement that the Selfeed was made by Kemper Thomas?  Not yet.

But now I'm looking for more evidence that Robert H. Ingersoll was responsible for it.

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