Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Now We Knew Who "R" and "G" Were

The Ritewell is sort of a cult classic among pencil collectors. It appears on page 129 of The Catalogue, and since the book was printed I’ve found a couple others:



These are exceptionally well made pencils. Not only is the barrel chasing unique, but it’s about the only pencil I can think of that comes in "white gold plate." At the Raleigh show, Rob Bader had this tiny example, mint and in the box:


The pencil is just as fresh as the day it was made:


And this one really shows off the unusual zigzag chasing unique to Ritewells:


The imprint is particularly crisp on this one, as well:



And best of all, the example I got from Rob also included paperwork:


When I first got my copy of George Kovalenko’s patent book over a year ago, one of the first things that popped off the page to me was trademark registration number 167,079 for the name "Ritewell":

But the registrant’s name, "R&G Co.," wasn’t a very satisfying answer to my questions about who made these (and the paperwork that came with Rob’s example wasn’t any more helpful). Fortunately, "R & G" searched in combination with Attleboro, Massachusetts, the jewelry-making center of the Northeast, turned up some additional details. R & G may have produced one heckuva nice pencil, but the company’s history has been better documented and preserved by those who collect ladies’ compacts.

According to several sources, including the website for the Tri-State Antique Center in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (http://tri-stateantiques.com/compman.html)
as well as the Lady A Antiques home page, http://www.lady-a.com/antiques/COMPCLUB.html, R & G Co. was later known as the Ripley & Gowan Co. Both of these sources, as well as some other corroborating references, suggest that the firm was formed in 1874, was incorporated in the 1920s, and began producing ladies’ compacts in the late 1920s. As it turns out, that’s sort of correct. The rest of the story, as is so often the case, is found in the patent records. The patent for the Ritewell pencil was pretty easy to find, since it was assigned to "R & G Co.":


Patent number 1,398,955 was applied for by Louis A. Anderson and Edward L. Anderson on January 17, 1921, and the patent was issued on December 6, 1921. This was the only writing instrument either one of the Andersons patented, although both were prolific inventors who left a clear trail of bread crumbs.

I haven’t been able to find any references to R & G prior to 1912, when Edward’s patent for a collar fastener was assigned to R & G. Three years earlier, in 1909, Edward patented a bracelet, which he assigned to the "Standard Button Company," a partnership also located in Attleboro.

On a hunch, I consulted the 1913 "Directory of Massachusetts Manufactures" published by the Massachusetts Board of Statistics. Both the Standard Button Company and R & G are listed in that publication, both at 73 Mechanic Street, Attleboro, and both headed by one J. F. Ripley. Ripley was apparently associated with Standard Button for some time prior; a reference in the May 6, 1908 edition of the Jewelers’ Circular, page 69, mentions that J.F. Ripley of Standard Button Co. visited Cincinnati on business.

In 1930, Orra Stone listed R & G among "other Attelboro firms" in her History of Massachusetts Industries (1930), stating, "the R. & G. Co., Inc., one of the city’s large industries, with capital of $350,000, employing upwards of 100 hands in the production of jewelry, C. L. Watson being president, and E. L. Gowen, treasurer.

Edward’s 1936 patent for a combination compact and lipstick holder is the first of either Louis or Edward’s patents to be assigned to "The Ripley & Gowan Company, Inc.;" the latest patent I found assigned to that entity was Louis’ 1949 patent for an "expansible" bracelet.

According to the Tri-State Antique Center’s website, Ripley & Gowan was acquired in 1968 by Barrow Industries, and then in 1981 by JED Industries. Although this information is parroted on several sites, none contain any authority for these statements and I haven’t been able to confirm it. JED Industries, according to its website, was formed in the mid-1990s and makes heavy equipment – a far cry from ladies’ compacts.

All of this matters little when it comes to the Ritewell pencil, whose lifespan began and ended in the first half of the 1920s. It’s just kind of nice to have an inkling as to who "R" and "G" were.

3 comments:

John Smith said...
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John Smith said...

Thanks for the information and your research. I came across a white gold plated Ritewell pencil, approximately 4 inches long with a pocket clip. I have pictures that show the pencil with close up shots of the words, if there is any interest in seeing them.

Jon Veley said...

Hello John, I'm late in responding but yes, I'd love to see your pencil. My email is jveley@jonathanveley.com.