Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Should We Call Them "Eversharp-Style" Autopoints?

I have always been under the impression that when Wahl-Eversharp produced these Autopoint-like hybrids, Eversharp was copying Autopoint’s removable-nose feature. But the more I look at this, particularly after examining the patents from yesterday’s article, the more I think it was actually the other way around.

A removable nose cone is what makes an Autopoint an Autopoint. The feature is still used on the company’s pencils today, the same as it has been since the mid-1920s:


But John Straka’s patent application for patent number 1,693,577 – the one that we find (albeit with a typographical error) on the "Eversharp-Autopoint hybrids," was filed on September 25, 1920. Did Autopoints have a removable nose in 1920?

No. At the time, Autopoints used a mechanism that was advanced from the rear:


Charles Keeran patented several different variations on this rear drive pencil, many of which also included a screw mechanism to advance the eraser when the crown was turned the opposite direction!  But no, Charles Keeran didn’t invent this Eversharp – the first Keeran patent I could find for a removable-nose pencil is number 1,524,657, issued on February 3, 1925, which Keeran didn’t apply for until June 4, 1924.


The text of the patent refers to an earlier patent application by "Keeran and Lynn," meaning Charles Keeran and John Lynn; their patent, applied for on March 31, 1922 and issued as number 1,540,018, was assigned to the Realite Pencil Manufacturing Company:


Between the time Keeran and Lynn’s patent was applied for and when it was issued, a lot had changed. Realite purchased Autopoint in 1923, and the combined company was named Autopoint Products Company. Lynn grew disenchanted with the increased influence of the Bakelite Company in Autopoint’s affairs and left the company in 1925 to start a new pencil company, called Dur-O-Lite.  Since Keeran and Lynn were joint patentees and stakeholders in Realite, Dur-O-Lite’s earliest products looked very much like those being made by Autopoint:


Dur-O-Lite and Autopoint remained bitter business rivals for decades after the schism. By 1934, John Lynn was claiming that he was actually the one who had the idea for a pencil with a removable nose, as stated on this advertising postcard:


The card doesn’t indicate when John Lynn was on active military duty in France, when he alleges that he conceived the idea of the removable nose pencil – however, it is reasonable to assume he served during World War I in 1917 or 1918. But Lynn’s claims to have invented the pencil don’t square with history. Yes, John Lynn was associated with the Realite Pencil Company from the beginning, and yes, Realites, unlike pre-merger Autopoints, were fitted with removable nose cones from the outset.

But Lynn? He was the Treasurer of the company, not the inventor of the pencil it produced. Check out the announcement of Realite’s formation, which appeared in the August 27, 1921 edition of The American Stationer and Office Outfitter:


As this announcement indicates, the inventor of the Realite pencil, with its removable nose, was Frank Deli. Deli filed two patent applications on October 3, 1921. One was granted on September 1, 1925 as number 1,552,123:


and the other, number 1,682,070, was granted on August 28, 1928:


Deli’s patents may have been issued first, but the applications for them were filed an entire year after Straka’s patent application was filed. So maybe this isn’t an Eversharp/Autopoint hybrid after all.. . .


. . . instead, maybe we should refer to all of those Autopoints, Realites and Dur-O-Lites, as Eversharp hybrids!

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