Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Patent Book Passes a Harsh Test

My friend in California, who parted with the grey Parker Zaner-Bloser from yesterday’s article, had a few other things that he was interested in selling. Here’s one of them:


Great minds run in the same very small circles – I had bid on this item in an online auction probably five years earlier, not knowing anything about "Seth Crocker" but just because I liked the name:


Since then, I’ve learned a little more about the guy. Seth Chilton Crocker was the son of Seth Sears Crocker, founder of the Crocker Pen Company. After his dad passed away in 1920, Seth C. orchestrated a group of investors (including DeWitt-LaFrance) to form the Chilton Pen Company in late 1923. The company’s first order of business was to purchase the remaining assets of the old Crocker Pen Company and set up shop in Boston.

Sometime between 1929 and 1931, the company relocated to Long Island City, New York, and it was around that time that Seth’s investors had grown weary enough of him to give him the boot. It appears (from a lowly snippet view) that the Seth Crocker Pen Company was established in 1932, and I’ve found one reference to the company in 1938. From some discussion online, it looks like Seth Crocker may have made storebrand pens for companies including R. H. Macy.

The imprint on the barrel of my Seth Crocker is curious in two respects:


"Seth Crocker / Repeater Pencil / Boston U.S.A. / Patented." The first curiosity here is that the pencil does not employ a repeater mechanism - it’s a screw drive, and a really odd one, to boot. Unscrew the nose and this is what you find:


I haven’t seen anything like this one before. It looks to me like the "repeating" aspect of this pencil is that, with the entire void in the barrel filled with lead, a new stick of lead would reload automatically by falling into that slot with the mechanism retracted.

The second curiosity is the use of the word "patented." I didn’t recall seeing like this, and the only two patents that were awarded to Seth Chilton Crocker were a pair of design patents, both awarded in 1934. There was number 91,765 for a clip:


And number 94,118, for a fountain pen "or similar article":


Neither of these are the least bit helpful. But there’s a happy ending to this story, and you’ll have to put up with me toot my own horn for a second. This is exactly the kind of moment when my patent books can do something that nothing else short of reading every frickin’ patent can do. Ask Google Patents who patented a screw-drive mechanical pencil, in the Boston area, in the early 1930s? Nada. But when I searched in the "patents by description" section of American Writing Instrument Patents Volume 2: 1911-1945, all I had to do was look under "Mechanical pencil (screw drive)," and on page 153 I’ve listed patent number 1,886,333, issued on November 1, 1932 to one Ambrose Fleming, who resided in West Lynn, Massachusetts:



Until you know that you are looking for Colonel Mustard, in the library, holding this particular sort of pencil, it’s hard to see the detail at first, but look more closely at page 2:


That, without any question, is the patent for the Seth Crocker "repeating" pencil.

My patent book also gave me a little more insight into Ambrose Fleming. In the "patents by inventor" section, I’ve listed nine patents awarded to the inventor between 1921 and 1932 - the Seth Crocker pencil patent was the last patent issued to him, and it was also the only one that identified him as being from the Boston area (all of his earlier patents identified him as hailing from either Alexandria, Virginia or Washington, DC). Fleming was almost exclusively a pencil guy, although his first patent was for a pen/pencil combo:


Fleming’s only other dalliance from the art of making pencils was this design for a fountain pen clip which is really, really weird:


Note that this patent was issued while the new Chilton Pen Company was in full swing in the Boston area. If someone out there recognizes the clip, Ambrose Fleming might be able to tell us more about the Seth Crocker Pen Company.

1 comment:

John Hubbard said...

I think that "weird" clip is pretty clever. It looks as if it would be retracted into a flush position in the side of the cap unless the cap were fully seated over the nib. It does, though, seem to require a rather odd looking knob on the end of the barrel to hold it in the retracted position when the cap is posted.