Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Wooden Eversharp??

When Joe called me to tell me he’d found a wooden Eversharp, I was really excited.

When he told me that he found two of them and I could have the other, I danced shamelessly about the room!

But then, as we was describing it to me, it didn’t sound much like an Eversharp. Sure, the name was proudly written on the side of the barrel, but the mechanism just didn’t sound like anything Charles Keeran cooked up. It did, however, sound like something else that I happened to find at right around the same time, and I’ve found a couple other examples since. That’ the way it seems to go with these things – I’ve never heard of one, then five of them turn up all at once, then nuthin’.

Joe brought both of his examples with him when he came to the Ohio Show, and during our photo shoot after the show, we got his and mine together for a group shot:


The example I first found was the one marked only with an advertisement for a restaurant:


The pencil features several points in a strip. There were two extra magazines included with my pencil:


Here’s a shot showing them in more detail:


They feed through a hole in the end of the barrel, and there’s an opening in the nose where they can be advanced as they wear out:


While the pencil is unmarked, it did come with instructions that tied this one in with Joe’s examples:


I was disappointed when what the seller included were not original paper instructions, but actually a photocopy of them. Still, the information it contains is pretty great:


So this was the "Rapid-Fire Ever-Sharp Pencil." The photocopied instructions suggest that it was made by the "Ever-sharp Pencil Co., Limited" of Hamilton, Canada.

These instructions square nicely with the examples Joe found, but both of his indicate that they were made by the U.S. Pencil Co. of St. Paul, Minnesota:



Joe kept the example with the more elaborate instructions, which was fine with me – after all, beggars can’t be choosers – and besides, I was happy to have the other since it was fitted with a great accommodation clip, marked "Argus Model C"


That’s the same company that made the calendar clips like the one shown on the "Beegee" I wrote about back on November 10, 2012:


The black one is a twin from the other twin city, marked "Ever-Ready Point Pencil Co. / Minneapolis, Minn."



And the last, with an exposed eraser on the end, has a familiar name on it:


"Many-Point / Pat. & Mfg. By Louis F. Dow Co. / Saint Paul - Winnipeg."  Note also that just below the word "Many-Point" that line is actually a drawing of the refill, and just like the refills I found with my first example, the last three in the line don’t have any lead in them.

I would have written this article much earlier than I did, but the problem was that I was hoping that someday I would eventually run across the patent to add to the story. Searching "Dow" proved to be a dead end, and with hints of a patent on either side of the U.S.-Canadian border, I wasn’t even sure in which country I should be looking!

Finally, though, I did get a break – and it wasn’t any master sleuthing that brought this one to the surface. I was aimlessly glancing through George Kovalenko’s patent book, not looking for anything in particular, when I ran across a reference to a patent issued to Albert J. Keck for a "multiple lead point" pencil. Since this one’s been rattling around in the back of my brain for about four months now, those words just popped out off the page at me.

I went back to the computer and put the patent number into the database, thinking to myself – please, please, be from somewhere around Minneapolis! And there it was, patent number 1,060,099, applied for by Albert J. Keck of St. Paul, Minnesota on September 23, 1907 but not issued until April 29, 1913:


George’s book also says that this patent refers back to patent number 650,078, and indeed it does:


In Keck’s earlier patent, issued on May 22, 1900, the points are advanced by a tab that protrudes through a slot in the side of the barrel. Although Keck never mentions it in his 1900 patent, that design was a vast improvement over his previous design, patent number 635,688 issued on October 24, 1899, in which the little points were permanently encased in wood:

How on earth were you supposed to sharpen the pencil around the presharpened lead points? Keck probably gave up trying to invent a device that would accomplish that small feat!

Fortunately, the wood-cased multipoint pencil was just a bad diversion and not the pater familia of Keck's multipointed pencil concept.  His first patent for a multipoint pencil was issued on October 1, 1895 (number 547,353):



Keck’s patents are fascinating. In addition to the multiple incarnations of his multi-pointed pencil, he patented neckties, toys, and even an attachment for a printing press. Yet out of all his patents, there’s one thing that sets his pencils apart from all the others:


They are the only invention of his that you can still buy at the corner drug store in 2013!

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