Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eversharp Week Part 3: The British Invasion

Here's a better picture of a series of early Wahl Eversharps shown on page 60 of The Catalogue:


Now as a rule, I try to limit myself to American mechanical pencils.  The two at the top are marked simply "Eversharp," so at the time I found them (the first at the Washington DC show a few years back) I thought they probably were American.  However, the soldier clip teal one came from England off of an online auction, as did the middle example.  I'm pretty well resigned to the idea that all of these are English, and I'm also resigned to the idea that I'm going to keep collecting them simply because they are so darned pretty.

At the Ohio Pen Show, I saw something in a junk box that just didn't quite look right:


If you can look past the ugly accommodation clip, and the fact that the original clip is now missing, it's easly to see this is another member of the family:


I've got the accommodation clip off now, but I'm still wrestling to remove the inner barrel so I can replace the clip.  Damage to the lower barrel may make further repair impossible, but . . .

did I mention how darned pretty these things are?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eversharp Week Part 2: The Undersize

In sharp contrast with the oversized 800-pound gorillas featured yesterday, the Wahl Eversharp "Matchstick" pencil was the smallest the company made.  Here is one shown next to a standard Wahl ringtop for scale, as pictured on page 58 of The Catalogue,:


Just a couple weeks ago, my friend Matt McColm emailed me to give me a heads' up that another matchstick pencil, of the English persuasion, was listed on ebay.  I completely forgot about it, but Matt didn't -- he threw in a last minute bid and got it for a song.   I must have sounded pretty pitiful, because he did agree to a trade.


While the American version was listed in Wahl's catalogs as the "Matchstick" pencil and was touted as a technological marvel (despite their small size, these pencils are fully functional and use the same .046" lead as their regular sized counterparts), the British seemed to have no qualms marketing the "Tiny Eversharp" purely as a novelty item.  A comparison of the two reveals slight differences:


In addition to being slightly larger, the English example has a slightly different crown:

and while the tip on the American example is short and the barrel slightly tapers, the English example has a longer tip that merges flush with a straight barrel.


"Matchstick" or "Tiny" Eversharps are unmarked.  However, they are easy to identify when the mechanisms are pulled from the barrel:


These mechanisms are about as simple as they get.  A screw slides up and down within the upper section, and threads into the pencil.  Turning the head simply threads the screw farther into the barrel to advance the lead. 

Doesn't that sound familiar?  It should, because it is simply a miniature version of Eversharp's second generation checking pencil mechanism, introduced in 1922:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Eversharp Week Part 1: The Oversize

A big start to "Eversharp Week" deserves a big pencil.  A few weeks ago I was looking at a fuzzy ebay picture, trying to decide whether I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing.  I rolled the dice and got lucky, finally bringing home the "oxidized Grecian Border" oversized pencil, shown here with the gold filled version shown in The Catalogue:


I probably should have taken a picture of it before I started cleaning it up, because it was an easy piece to miss in the photograph.  Not only was I lucky that it was what I thought it was, but also because there weren't any dings or other gremlins hiding in that poor focus and all the tarnish. 

"Grecian border" was the name Eversharp gave the pattern.  The "Oxidized" part comes from the silver fill over brass; over time, the exposed brass darkens and "oxidizes," giving the pencil a very unique look.


These pencils were made during the twilight years of Wahl metal pencils, from 1924 until 1930.   To my knowledge, these are the only two variations known to exist.  When I compare the two, I notice that in addition to the fact that the silver filled "oxidized" example has deeper chasing (to cut through the silver fill and expose the brass), the cap is slightly different:


Despite how much larger the oversized pencils were than the regular-sized side clip models, the differences reflect only a slight variation on the theme.  The larger size (and significantly greater weight) comes from the fact that the walls were made thicker.  Here is the gold filled oversized model compared to the regular size:


Therefore, the same mechanism is used in both of these, the only difference being the size of the threaded end piece:


Tomorrow, we'll visit the other extreme . . .

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Enough to Eat

I ran across this one recently, and it falls into the "why didn't someone else think of this" category:


The pencils is certainly made by Quickpoint, a pencil manufacturer in St. Louis that made a wide variety of advertising pencils.   That conclusion is based not only on the shape of this pencil, but on the advertising on the side:


National Candy Company, with an advertising pencil that looks enough like a candy cane to make me salivate a little bit.   But don't try to look up the company -- the back side of the pencil has another imprint:


What's surprising to me about this one is that every candy company in the country didn't order this one!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Mouthful of a Name

Today's pencil defies nearly everything that I limit myself to collecting.  It doesn't have a name on it, its not particularly old and it's not American.

