Monday, August 19, 2013

Establishing a Connection

Sometimes it’s kind of spooky how pieces of this giant puzzle just fall into place.   Not very long ago, I wrote an article on the “Never Dull” pencils, which appear on pencils marked Eclipse, Albert Howard and the “Rexhold.”   Here’s an example of the Eclipse, in gold fill, next to the sterling Rexhold:


About the Rexhold, I’d commented: “Believe me, as a devotee to the Rex Manufacturing Company, I’ve thought about whether there might be a connection.  But other than the word “Rex” used in the name, I don’t have anything else to establish a connection and it doesn’t seem to match any other Rex products.”  And that's where today's story picks up.

The most noticeable different between the Rexhold and all the other known Rex products is that the Rexhold is an all-metal pencil, while all of the other Rex patent pencils I’ve seen have been hard rubber or celluloid, which brings me to another one of those online pigs-in-a-poke I stumbled across about a month ago.  I’d seen a lot of a dozen or so pencils, some of which were mildly entertaining and a couple others of which were just different enough that I thought it was worth bidding just to see what was there.  One of the pencils in that bunch was this one:


Had it been all by itself, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  But what struck me as being a little different was that freakishly large ball on the end of the clip, and I thought I could make out a couple lines of lettering around the top in that god-awful picture the seller posted.   On closer examination, yes the ball on the clip is freakishly large, but look at what the lettering is:


The patent date of February 19, 1924 is none other than the first of the Rex Manufacturing Company patents!


At last, I thought – if I can somehow link this pencil to a Never Dull!  I had four distinct characteristics on this 1924 patent to work with: first, the clip is an interesting construction – aside from the ball (ok, I know if I say “freakishly large ball” one more time, I’m going to get a couple of sick and twisted emails, so we’ll just say it’s “prominent”), the clip is affixed to the barrel through slots on the sides of the mounting.


Second, the top of the barrel is crimped around the mechanism to secure it in place.  Third, there’s a little dimple in the side of the cap that fits into a slot in the mechanism, so the cap is “keyed” into position and doesn’t rely only on friction to hold it in place while the lead is advanced.  Fourth, of course, is the barrel engraving – I’ve commented often here about how barrel engraving is as distinctive as a fingerprint.

I started comparing this pencil with my Eclipse Never Dulls, and I couldn’t find any exact matches.  All shared that crimping at the top of the barrel:


But my Eclipse-marked examples lack that dimple in the top, and the only checkerboard pattern Eclipse I have is close, but not a match:


Back to the drawing board.  I opened up a drawer full of metal pencils and started going through them, and I stumbled across one marked “E-Z Rite.”   Look at the clips:


Both share the same dimple on the top – in fact, the two are dead ringers:


And the tops are both crimped the same way:


Three out of four, in this case, is outstanding.  I wish I could tell you that the barrel imprints were identical, too, but not so:


However, I did find an exact match for that barrel pattern:


On a ringtop Eclipse Never Dull.  The circle is complete, and McNary’s 1924 Rex Patent was the engine under the hood of the Never Dull pencils.  Long before Rex was the unnamed greatgranddaddy of so many classic flattop pencils of the late 1920s, the company’s unseen hands left fingerprints on an entire family of metal pencils.

George Kovalenko left an interesting comment at the blog after the last Never Dull article published, in which he theorized that “Rexhold” could be a play on words for a Rexall pencil with a clip to “hold” it in your pocket.   That may be true . . . but I’m “holding” to the position that it was all Rex inside!

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