This neat little sterling pencil case showed up in an online auction, and there wasn’t a lot the seller had right in the description:
The one thing he or she did have right was a date the seller said was on the barrel . . . August 9, 1892. It was right after I’d finished the first volume of my patent books, so it seemed like a good opportunity to see what I could find out. And there it was – the only pencil patented on that date:
James B. Smith of New York, New York was awarded patent number 480,479 on that date, for a pencil that telescopes as it is pulled out of the case. And there was one other detail that had me a bit excited: the patent was assigned to Edward Todd & Co. It looked like there was a stirrup that fitted over those ears on the case at some point, but assuming everything else about this one panned out as shown in the patent drawings, I wouldn’t mind holding onto it until I could find a replacement stirrup.
When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to give the top of it a tug, and sure enough:
There, imprinted on the barrel, was the patent date I had been promised:
But no Edward Todd hallmark. That’s all right, I thought. It’s still a pretty neat pencil, and I didn’t an example with that patent date . . . I told myself. Oh, who was I kidding. I was a little bummed not to see that neat logo on there somewhere. But then, as I sheathed the pencil back in its case, I happened to glance at the top.