Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hey . . . Wait A Minute . . . Again . . .

By the time I wrote The Catalogue, I’d learned enough to know that these early pencils marked "Signet Sold only in the Rexall Stores" were made by DeWitt-LaFrance:


Fortunately, I’d also learned enough to know I shouldn’t say things like "all the early Rexall pencils were made by DeWitt-LaFrance," because lurking in the back of my mind I knew that something like this might be lurking out there somewhere:


This one has the same imprint found on the DeWitt-LaFrance examples:


But since it’s a ringtop, the presence or absence of the patented DeWitt-LaFrance clip can’t be noted. What attracted me to this one was the top, which doesn’t look much like a DeWitt-LaFrance top:


Not only is it shaped differently from any DeWitt-LaFrance top I’ve seen, but even the rings are attached differently. On this new example, the ring is simply threaded through a slitted and raised portion of the top, while the DeWitt-LaFrance examples have a secondary ring welded to the top. Underneath the caps, there are other differences:


The DeWitt-LaFrance example is gold filled, even underneath the cap, and the cap is secured and turns the mechanism solely by friction. The mystery pencil has a brass works underneath. And no, it’s not broken – what looks like a crack is actually a single slit in the mechanism, and the cap is "keyed" so that the cap can only be pushed on when that dimple you see is lined up with that slit.

Both of these pencils were made such that they were never intended to be disassembled, so I haven’t risked damaging them by tearing them apart. So my next step in trying to figure out who made this pencil was to compare the style of that cap to others that it called to mind. Unfortunately, all of the contenders I was considering proved not to be even close:


From the left, here’s an Autopoint, a Henber, a Moore and our Signet. All have that distinctive knurling around the top edge, but each of them are noticeably different from the others - and the Autopoint and Henber have completely different inner workings.

The Moore was the one I thought might be the closest. Like the Signet, you can’t disassemble the Moore, and Moore is known to have made some pencils marked "Belmont" – another Rexall store brand. But the Moore has many of the same differences from our Signet as the DeWitt-LaFrance does: the Moore doesn’t have that keyed top and the ring is also secured with a secondary ring.

If someone out there has a side clip example of a Signet that has this top, that might be helpful. If someone could produce a ringtop with this exact top but marked instead with the name of a manufacturer, that would probably be the clincher. For now, I’ve got to admit I don’t know who made this one.

If a gang of pencil thugs pushed me to the wall and forced me at knifepoint to hazard a guess, I’d still have to say DeWitt-LaFrance is the frontrunner – the scripted imprint is identical to what you see on known DeWitt-LaFrance examples and of course, we know the company made a lot of Rexall’s other early Signets.

And yet that imprint . . . marked "Pat. Pend." . . . I’m going to have to open up a whole can o’ Kovalenko on this one!

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