Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Regrettable Timing

As I sat down to write this article, which I’ve been meaning to do for a year or more, I always planned to title the article “There is no Santa Claus.”  Even though the analogy is perfect, posting it two days before he’s scheduled to shimmy his way into my gas log fireplace seems, on the one hand, like a travesty.  On the other, I suppose, it’s all the more perfect.

Devotees to particular high quality brands are a peculiar bunch.  I collect Conklins, whether they be the great, innovative products or the junk from the end of the line.  And Eversharps?  I find their spectacular demise into oblivion fascinating, just because it’s hard to imagine a boardroom where the company’s executives were saying “sure, throw that against the wall and see if it sticks” towards the end.

And yet there are those who cling to the notion that their brand of choice was divine – that there’s no way their beloved Conklin, Eversharp or a host of others would stoop to such depths to make a buck out of desperation.

Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the Camel Pen Company, which in the thirties came out with some stunningly beautiful and innovative pens and pencils, built on the concept that a pen fueled by ink tablets would write longer and more reliably than those using conventional inks.  To this day, I still face resistance to the notion that the same guys who made these beautiful pens were associated with the dismal “Secretary Pen Company” and its line of cheesy floaty pencils from the late forties and early fifties.

It doesn’t matter that the history is well documented.  Camel was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1938 and its founder, Joseph Wustman, purchased whatever was left of the company by that time and set up the Secretary Pen Company.  There’s a picture of a Camel “Spaulding” pencil pictured on page 27 of the Catalogue, as living proof that, as things were looking bleak, the company was indeed stooping to levels the Camel faithful would never dream.


Enthusiasts of the brand continue to clink to the notion that just because the company stooped that low, they wouldn’t have gone so far as to make those crappy floaty pencils . . . or would they?


I bought this one because . . . well, because I have a thing for crappy floaty pencils.  Especially when they have a connection to classic cars.



But this one has another connection.  I was expecting a Secretary Pen Company imprint.  I wasn’t expecting, or maybe I should have expected, this:


3 comments:

John Hubbard said...

Say it isn't so, Jon!

Vance said...

The real reason they went under is that their floaties were illustrating car parts instead of, well, you know.

Marc said...

Explain the difference between the Secretary Pen Company and the Newark Pen Company which made the Secretary brand and pre-dates Camel. Wusthoff was a technical director of both Camel and Newark.