When this thing showed up in an online auction last week, I felt compelled to bid on it.
I didn’t bid because it was a Sheaffer that would fill a spot in my collection, and I didn’t bid because it was in the best condition. I bid on it because of that frame welded onto the clip, with a weird little guy in what looks like a red nightshirt and yellow cap waving at me. The seller said that his sash read "Hospitality," but nothing in my preliminary poking about turned up anything that made sense about this.
There just has to be a story behind this one, I thought. When the pencil arrived and I examined it more closely, the word imprinted on the little guy’s nightshirt wasn’t "hospitality," but "Hotpoint":
That gouge in the corner looks a lot like there might have been a diamond chip or something that’s been dug out, and in person it’s easier to see the number 100 embossed across the top of the frame.
Hotpoint is a manufacturer of kitchen appliances. According to the company’s website (www.hotpoint.com), the firm was established in 1903 by Earl Richardson, who had invented an electric iron with the now-familiar pointed end: hence, the hot point. Richardson and George Hughes, who was developing an electric range, went into business together, eventually merging with General Electric which continued to market their Hotpoint brand.
And as for this creepy little man waving at me from my Sheaffer pencil, I’m assuming that the "100" on the frame is a 100-percent sales goal award, given sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s. A search for "Hotpoint mascot" reveals that our little guy was named "Happy Hotpoint," who became less disturbing as the years went by, from this slightly demonic incarnation:
Until 1954, when the company decided to ditch the cartoon characters and shoot for simply adorable:
And that last picture, my friends, is the real story. That bright, happy face is none other than a 17-year-old Mary Tyler Moore, whose acting debut involved bouncing around in an elf costume as "Happy Hotpoint" at the beginning of The Ozzy and Harriet Show. Here’s a YouTube Video of one of her performances, from 1956:
Moore made the role her own, only quitting when it became impossible to conceal her pregnancy (apparently a pregnant elf wasn’t quite what the company had in mind). A few years later, she starred in the Dick Van Dyke Show before moving on to her own show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.