The clips will look familiar to fans of this cult classic brand – A.A. Waterman:
The patent date on these clips, January 30, 1912, refers to patent number 1,016,066, for which Marius Marcucci applied on April 7, 1911:
But this clip doesn’t look anything like the "AA Clip," does it? That’s because what Marcucci was patenting was the way the clip is secured to the barrel, details which are concealed under the looped AA Clip. This "loopy" embellishment was the subject of an improved version of the clip, patented by William L. Chapman on October 14, 1915 as patent number 1,075,815:
Terry Sell, a high priest of the A.A. Waterman cult, was at the table right next to mine in Raleigh, so George and I sought his opinion about these unusual pencils. Terry had no ideas, either, and he was visibly salivating as much as I was. But since Terry is a gentleman and the pencils weren’t for sale, he too exercised great restraint and resisted the urge to grovel.
Later in the day, George decided to offer me the opportunity to buy the one with the broken top, and I was thrilled at the opportunity. The next day, he surprised me by offering to sell me the intact one – if and only if I sold Terry the broken one for what I’d paid George for it. That’s what I would have done anyway, but the fact that George wanted to be sure I did shows a level of class and maturity from which people thirty years his senior could learn. I look forward to seeing more of George in the future.
As for the pencil, it’s received a little bit of love and attention to bring it back to its former glory. Terry Sell had suggested naval jelly and a bit of 0000 steel wool for the clip, but I prefer my favorite polishing cloth, which over the years has accumulated enough residues of buffing compound and simichrome that all it took was a few minutes of patient rubbing to achieve this:
"Arthur A. Waterman & Co. / New York -Patent Pending." So far, I have been unable to track down the patent for this one. It’s tempting to assume that the pencil was made between 1912 and 1913, since the clip has the earlier patent date but not the later one (later examples of the AA Clip, according to George Kovalenko, have both dates on them). Unfortunately, no patents issued within that window in time appear to fit this pencil.
There’s been quite a bit of speculation over the years concerning the history of A.A. Waterman & Co. While I was researching this pencil, I found two articles, one from The Printers’ Ink, October 29, 1914 (starting on page 64) and "A History of the Trade-Name ‘Waterman,’" foundin the Bulletin of the United States Trade-Mark Association, Volume 13, page 132 (1917). Between these two articles, and George Kovalenko’s research posted at Lion & Pen, there’s a pretty complete record of the company’s history.
Since all of the current articles I’ve read don’t seem to square with these contemporany accounts in one respect or another, here’s a summary of what these sources document, all of which are fairly consistent:
Arthur A. Waterman started as a salesman for the L.E. Waterman Company. "A History of the Trade-Name Waterman" indicates that he had held that position "for some five years prior to February, 1897," but an 1894 article in The American Stationer states that Arthur had been an L.E. Waterman salesman "for seven years or more," suggesting that his association may have begun in 1887 or even earlier.
In February, 1897, Waterman left to start his own company, and in May, 1897, Arthur A. Waterman and Edward L. Gibson went into business as "A.A. Waterman Pen Company." The L.E. Waterman Company promptly sued and obtained an injunction in 1898 preventing A.A. Waterman from marketing pens under the name of "Waterman" or "Waterman’s," but the Court’s holding didn’t prevent the company from using the full name "A.A. Waterman & Co." or "Arthur A. Waterman & Co." Since L.E. Waterman never appealed the decision, that was the end of the first scuffle between the two companies.
According to The Printers’ Ink, Waterman and Gibson continued to manufacture and distribute pens until 1906. The article in the U.S. Trademark Association Bulletin states that Gibson and Waterman dissolved their partnership by mutual consent in 1899 and Waterman carried on the business "with other parties." It’s possible that Waterman and Gibson continued to do business after 1899, just not as partners, so these two accounts are not necessarily inconsistent.
