Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beating the Heat

If we Ohioans didn't have such a collective short term memory, no one would live here anymore.  See, once the leaves are down in the fall, most days from November until April are grey, wet and cold -- not usually so cold that it snows, mind you, but 38 degrees and raining is pretty typical.   The weather gets really nice in late spring, and then a month later we've forgotten all about how much we were complaining about the cold and we are complaining about the heat!

In honor of one of the more blistering Junes we've had around here for awhile, here's a couple of neat little pencils:


I don't remember who it was that walked up to me in Chicago with the black one in his hand and said, "I'll bet you'll want this one," but whoever it was he was right.   I would have bought the other one anyway when it popped up in an online auction a little while later, but having its brother at home made it more of a must have for me.

I'm always a sucker for a name I don't have, even on an otherwise ordinary pencil:


and suckin' on a popsicle right now sounds pretty good!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Man on a Mission

I've been on a bit of a mission lately to fill in the gaps in my Eversharp collection, so I've been making a point to check my collection when I see an Eversharp in what looks like a common color.

When this one came along in an online auction, I was surprised to see that I didn't have it:


So I swooped in.  This is an Equipoised "clasp pencil", and for whatever reason a plain old black and pearl example had eluded me until this point.  These frequently slip under the radar, because other than a faint imprint on the barrel, only the shape and the unique clip give its identity away:


Clasp pencils are frequently mistaken for "purse pencils," since the only difference between them are the colors they come in and the center band.  Here's the shot of them taken from page 63 of The Catalogue:


In the 1931 Wahl Eversharp catalog, the clasp pencils are larger, probably to make them appeal more to a manlier customer base.   That led me to write in The Catalogue that "as this picture shows, the size difference must have been exaggerated."

But then I put the new addition alongside my other clasp pencils, and whaddaya know . . .


OK, time for a correction.  The size of some of them was exaggerated!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The "Other" Stuff Edgar Had

After my initial purchase of Edgar Nichols' Tri-point collection, Bill Adams contacted me a few weeks later to tell me that he had finished sorting through the rest of Edgar's things, and there were a bunch of other pencils in there, mostly other Nichols Products Corp. things, but with some other odds and ends in there as well.  He sent me some pictures, we haggled lightly, and I brought the rest back.  I just couldn't bear the thought of breaking up this group, and fortunately for me I don't think Bill could, either.

Here's one of the non-Nichols pencils that was in there:


This is a Gordon, which from the very beginnings of the Mechanical Pencil Museum I have always identified as my absolute favorite. 


Why?  Because that big, clunky clip has a vicious little secret underneath it:


William Gordon's clip, first patented in 1931, had "fangs" on the underside which were supposed to secure the pencil (or pen) in your pocket securely.   Pressing downwards on the loop at the top would retract the fangs and allow the pencil to come out of your pocket without taking part of your shirt pocket with it!


This Gordon is very different from all the others in my collection.  Here's a shot of the others I've managed to find:


Notice that the barrel on the new addition has a more pronounced taper towards the tip, and rather that being made of plastic, it's made of heavy bakelite.  But what I find even more unusual is the manner in which the clip is secured.  Instead of being inserted into a slot in the barrel, there's a recess carved into the barrel, and the trim ring acts to secure the clip in place:


But the best part of this story is that this wasn't the only Gordon in Edgar's hoard:


Now what on earth, you may legitimately inquire, is that?  Well, it's about the size of a hot dog, and like the pencil, it's made from a heavy chunk of bakelite.  The cap unscrews:


To reveal nothing inside.  It's too big inside to be a thermometer case or single cigarette case, although I suppose a small cigar would fit nicely inside.  

