Friday, March 9, 2012

Have a Keene Friday

When The Catalogue went to press, I didn't have a Keene to include in its pages.  Every time I had bid on one or seen one, someone else had swooped in and snapped it up.   Of course, two of them surfaced right after I published the book:


The large mottled hard rubber example popped up on ebay one week after I dropped everything off to the printer.  I was actually outbid on it on ebay at $105, but the seller claimed the winning bidder wanted to back out.  I don't know whether there ever was another bidder or whether I was the victim of a schill, but I wasn't going to let another one slip by.  It was a sleazy transaction, and when it was over I craved a shower and a cigarette.  But ah, the things we do for love . . .

The all-metal pencil turned up at The Ohio Pen Show, just down the aisle from where I was launching my book that didn't include it.  Really???  Fifty feet away from me after I've been chasing one all this time???  Oh well.

Charles A. Keene was a jeweler and diamond wholesaler whose shop was located at 180 Broadway, New York City.  At some point in the early 1920s, Keene wanted to sell fountain pens, so he had Eclipse manufacture pens for him marked "Keene."   Here's a comparison of the Keene clip to an Eclipse of similar vintage, both with the 1923 patented clip:


Eclipse pencils with this clip are covered extensively in The Catalogue at page 50.  The Keene pencil is of slightly lesser quality than a comparable Eclipse; note that the mechanism is a simple Welsh-style mechanism, and the pencil lacks the gold filled trim bands found on the Eclipse.    Still, the rarity of the Keene trumps these shortcomings, at least in my opinion.

But what about the metal pencil.  Was it also made by Eclipse?  Probably.  Before Eclipse manufactured the big hard rubber and celluloid flattops, the company's first pencils were the "Never-Dull" line.  Here's the top of the Keene pencil, shown between a ringtop and a full size "Never-Dull":


Metal chasing and patterning is a lot like fingerprints, and the checkerboard pattern on the Never-Dull ringtop is an exact match for that found on the Keene.  The cap on the full size Never-Dull is exactly the same size as the Keene, although note that the Keen has a diamond pattern around the top of the cap.  The Keene apparently had a clip simply soldered to the side of the barrel, given the traces of solder remaining, while the Eclipse clip is secured through slots in the barrel (there are other Never-Dull clip variations, though, including one which appears to be the DeWitt-LaFrance clip! But I digress).

But there's one feature that sets the Keene apart from the Eclipse Never-Dull, and that's the rib in the barrel, approximately 1/8" below the cap.  This feature doesn't appear on any of the Never-Dull pencils, at least the ones I've been able to find.  But a comparison to other metal pencils I've found did find an exact match for this feature:


Here's the Keene shown next to an "Ever-Rite."  I've not been able to track down the trademark for "Ever-Rite" to see who made it, but the similarities between these two certainly raise a few questions.

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