Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kindred Spirits?

I don’t remember where this one came from, but I picked it up at the Ohio Show:


What attracted it to me was the clip – well, that combined with the fact that I didn’t recognize the profile as being like anything else. But once I put a loupe to it to see if it was marked, this fairly jumped out at me:


George Kraker’s Pencraft Company has been the subject of an article here, back on December 10, 2011. Kraker, a salesman for Walter Sheaffer, had also claimed that he was the inventor of the lever filling fountain pen. The legal battle between them finally resulted in the Court recognizing Walter Sheaffer as the true inventor, and poor George was set out on his ear. In 1918, he founded his own pen company, called the Pencraft Pen Co. The logo shown on this pencil, as well as the other pencils I’ve found marked Pencraft, was adopted by the company in around 1922.

When I got this pencil, I thought it was broken. Apparently it was intended to be a button-activated repeater pencil, but the button just flopped around without any evidence that there was a spring inside. The pencil comes apart in the middle to reveal a fixed rod, kind of like an Eagle Pointer:


But the rod could simply be pushed up and down manually. The area for spare leads was in the nose section, also like an Eagle Pointer:


On a lark, I decided to put a piece of lead in the pencil to see what would happen and a weird thing happened – it worked! It turns out that the pushbutton may flop around when the pencil is empty, but once the pencil has some lead in it for the pushrod to bump up against it works like a charm!

NOTE:  see the comment at the end of this article regarding the following discussion of the Keeran patent.

As I was researching this design to figure out whose brainchild this pencil could be, the similarities to something Eagle would have come up with made the search more difficult. I’d found this patent some time ago while I was researching the Eagle Simplex.  I even had it filed with my other Eagle research:


Here’s a button-activated pencil with a fixed pushrod, and a two piece barrel. Even though this drawing shows a lower barrel nested inside the upper barrel (which, incidentally, is characteristic of the other Pencraft pencils I’ve found), I think this is the same pencil. Patent number 1,153,115 was applied for on October 6, 1913 and was granted on September 7, 1915 to none other than:


Charles R. Keeran, inventor of the Eversharp pencil!

Kraker and Keeran would have had a lot in common. Both were idea men who went to work for "Big Four" pen companies. Keeran was forced out by Wahl in 1917, and Kraker was forced out of Sheaffer at around the same time. And finding a Kraker-Keeran link was the last piece of another puzzle I’ve been trying to solve for a long time . . .

UPDATE:  Daniel Kirchheimer points out quite correctly that I have misread the Keeran patent above.  The "button" shown is actually an eraser, and the text of the patent describes a screwed-down top section that is EXACTLY like an Eagle Simplex.

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