So Edgar Nichols had two very early, very different examples of the Gordon in his collection, and I'm thinking this might be no coincidence.  A later example of the Gordon that I've found indicates that they were made in Union City, New Jersey, just 80 miles up the New Jersey Turnpike from the Nichols Products Corporation in Moorestown, New Jersey.   Two inventors, at the same time and only 80 miles between them?  I'm thinking it's likely they met!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Methodically Collecting Eversharps

Catalogue readers, if you check on page 84, you'll see this picture of a "Gregg"pencil:


This example should look familiar: it's a clipless Wahl Eversharp Equipoised (but Wahl didn't make a clipless Equipoised), made from mottled hard rubber (but Wahl didn't make the Equipoised in hard rubber).

The Gregg logo is the only marking on this pencil; the Wahl name is completely absent.  Gregg Shorthand, devised by John Robert Gregg in the late 1800s, was widely used and franchised in the late 1920s and 1930s, and a pen which carried the Gregg logo supposedly also carried with it sufficient ink flow for a secretary adept in the method to take dictation without fear of the pen skipping. 

Of course, that doesn't make any sense when it comes to pencils, because a pencil will leave a graphite trail as quickly as you can move your hand!  In that respect, maybe this example makes a bit more sense:


Other than the clip, which is marked simply "Palmer Method," the only other markings on this one are "Made in USA" imprinted at the top of the barrel:


This pencil, too, should look familiar.  Check out page 64 of the Catalogue, smack dab in the middle of frame 12, for its twin:


Our Palmer Method pencil is also Wahl made, and taken from the company's "dollar pencil" line:


The Palmer Method of handwriting, very popular during the 1930s (in fact, A.N. Palmer's "The Palmer Method of Business Writing," one of the most popular of the writing lesson books, was released in 1935), focused on moving the entire hand to write rather than just the fingers.   At least that's something you can do equally well either with a pencil or a pen.

But those of us of the left-handed persuasion will also remember the more sinister (get the pun*?) side of the Palmer Method:  forcing all children to learn to write right handed.  See, the good folks behind the method believed, for whatever reason, that it was important for all children to write right-handed.  Fortunately, Palmer had long gone by the wayside before I began grade school, so I have only the tales told by elderly relatives of being smacked on the back of the hands with rulers for using the "wrong" hand to write!

So now, I take my revenge on their behalf some eighty years later.  I sometimes pick up my Palmer pencil, which seems to writes equally well with either hand, and scribble a few illegible lines in my left hand, with a wicked little smile on my face . . .

*The Latin word for "left" is sinister.  Incidentally, the Latin word for "right" is dexter, from which we get the word dexterity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Perhaps they do deserve a sterling reputation!

The Eversharp "Ventura" series appears on page 78 of The Catalogue.  Introduced in 1953, the Ventura was Eversharp's last attempt to produce a quality writing instrument before the company was sold to Parker in 1957.  (Note: the company did produced a lot of writing instruments that lacked quality during this period.)  

By the time the Ventura was introduced, most of Eversharp's quality marketing personnel must have already jumped ship, because when this new flagship line was introduced, Eversharp ads of the day called it the "Burp" pen -- now there's an image that calls prestige and quality to mind!  Had the company survived any longer, they might have been hocking the "fart" pen . . . anyway . . .

Here's the shot of the gold filled examples of Ventura pencils shown in The Catalogue:


What I didn't mention in The Catalogue was that the Ventura was also offered with sterling silver caps. I once tried to buy one online, from a seller that I knew personally, but it turned out the one he sold me was actually a gold filled example with the plating worn off (he gladly took it back when I pointed this out).  I just couldn't seem to lay my hands on a true sterling example before the book went to press. 

But at the Raleigh show, I happened across two of the sterling cap examples, one in black and one in red:


Here's a closer view of the clips.  Although in person the clips match the caps very well, now that I'm looking at these pictures the clips look like they might be chrome plated steel rather than sterling:


and while the tips are silver colored, they too appear to be plated rather than sterling:


I was excited to find two examples of these, but I was still on the prowl for one of the all-sterling examples.  There were two boxed sets at the show in Raleigh, complete with the pen (but who needs pens, right?), box and paperwork, but both of the dealers that had them wanted what I thought was too much for them. 

