Thursday, May 24, 2012

Better than Terrible

Mention the name "Stratford" to a collector of fine writing instruments if you want to see someone look like they just took a big swig of month-old milk.   True, there are some really, really bad Stratfords out there, in plastics that are mousy and prone to shrinking and warping.  And they were made by the millions, so you can hardly swing a dead cat at a flea market without hitting one.

But bear with me now, and try to keep an open mind about this . . .

"Stratford Pen Company" was the later incarnation of Salz Brothers, Inc.  One source I read somewhere said that the company was set up separately by Ignatz Salz, and eventually purchased Salz Brothers.  Ignatz died in 1958, and the company may have continued on for a few years after that.  The earliest Stratfords I've seen, until the Chicago show, appear to have been from the late 1930s and loosely copied the lines of the Eversharp Doric (complete with a little gold seal that instead of a double check mark had the number "77") .

Until the Chicago Show:


I'd date this one to the late 1920s, maybe 1930 or so at the latest. The riveted clip at one time had a thin gold wash:


I've thought about the possibility that it was just a coincidence that some other maker had used the name "Stratford," but I'm confident this is a Salz brand.  Here's the new addition posed with one marked "Salz Classic" and a second marked only "Classic":


And a closeup of the clips:


So now we know that whether or not a separate "Stratford Pen Company" was set up and ultimately purchased what was left of Salz Bros., Salz was using the name "Stratford" long before!

The Chicago Show also turned up another Stratford that filled in a blank for me -- and leaves me making a correction to something I reported in The Catalogue:


This is a plain but nice pencil, with a distinctive rounded tip and an interesting clip integrated into the upper barrel:


I've seen this pencil before.  In fact, it's pictured in The Catalogue.  Here is the new Stratford pictured next to two pencils marked Belmont, pictured on page 25 of The Catalogue:


No question about the heritage here:


Belmont was a Rexall Drug Store brand, and in The Catalogue I've identified Moore and Eagle as having produced at least some of the pencils.  Since it looks like Eagle produced Rexall's later Belmonts, I had concluded that these two must have been made by Eagle, but much later than the ones you usually find.  Looks like Salz (or by that point, Stratford Pen Company) also had a hat in the ring late in the game!

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