Sunday, March 31, 2013

Our Friend Rex Surfaces Again

I’ve seen this same pencil for the last few shows I’ve attended, and most recently in Philadelphia. Its owner doesn’t want his name used:

The Century Pen Company of Whitewater, Wisconsin has been the subject of a couple articles here at the blog. The early metal pencils produced by the company appear to be an original design, and the later 1930s examples look like they may have been made by Eagle.

This one, dating to the mid-1920s, is another National Pen Products creation, made under the 1925 and 1926 Rex Manufacturing Company patents. It took me awhile to place it, because that big cap is more than a little bit distracting:

As this photo indicates, the color of the cap is slightly different than the rest of the trim on the pencil, and it’s unusual to see a ringtop in addition to a side clip – offhand, the only other company I can think of that did that on purpose was LeBeouf. I’m inclined to think, particularly with the mismatch of color, that this is a mismatch, and the cap came from something else.

But from what? It’s an oversized ringtop, which is pretty unusual, and I can’t think of anything else that would have served as the donor for that cap. If you’ve seen that cap on something else, or if you’ve got another Century with this cap on it, please send in a picture!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ever "Sharp" Style

Here’s a trio of Eversharp-style Dur-O-Lite pencils, all of which came to me through my Ohio Show swapathon with Michael Little:

Each has some really neat features. The red one is a salesman’s sample in a really tough color pattern to find. Dur-O-Lite called it "Rain Drop Red":

The pearl example in the middle is another salesman’s sample, this one intended apparently as a giveaway:

And as for that third one, the button and slot on the side indicates that there’s something more sharp about this than eversharp:

It took about a dozen attempts to get a clear picture of the lettering hidden on that knife blade:

"Dodson Company Chicago U.S.A."  From what I can tell, the Dodson Manufacturing Company specialized in slider-type knives such as these, all of which appear to have been made in the last 1930s or early 1940s – right around the time these Dur-O-Lites were made.

And here’s another example of a Dur-O-Lite with a concealed knife blade:

"Eversharp-style" is a pretty good nickname for these, because an example identical to this one turned up in an online forum about a year ago, identified by an expert as an Eversharp. But this one is clearly all Dur-O-Lite, and the knife function on this one operates a little bit differently:

No need to remove the cap here – the blade emerges through a slot in the cap!

Postscript:   I hadn't considered that a fellow named Dodson might have patented this knife mechanism.  After this article originally published, Daniel Kirchhiemer send me an email to let me know that Richard J. Dodson applied for a patent for the Dodson pencil and knife combination on December 6, 1937, and he was granted patent number 2,141,061 on December 20, 1938:

or a pen . . .

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Pair of Dur-O-Lite Ejectors

Now that I understand these Dur-O-Lite Ejector Pencils (see "Dur-O-Lite Repeaters Revisited, September 29, 2012), I’ve made a point to keep an eye out for interesting variations on the theme. Here’s a couple that caught my eye in recent months:

Both have the Dur-O-Lite name imprinted only on the eraser retainer:

I picked up the white pearl example at the Ohio Show from Mike Little, by way of Frank Hoban. What attracted me to it was the top button, which is made of clear plastic:

Of course, the great graphics on the barrel didn’t hurt, either:

The other, some of you online junkies might recognize, came to me from Mike Kirk, who posted it in one of his posts "From the World Famous Hotel Bathroom Studio," which he acquired in one of his far-ranging business trips. Sure, the color is spectacular. Sure, it’s about the nicest example of these I’ve ever seen. But what had me begging shamelessly to add it to the fold was how nice I knew it would look next to another Dur-O-Lite in my collection:

The plastic is pretty fragile on these, but that color is something I’ve never seen anywhere else. That "Eversharp-style Dur-O-Lite" (at least that's what I call them, because the clip and the faceted lines are clearly meant to emulate the Eversharp Doric) came to me from an online auction many years ago.
The end of the Eversharp-style example is of the removable-nose variety, while the Ejector has the characteristic banding around the tip and end of the barrel:

Which reminds me . . . I need to circle back around to those Eversharp-style Durolites . . .

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nope . . . It Isn't Broken

I think the reason I got this one so cheaply in an online auction was because from the photographs, it appeared to be broken. Truth be told, I thought it might be, too:

But the auction title was for a John Holland pencil, and it looked interesting enough to throw in a small bid that brought it home. The seller was right – it is in fact marked "John. Holland":

and as it turns out, it’s not broken at all. When you pull on the rear of the pencil, that tube that covers the point retracts, converting what looks like a broken pencil into a perfectly balanced little piece:

Although there’s a few dents in the point protector, it served its purpose well, and the pencil is in perfect shape:

And what’s left of the patent date is imprinted on the opposite side of the barrel:

It took a little bit of trial and error to figure out the exact date on there – it’s pretty worn. But after half a dozen tries, May 23, 1882 produced a Holland patent. Two, actually! The first one I found, number 258,299, was for a stylographic pen

But it was patent number 258,298 that proved to be the one for this pencil:

Of course, my first thought whenever I learn something about a John Holland item is to contact Holland fanatic Jack Leone to see what he knows about them. Jack knew a little bit about them:

That’s an understatement, isn’t it?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Final Thoughts on Straka's Eversharp

As mentioned earlier, John Straka’s patent for Wahl Eversharp’s removable-nose pencil was applied for in 1920 but wasn’t issued until 1928. By the time the Straka patent was issued, both Dur-O-Lite and Autopoint were producing similar pencils.

Charles Keeran, who had been ousted by Wahl in 1917, was the president of Autopoint in 1928, and in February, 1928 he was still writing letters to Wahl Eversharp demanding additional compensation from Wahl for the Eversharp pencil he invented.