It is, however, cool enough for me to ignore these things, and it came complete with some pretty neat paperwork that gave it a name:


The "Goldring Moneta Stamp-O-Pencil."  These quirky little guys have a built-in self-inking stamp, so you can . . . well, stamp things, I guess.  Pulled apart, they look like this:


From the looks of the paperwork, I'd say this example dates from the 1960s or so.  Thanks to George Kovalenko's book, I was able to find that the design was patented in the United States on December 21, 1948 by Nils Harald Wahlstrom of Stockholm, Sweden (U.S. Patent Number 2,456,904). 

Goldring still makes combination stamps and pens, but it doesn't look like the company makes stamping pencils anymore. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

No Really . . . "That Pencil"

Today's pencil du jour is as different as the path that brought it to my doorstep.  A few weeks ago, I was checking ebay when I noticed a listing that intrigued me (the item number was 130629325597, for those who want to pause here and check the listing).  The pictures clearly looked like they were of an Eversharp "Demonstrator" Pencil, with what is clearly a Wahl clip and the telltale football-shaped cutouts on the back side.  The description, however, said that the pencil was marked "That Pencil Patent Applied For."

The more I looked at this piece, the more excited I got.  Why would a Wahl-made Eversharp demonstrator be marked "That Pencil"?   I grew more excited as the auction neared its end, with little interest and no bids.  Towards the end of the auction, I threw in an outrageous bid -- not a snipe, but in the last couple hours -- and held my breath.  At auctions' close, I was the high bidder at only fifteen bucks.

As soon as the auction closed, I couldn't wait to figure out what it was that I had purchased.  I sent the seller a message and asked him to look more closely at the pencil to see if it was marked "Wahl," and the answer that came back was disappointing . . . he'd mixed up the pictures.  The pencil that was pictured was in fact a typical Wahl Eversharp Demonstrator he had sold weeks earlier.  The pencil I had won was a different one entirely.   

He asked what I wanted to do, and I asked him to send me pictures of the pencil I was actually bidding on.  The pictures he sent me weren't any clearer, but were intriguing enough that I said I'd go ahead and take that one.  When it arrived, on closer inspection I definitely think I got my fifteen bucks' worth:


I suppose I can forgive the ebay seller for confusing this with a Wahl Eversharp, since they are about the same size, both all-metal and the clip on this one is extremely similar to a Wahl clip:


The imprint says exactly what my ebay seller had indicated:


One thing that I noticed was that the hexagonal top was a very different color from the rest of the pencil, and I wondered whether it was a replacement cap taken from something else.  When I pulled it off to check, I discovered not only was it original, it led me to one of the weirdest mechanisms I've ever run across:


The two fixed rods fit into two tiny holes in the barrel, and when the top is rotated, these rods twist a screw mechanism located far down in the barrel.  I had a really difficult time getting the top back on, because the two rods have to line up with the little holes down inside the barrel.  But this pencil still works -- in fact, it works really well.

I haven't yet been able to track down either the tradename "Thatpencil" or the patent for this goofy design.  However, Daniel Kirchheimer led me to an advertisement in the April, 1921 issue of "The Meyer Druggist":

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Pair of Gold Medals

There's been some discussion online lately concerning Gold Medal, the Sears store brand.  During the Depression, many of these appear to have been made by Parker.  However, before Parker became involved, it looks like National Pen Products was responsible for production of the Gold Medal brand.   Here's a pair of early Gold Medals I picked up recently:


The metal pencil came from my trip with Janet to Salt Fork last fall -- it was the only thing I bought (pencilwise) at that ginormous antique mall in New Philadelphia.  We'll get to that one in a minute, because first I want to look more closely at the red hard rubber example:


I did have a second example of the red hard rubber Gold Medal.  These are interesting in that while they are part of the "Rex" family of pencils (see pages 125-126 in The Catalogue), they are imprinted with a patent date that predates the four typical Rex patents:  February 19, 1924.  Also, rather than having the patent dates imprinted on the cap, these are imprinted on the collar just below the cap.

Lawrence McNary's patent of February 19, 1924 was number 1,484,180, and it was also assigned to the Rex Manufacturing Company.  Although internally they may be the same, from the drawings McNary's patent outwardly appears to have nothing to do with this pencil:

So it would appear that these two pencils were made before many of the other distinctive features of Rex pencils, such as the clip mounting and the two stage tip, had been fully worked out and patented.  That may explain the reason I bought a second red hard rubber example, because it apparently was made during the time before the two-stage tip had become an integral part of the design:


Examining the metal pencil is a bit more involved.  The pencil does have one unique feature: the clip.


