Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Good Day For A Few 3-Ways



I don’t know which would be funnier – whether during the straight-laced Ozzie-and-Harriet days of the early 1950s the makers of the Monroe hadn’t considered the double entendre, or whether they knew exactly what they were doing.

Full disclosure first: number one, when I acquired this Ritepoint folder, all that was in it was the paperwork in the righthand pocket. Number two, if from the title of this article you’re expecting a cheap thrill other than an article about pencils, you’re going to be disappointed. The only 3-ways you’re going to see today – at least here – are the ones in this folder:


This card provides a nice rundown of the variety and model numbers of the Monroe "3-Way Utility Pencils," and the back has a price list:


At the time I bought the folder, I assumed that this card and the Ritepoint folder in which it was contained were unrelated . . . but the card says "guaranteed," and the guarantee papers that were behind it were issued by Ritepoint:



In addition, that washer-style clip found on most of these is very, very close to what you’d find on known Ritepoints:


At any rate, it’s nice to have a place to group all of my Monroes together. Now I know that in the world of high-quality, high-dollar writing instruments there are two Monroes: first, there’s the Eclipse "uberbrand" of luxury art deco pens and pencils. Second, there’s what those who aren’t interested in anything other than high-quality, high-dollar writing instruments would lovingly refer to as "those pieces of crap." Granted, most of these Monroes were made as advertising giveaways, so they had to be cheaply produced. That doesn’t matter to me -- I’ve been picking these things up for years because they are fascinating. These folks didn’t want to make just a boring old pencil – they wanted each of these things to do something more than just write. The most conventional ones I have are these:


The upper example is a "perpetual calendar" pencil, meaning you can adjust the barrel so the day of the week lines up with the date of the month – perpetually, or at least as long as we don’t adopt a metric calendar. The lower one is an otherwise ordinary pencil with a year’s calendar on it. I love these because they help establish a time frame: a 1951 calendar pencil such as this would have been made in late 1950.

Whenever you find a pencil marked Monroe, take it apart because you rarely find one that’s just a pencil. Take this one, which I found at the Chicago Show a few years back:


When I picked this one up, I did so because I thought it was unusual to see an "ordinary" Monroe pencil, even if it was "Swiped from the desk of . . .." I didn’t find out until after I flew home that there was a knife blade concealed inside – THAT would have been good to know before I went through security (I think the TSA must have been given a heads’ up that there would be some very odd things coming through baggage screening when the pen show was in town, because one look at my carry-one stuffed with a couple hundred pencils and they just waved me on through).

The "cocktail" pencil referred to on the card was a pencil which had a paper scroll inside. Turning the endcap displayed different recipes for drinks. I don’t have one of the cocktail pencils, but the same principle was used on this example:


Adjust the knob to display the thickness of a piece of lumber, and this handy little guy will calculate the number of board feet for purposes of estimating:


Tradesmen were a prime target market for Monroe. Pencils with built-in levels are a fairly common sight:


There’s also Monroes with concealed screwdrivers or electrical current testers:


The clips on these are a little different from the usual Monroe, but no doubt in my mind it is the same company. Note that the screwdriver pencil is a sales sample with the same model number shown for the screwdriver pencil on the sales card:


Note that as an added bonus for me, the electric tester example advertises an electric company right here in Newark, Ohio.

The salesman’s card has a couple Monroes I haven’t tracked down yet. The cocktail pencil I’ll eventually find, and I’m sure there are several other variations on that theme. A magnet pencil would be cool, as would the "pencilscope." As for the "Thermopencil," I may have one of those after all . . .


Both of these pencils are marked "Universal," with very different style clips:


The black and white example has an electric tester, just like the Monroe. It advertises the same electrical contractor in Newark, Ohio and came from the same local stash – a pretty good indicator that the Universal was offered by the same people who produced the Monroe, but not conclusive.


The other Universal, however, seems to make the case. On the back side of the cap is a thermometer:


Unfortunately, it’s a perpetual thermometer, as in it always reads 120 degrees – even in December in Ohio. But on the positive note, this one is a salesman’s sample . . .


. . . and both the name and model number match the Monroe salesman’s card.

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