In January, 1901, Arthur A. Waterman formed a new company, "A.A. Waterman & Co.," with a Mr. Frazer and Mr. Geyer, whose company, Frazer & Geyer Co., made pens under a number of different brands, including Lincoln (not the National Pen Products brand, but the earlier one from New York). One Frazer & Geyer advertisement from 1902 pictures a Lincoln Pen with a patent date of July 20, 1897 – not, as I expected, an Arthur A. Waterman patent (number 586,547 was issued to Benjamin Vandemark Eaton). Under the terms of his 1901 contract, Arthur sold pens manufactured by Frazer & Geyer under the A.A. Waterman name.
A few weeks after the 1901 agreement was signed, Isaac E. Chapman and William L. Chapman (the latter of whom patented the familiar "AA Clip") loaned the partnership "some $50,000" and received stock amounting to a controlling interest in the company. Frazer & Geyer, however, retained management of the company.
According to the article in The Printers’ Ink, the partners’ relationship soured in 1903, when Frazer’s mismanagement of the company began to result in financial losses for the partners. Arthur’s 1901 contract with Frazer & Geyer was for a forty-year term, but he negotiated a severance agreement with Frazer and Geyer which was finalized in February, 1905.
On June 12, 1905, Arthur Waterman entered into a new partnership agreement with Isaac E. Chapman and William L. Chapman, the men who bankrolled his earlier partnership with Frazer & Geyer. The new partnership was also called "A.A. Waterman & Co." and acquired all of the "assets" of the previous partnership with Frazer & Geyer (since Frazer & Geyer were making all of the pens, this could only have consisted of leftover inventory and the name).
Arthur’s 1905 agreement with the Chapmans also provided for the formation of a corporation called "Modern Pen Company" which would be the sole sales agent for pens manufactured by A.A. Waterman & Co. The term of the agreement was for thirty-six years. Arthur Waterman hadn’t put a dime of his own money into the partnership, and his only contributions appear to have been his sales skills and the last name he was born with. Arthur at first received a salary, but a series of agreements gradually reduced his involvement in the company’s affairs. By July, 1906, Arthur Waterman no longer had any affiliation with the company.
The L.E. Waterman Co. began its second assault on A.A. Waterman in 1909, when L.E. Waterman sued pen dealers who stocked A.A. Waterman pens and marketed them as "Waterman pens," obtaining injunctions prohibiting the sale of A.A. Waterman pens in several cities. In response, A.A. Waterman sued L.E. Waterman for restraint of trade – unsuccessfully.
L.E. Waterman, emboldened by the victory, filed a lawsuit around 1912 against Modern Pen Company to again challenge the use of the name "Waterman" by A.A. Waterman & Co. It was a different case, though, from when the two squared off in 1898. By this time, there was no Arthur Waterman affiliated with the company and Modern Pen Company was doing all of the production and sales. "A.A. Waterman & Co." was little more than a few sheets of paper, although the Chapmans weren’t bashful about throwing the Waterman name about. The trial court resolved the case by allowing A.A. Waterman & Co. to continue to use its name, so long as it added in the same sized type the words "not connected with the original ‘Waterman’ pens." On appeal, the appeals Court affirmed, but modified the required disclaimer to "Not connected with the L.E. Waterman Co."
Both parties appealed again – Modern Pen Company didn’t want any disclaimer at all, and L.E. Waterman didn’t want the word "Waterman" used at all. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the appellate court’s decision once and for all on November 30, 1914 (the case is L.E. Waterman Co. v. Modern Pen Company (1914), 235 U.S. 88). According to George Kovalenko, Modern continued to use the A.A. Waterman name until 1921, as evidenced in The American Stationer. In 1921, the company was renamed Chicago Safety Pen Company (I wrote an article on the EVRDA pencil a while back).
Since my pencil lacks the required Waterman disclaimer, it’s probably safe to assume that it was made prior to November 30, 1914. That doesn’t help much, though – finding a pencil patent that was pending sometime between January 30, 1912 and November 30, 1914 is a small needle in a very large haystack. The patent could have been issued years later, or not at all, and there were a ton of pencil patents issued during that "golden age" of pencil patents started around 1914 and extended through the mid-1920s.
I have no doubts that the patent will eventually be found, probably while I’m looking for something else. I also have no doubt that when I do, it will sidetrack me from whatever I was originally looking for and I’ll be writing the follow up to this article instead.