The clip almost resembles an Eclipse 1923 patent clip, but notice that raised section above the clip?  That detail provided me with an unexpected connection.  Here's a simple Nupoint pen and pencil set in enamel over brass that I've had laying around for years.  I bought it on ebay and was disappointed when it arrived to find that the pen and pencil themselves were completely unmarked.  Only the box was labeled:


The pencil in this set has the same clip exactly:


I never doubted that the pen and pencil in the Nupoint box were in fact Nupoints, because the pencil has the classic Nupoint gimmick: a top that pulls up and pivots to the side to provide access to the eraser.  A comparison of the tops on these two pencils provides more interesting details:


While the Gold Medal lacks the pivoting head, it does have very similar holes in the area underneath the cap.  However, while the Nupoint has two such holes, the Gold Medal has four.

"Nu-Point" as a trademark was registered on October 23, 1923 by William C. Steffan on behalf of the Nu-Type Mfg. Company, which claimed use of the name since July, 1921. 

I'm unaware of any connection between Nu-Type and National Pen Products, which produced the Rex family of pencils.  But these two Gold Medals do show that the two companies did have one huge customer in common.

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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'd Better Quit Before This Becomes "Eagle Month."

Since neither the Beatles nor any other band I know of wrote a song titled "Nine Days A Week," it's probably time to wrap up Eagle week.  

A while ago I posted an article on the Eagle 75-10, the "Automatic."  The Automatic's brother was the "Chromatic""


The Chromatic, like the Automatic had a red band around the top.  Edwin M. Berolzheimer filed Trademark number 253,611 on behalf of Eagle for a red band on a pencil ferrule on March 5, 1929, claiming a date of first use of December 1, 1905.

Eagle used the word "chromatic" on a lot of seemingly unrelated products, from wood pencils to equipment to the mechanical pencil at hand.  Although I haven't been able to find any reference to indicate what makes an Eagle pencil "Chromatic" instead of "Automatic," I do note that the Chromatic pencils have metal barrels.


And in the case of our black example, it is also fitted with what was in my opinion the sharpest-looking accommodation clip Eagle ever used.  The black one yields one more interesting feature:


It's a demonstrator.  The neat thing about it is, since the barrel is metal, Eagle was able to get away with much larger cutouts than you would see on a plastic or celluloid pencil.  Even though nearly the entire back half of the barrel has been cut out, this Chromatic still works beautifully.


Neat to look at, that is.  It's about the most uncomfortable demonstrator to write with that I've ever encountered!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eight Days a Week: The Eagle Simplex

I thought about calling it quits after 7 days of "Eagle Week" so that it would actually be an even week, but I've got a couple more neat things to write about concerning Eagle Pencil Company. 

On page 46 of The Catalogue, you'll find pictures of the Eagle "Simplex."  Since that was taken, I've found a couple more:


The yellow ones are marked "527 Simplex Pat. App. For."  The one in the center with the gold plated barrel and integrated clip is unmarked.  The large ones in maroon swirl, green swirl and pink swirl are marked "Simplex Sr. Eagle Pencil Co. 534" - the maroon and pink ones read "Pat. Appl. For" on the lip of the cap, while the green one is printed thus on the barrel. 

The Simplex really pushes the boundaries of what constitutes a mechanical pencil.  Here's a picture of the Simplex disassembled, next to a Pencraft of similar construction:


As the wood barrel is screwed into the cap, the lead bumps against the fixed rod in the cap.  The lead never moves; the barrel simply shortens around it.   Although I'm not normally a combo guy, this one I just couldn't resist:


That's right -- Eagle even adapted the Simplex to a combo!


The Simplex is such a -- well -- simple concept that I had wondered, given that examples were found with either "Pat. Appl. For" or no markings at all, whether a patent was ever granted for it at all.

Until I found this example on ebay a couple months ago:


What attracted me to this one was the absence of any metal tip on the end of the pencil, and it is an all-wood lower barrel.  But when I received the item, I received another bonus.  Unfortunately, the paint on these is almost always worn by screwing the barrel in and out of the cap, but this one still has a legible imprint:  Patent Number 1,683,235. 

Claes Boman and Charles Kaiser filed their patent application for the Simplex on May 17, 1922, but it took more than six years for the application to be granted.  No wonder all the ones I've found say patent applied for -- by the time the patent was finally granted, the Simplex would have been old news in the Eagle product lineup.

What's most noteworthy in this find is that it gives you an idea just how long Claes Boman's career with Eagle was.  Boman, whose name is largely lost to history, was patenting improvements to Eagle's drop pencils as early as 1884; 38 years later, he and Charles Kaiser were filing this application for the Simplex.  

Now that's a career.