Why?  Believe it or not, it's kind of hard to find a Ventura that's not part of a boxed set complete with paperwork.  By the time the Ventura was introduced, Eversharp was in real trouble, and there was an awful lot of leftover stock that never saw the light of day.
Neither of my Raleigh friends were able to come down to what I thought was reasonable, so I came home hungering.  As luck would have it, as soon as I got back I checked the online auctions, and Rob Lott (Five Star Pens) had a set for what I considered the reasonable price of $149.00.  The set had not only its original box, but also the cardboard jacket it came in:


Inside is the NOS set in sterling, complete with the little pamphlet and cellophane:


This is a "slim Ventura" set.  There was no "pudgy ventura"-- but there was a plain old "Ventura" set which wasn't really fatter, it just had a pointy end on the pen barrel rather than squared off.  More on that later.

 Anyway, the pen and pencil in this set appear never to have been touched:


And they even have their price bands (note the penciled writing on the cardboard jacket above?):


And on the cap, an uncharacteristic indication of quality from a dying company:


Monday, June 25, 2012

To - maaah - to

Recently I found a really neat pencil in a bunch that I got off of an online auction.  It wasn't the one I was targeting, but every bit as good:


And it reminded me of a funny story from right after The Catalogue was published.  I received an email scolding me for something I had written on page 62, concerning what I called the "Eversharp-Autopoint hybrids":


I had commented at how much these Eversharp mechanisms (the one on the left out of the pencil) resembled the Autopoint mechanism (the one next to it), which is high treason to Autopoint fanatics such as the guy that emailed me to let me know it does not in fact resemble an Autopoint mechanism, because the tip is too short.  Rather, he said, I should have said it resembled a Realite mechanism. 

I though hairs were being split on that issue, since Realite and Autopoint were both guided by Charles Keeran, and the two companies later merged with the surviving company, Realite, renaming itself "Autopoint Products Company."  But I understand that to a specialist in this area, saying "tomato, to-mah-to" in response is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, and I'll admit he has thought about Realites and Autopoints a lot more than I have.   I'll also admit the guy has a point -- here's a picture comparing an Autopoint, at top, with a comparable Realite:


Yeah, those Eversharps do look more like a Realite, and maybe I should have called them Eversharp-Realite hybrids.   Those Eversharps also look a lot like the new pencil I found, shown here alongside a similar example I've had for awhile:


But wait a tick . . . the clips on these don't say "Realite."  Maybe there's an imprint, you were wondering?


What's that you say?  To-maaaaaah-to?

(All of the foregoing is offered in good fun.  The name of the vigilant Autopoint aficionado has been omitted to keep it that way!)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Sort of Jewel . . . Diamonds, Perhaps?

I've seen a few "Jeweltone" pencils over the years, always in blue, but until recently I never quite ponied up enough to bring one home.   That changed a little while ago, when this one was a sleeper in an online auction:


The quality on these isn't the best. The plating is very thin, and they are your typical middle joint, nose drive pencil, although the plastic is really outstanding:


In fact, if the plastic looks familiar, it should.  Here's the Jeweltone, flanked by a pair of later Diamond Points from the late 1930s:


Why it was branded differently is a question I wish I knew the answer to.  One possibility is that Diamond Point created either a subbrand or a separately branded model.  Another possibility, since these Diamond Points are from near the end of the line, is that a different company altogether assembled Jeweltones from parts bought from Diamond Point after the company closed.


More information welcome!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tying up a few loose ends

I wasn't very satisfied with the ending to my article on Charles Walpuski's "ordinary form of pencil," the "Sun Pocket Pencil" (March 19).  I kept having one of those nagging feelings that there was an obvious answer out there that I was missing.

Yep.  There was an obvious answer out there, and I was in fact missing it.  

