Thursday, July 18, 2013

Looking Up a Few More Websters

"Webster" was a store brand for Sears Roebuck & Co., headquartered in Chicago. That’s one of those things I thought I’d known for a long time, so I was dismayed when I looked up the brand in The Catalogue and found at page 170 where I had characterized Webster as "a Chicago manufacturer." Mea culpa.

I did get everything else right, though, when it came to the Webster. I reported that it was in Chicago – check. I reported that Webster did not produce any pencils of its own design – correct. And I correctly identified the six examples pictured as being three examples made under the Rex Manufacturing Company patents (although I should have elaborated that they were made by National Pen Products, also of Chicago) and three modified Parker Parkettes:


But I also knew a few things about Webster that I thought were outside the scope of my pencil book at the time I wrote it.  For example, I knew there were also some Webster pens out there with military clips, which looked a lot like Sheaffer military clip Balances. I’ve had a few of the pens -- they always seemed to turn up in black. and seemed to be pretty well made with 14k nibs and a nice feel to them. The only reason I didn’t mention that fact was that I hadn’t seen a matching pencil for it.

You know where this one’s going . . .



Although this has a very Sheafferesque profile, if I had to guess who made this one I’d have to say Parker, since the plastic (not black, by the way) appears to be Parker’s grey "shadow wave" plastic:


Note that Sears apparently didn’t have its best and brightest working the pen counter on the day Mary asked to have her name put on this one - her name is stamped right through the "Made in USA" imprint.

Now that I’ve got one of these in my hands, I can see why I hadn’t run across one of these before. While the pens were surprisingly well made, this pencil is simply awful. At the business end, the mechanism was friction fit into the nose – typical for many nose drive pencils -- but what distinguishes this Webster (not in a good way) is that the part securing the mechanism in place was plastic. Either it was glued in and the glue gave way, or the plastic quickly shrank and an attempt to glue it back into place failed:


Not much thought went into the other end, either. Instead of a smaller clip for the smaller pencil barrel, the matching pencils had the same clip as the pen – so it doesn’t really "clip" to much:


You’d think that a pencil this bad would be about the last made under the Webster name, but I don’t think that’s the case. This one, which turned up at the Ohio Show last November, appears to have been made even later, perhaps even as late as the mid-1950s:


The top is nearly identical to that found on pens and pencils made by Stratford Pen Company, which was the successor to Salz Brothers:


In fact, that’s what I assumed this one probably was when I picked it up, but the imprint on the barrel tells a different story.


"Webster Gold Crown." While Gold Crown was another National Pen Products brand, in this case I think the name is descriptive only and just a coincidence. After all, the crown is gold . . .

sort of. Gold colored, anyway.

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