Monday, February 11, 2013

Martin Borbeck's Busy Day

Snap-Fil pens, made by the General Manufacturing Company of Sioux City, Iowa, are a cult classic among pen collectors, with their pointy barrels, flattop caps and levers that open backwards from the direction you’d expect. I don’t have any on hand, but here’s a picture of one from the catalog in the online archives of the Pen Collectors of America (pretty handy membership to have, isn’t it?):



The patent for the Snap-Fil was applied for by Martin Borbeck of Sioux City, Iowa on March 23, 1919, and was issued as number 1,342,736 June 8, 1920:


But here’s the really neat thing: Martin actually received two patents on June 8, 1920. Earlier that same day, he received Patent number 1,342,416: for a lever-operated pencil, which he’d applied for on July 28, 1919:


While the patent for the pen was issued to the "Houston Pen Company," Borbeck’s pencil patent was not assigned. The pen design was marketed under the tradename "Snap-Fil," but since the lever on the pencil just sort of scoots the lead forward bit by bit, the name didn’t make much sense – so the company marketed the only lever-filling pencil ever produced under the trade name "Kaligraf," as shown on this advertisement, sent to me by Joe Nemecek:


I don’t have a Kaligraf, but when Joe Nemecek spent a night here at pencil ranch on his way home from the Ohio Show, he brought with him the only example in his collection, a mottled hard rubber ringtop:



The tip is reminiscent of an early Waterman, but Waterman pencils weren’t introduced for a couple years after the Borbeck patent was issued:



The imprint on Joe’s example is very faint, and took some real gymnastics to get the light at the right angle to show it in these photographs:



General Manufacturing Co.
Pat. Kaligraf June 8, 1920
Sioux City, Iowa

Note:  after this article was first published, I heard from Dave Johannsen, who admitted to an affinity for Kaligraf pencils and, with a little prodding, agreed to send me a picture of the ones from his collection:


The levers are on the opposite side.  That side clip example is just killer, and the imprint on Dave's ringtop is nice and sharp, too.   Thanks for sharing those, Dave!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the Kaligraf get some press. I've got two of them and the instruction sheet in my modest Houston collection, but it's taken quite a few years of looking just to acquire these examples - they're fairly scarce. I hope that you soon find an example for yourself.

Dave

Jon Veley said...

Hi Dave, and thanks for the note. For now, I'd settle for a nice picture of the ones you have, if you wouldn't mind taking one for me? I can update my article to add them, giving you credit (or not, depending on your preference).