I suspected the Sun was an Eagle product.  I was sure it was an Eagle product.  But at the time, all I could say was I was pretty sure.  Or almost pretty sure.

Turns out, all I had to do was quit looking, and quite by accident the answer poked out of the bushes and mooned me.  While I was looking for something else, I stumbled across an expired trademark:

The trademark was filed on April 28, 1905, by . . . drum roll . . . the Eagle Pencil Company, which claimed it first used this mark in 1869 (eight years before Walpuski's patent -- which was only for the lead itself -- was issued).  So, case closed on that one, and I've now added an index entry to the "Sun" under Eagle.

And speaking of the copying lead that was the subject of Walpuski's patent, a couple months ago I found this bunch of Eagle copying lead in an online auction:


These all have the Walpuski patent date of June 26, 1877 on them, but there's also another patent date of May 29, 1879:


There's only one problem.  The United States Patent Office didn't issue any patents on May 29, 1879.   This is likely a misprint of May 20, 1879, the patent date for one of Joseph Hoffman's designs for the Eagle Stop Gauge pencil (see the article posted on February 13). 

These little boxes are packed with a lot of information, especially concerning the numbering and grades of copying lead offered:


"1/4 dozen," huh?  That must be way better than "three."


On the reverse of these tiny boxes are some pretty detailed descriptions, which almost look to be handwritten:



Friday, June 22, 2012

To Revitalize a Craig

Not long ago, I bid on a bunch of pencils in an online auction hoping that this would be what I thought it was:


And it was . . . mostly.  Yes, it is a Craig, one of Sheaffer's subbrands and scarce as hen's teeth to come by, but when I cut off the large, gawky eraser that someone had stuck on the top of it I found . . . nothing:


The top is missing.  No worries as far as I was concerned, as I hadn't seen one in black and pearl before and so I wasn't about to return the item.  I just figured I'd wait and pounce on one of the more common (less uncommon) plain black Craigs when one came along, then swap over the top.

A few weeks later I appeared to get my chance -- a black one popped up in an online auction, I bid, and no one else did.  For a measly couple of bucks, my donor pencil was on its way, and for what I paid, I wouldn't even feel guilty parting out a perfectly good pencil.  Or would I . . .


I can count on one hand the times I've been disappointed that a pencil was a little bit different from the one I had in my collection, and this is one of them!  Of course, it did match another pencil that I had:


But again, only almost . . .


"Univer," another Sheaffer subbrand.  Oh well, at least next time I find a black Craig, it's a little less likely to be different from what I've got on hand!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pearlie Update: We Were Closer Than We Knew!

Sheaffer "Pearlies" are an area that could form the basis of a collection all its own.  Even though I've probably got waaay more than a normal person would, I've still managed to pick up a few that are worthy of mention.   The first came to me from Matt McColm:


Although it is easy to mix and match caps and come up with whatever color variations you want, the red white and blue combination is found in Sheaffer catalogs and advertisements from the early 1940s.  Matt and I are both sure there's a story behind the logo found on the back of the upper barrel, but neither of us has been able to put our finger on it:


Kinda has a paramilitary or WPA thing going on, doesn't it?  

The next example is interesting for what it isn't:


It's not "pearlie."  Now pearlies with solid white sections are a common sight, but until I found this one, I had only seen them in the later ribbed clip models.  This one sports a much earlier "Fineline" clip, and note that it also has a gold filled center ring?

Finally, I'm glad to announce that I have learned Sheaffer's formal name for the "pearlie," a nickname that I don't really like all that well but which has had to do in the absence of any proper name.  Here's an example still in its original blister pack:


From the looks of the smilin' dudes pictured, this is from the late 1960s or early 1970s.  The clip is of the ribbed horizontal lettering variety, and now I can properly refer to these as "pearl center pencils."

On the reverse, there is some additional information:


Including replacement lead and eraser information:


And the pearl center pencil's special features: