Friday, July 13, 2012

One of a "Few Metal Specialties"

As the Chicago Pen Show drew to a close this year, Frank Hoban just wanted to lighten his load a little more (like Mike Little hadn't cleaned him out of a couple hundred pencils already).  So Frank comes over to me with several trays full of stuff and says simply "fifty bucks."

And I said to myself, what the heck.  If I went to a casino and dropped fifty dollars at a blackjack table, I'd call it entertainment and I wouldn't have anything to show for it.  At least with a gamble like this, I'll have something, even if it isn't anything I'm fond of!

This little guy was in that bunch:


It was a pretty small piece, and even for its size it's really lightweight, so I think it's probably made from aluminum.  Since I've seen that slow cable twist before on a few Eagles, I assumed that's what I had here, so I pulled out the loupe when I got home for a closer look. 

Nope.  It isn't an Eagle:


"J. E. Mergott Co. Newark, N.J."   Huh. 

I searched around a bit and found a website run by the proprietors of "Bag Lady Emporium," an outfit that specializes in vintage handbags, of all things.  One well-known manufacturer of handbags, apparently, was the J. E. Mergott Co. of Newark, New Jersey.  In the course of her research on Mergott handbags, she met a fellow named Andy Denes, a collector of metal matchsafes, who had directed her to a book titled "Newark, the City of Industry," from 1912.   The book is in the public domain these days, but I never would have found this company history without the efforts of Andy Denes and the Bag Lady:


According to this history, J. E. Mergott started business as a sole proprietor in 1878, and the J. E. Mergott Company was established in 1889.   As business grew, the firm moved out of Newark, but returned in 1905 and constructed a new factory on Jellitt Street after a fire destroyed the firm's factory.  J. E. Mergott Co. made "bag, purse and pocketbook frames and some few metal specialties." 

More than just a few, apparently!   Mergott made a whole slew of different items, from brass buttons for military uniforms, match safes, cigar cutters, ashtrays, and the company even made a camera in the 1940s called the "JEM Jr." (get it?) . . .

and now, I'm happy to say, the company made pencils, too!

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