Every time I see one of these "Eversharp-Autopoint hybrid" pencil, I instinctively pull the nose off to see if it says "Pat. App. For," which would indicate that they were made prior to 1928 (when John Straka’s patent was assigned a patent number). I’ve never found one – not that they aren’t out there somewhere, but if Wahl had made them in any quantity prior to the issuance of the Straka patent in 1928, you’d think a few would turn up once in a while.

The fact that the Straka application predated any applications for a removable-nose pencil by Charles Keeran bolsters my theory, on page 62 of The Catalogue, about why Wahl Eversharp would have made them. Wahl didn’t need to make the Straka pencils – it had other utility pencil lines, and since the Straka pencils didn’t share very many of the same components, Wahl would have gone out of its way to make something that, from outward appearances, looked a lot like what Keeran’s Autopoint Products Co. was making just across town.

Why? To settle Keeran down. Imagine what would have gone through Keeran’s mind when, in response to Keeran's demands for compensation, Eversharp begins production of an Autopoint-type pencil. The patent-conscious Keeran would immediately have objected, and Eversharp’s response would have been direct and terse: our Straka patent application predated any of yours, so if anyone is going to quit making removable-nose pencils, it’s going to be you.

But there’s one last footnote to the story: although I don’t think the numbers of surviving examples support the idea that very many of these were made, Eversharp may have produced them for longer than I previously thought, and the example pictured at the beginning of this article appears to prove it. I found it over at the Scott Antique Market a few months ago, and whenever I see one of these with the plastic cap still present, I’ll buy it if it’s reasonably priced just for the cap since they are usually missing. Finding one in a dollar junk box – now that was as reasonable as they come! This one had a black cap instead of a red one:

I didn’t look at any more than the cap at the time I bought it, but when I brought it home I noticed something else:

All coolness aside, the square leads reference got me to thinking: the patent for Eversharp’s square leads wasn’t even applied for until mid-1932 (see "Hip to be Square," back on May 18, 2012). So while it looks like these didn’t go into production before 1928, it looks like they stayed in production for longer than would have been necessary just to make a point.

Since the Depression hit just after the Straka patent finally issued, perhaps the Eversharp head shed decided it had better get its money’s worth out of the exercise.

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!

Monday, March 25, 2013

I'm Monitoring These Pretty Closely

Another fuzzy picture from an online auction brought this one to my doorstep:

It was missing the red cap on top, but I make a point to buy these pencils in more common colors whenever I can so that I have a few spares on hand. Yep, that’s how they are supposed to look:

I wasn’t sure from the auction whether this one would be marked "Wahl Eversharp" or "Monitor" on the clip – either way I would have been excited, because the color on this is so unusual. This one happens to be a Monitor:

This is another example of what I call "Eversharp-Autopoint hybrids," as discussed on page 62 of The Catalogue (a name for which some Autopoint purists have taken me to task, saying the tip more closely resembles a Realite than an Autopoint – see "To-maaah-to" posted here on June 25, 2012). But it’s neither the nickname I gave it nor the cool color that has me writing about this one today – it’s the patent.
In the book, I indicate that these are marked with patent number 1,693,578 on the end of the barrel. That wasn’t really fair, because if you’ve been hunting everywhere and can’t find it, it’s because it’s on the VERY end of the barrel, underneath the removable nose:

That number refers to a patent issued to John Straka, which he applied for on April 18, 1921 but which wasn’t issued for seven years, on November 27, 1928:

And it has absolutely nothing to do with this pencil. I indicate in The Catalogue that a second Straka patent, number 1,693,579, is closer:

Straka had to wait almost as long for this one to issue – it was applied for on August 16, 1922. But when I took a closer look at the drawings, I don’t think this one is any closer than the first Straka patent. At first it looks like the second patent shows a removable nose cone, but if you look closely, that's actually a jagged edge on the bottom of the barrel:

This indicates that part of the tip (figure 1) is being shown hacked away in the drawings for demonstrative purposes only.

So where, if not from Charles Keeran’s Autopoint, would Wahl Eversharp have claimed patent rights to a removable-nose pencil? Well, there were a couple other patents issued that same day to Wahl employees: this one was issued on November 27, 1928 to none other than John C. Wahl himself, who received patent number 1,693,580 on an application he filed on April 12, 1924:

It clearly shows a removable nose section, but rather than the Autopoint-style paddle shaped plunger, this one also has a bent piece of wire that threads into a spiral.

But the closest patent I could find was the third Straka patent issued on that date, number 1,693,577. Straka waited longer for this one than any of his other patents, having applied for this one on September 25, 1920:

You have to look at this one closely to see it, but there at the tip is a removable nose that simply butts up against the end of the barrel:

I think this is the patent under which these pencils were made, and the number stamped on the ends of these barrels – 1,693,578 -- is a typo, and the number that should have been stamped on them should have been 1,693,577.

That may solve a riddle, but it doesn’t solve the most interesting riddle. Sure, it’s great to finally understand which patent actually applies to this pencil, but this answers other questions concerning why they were made.

More on that tomorrow . . .

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Seen At The Ohio Show

Hey, they don’t call them "shows" for nothing, right? At the Ohio Show, quite a few guys stopped by to "show" off some things they’ve found lately. Greg Christy wanted to show off this black and pearl Eclipse and a really nice Univer in turquoise and bronze:

Univer is a Sheaffer subbrand – I don’t remember seeing one made in that celluloid, which is better known as being associated with Waterman:

Greg also had an interesting Monroe – not the Eclipse uberbrand Monroe, but the later brand:

Celluloid nose, gold plated top and what the heck – always good to have a clear midsection so you know how much spare lead you’ve got on hand, right?

And Jack Shuttleworth also stopped by, with this "Cadet" in tow:

Those twin center bands and the interesting treatment at the top are a cut above. I’m not sure who made this one: