Friday, December 4, 2015

The Red-Legged Devil . . . or Is It Devils?


Yesterday’s search for the origins of the Patent April 17, 1874 Ludden pencil may have led me the long way around the barn for the answer – a simple typographical error – but along the way, I found out quite a bit more about the man William A. Ludden . . . or should I say, the men.

The first references I could find to Ludden occur in the Brooklyn press, in numerous announcements like this one, all published in 1848:


Sometime prior to 1858, when this report of the Exhibition of American Manufactures was published, Ludden had become partners with Jonathan Warren, trading under the name of “Warren & Ludden”:


The partnership was continuing to trade as Warren & Ludden when the Civil War broke out - the Boston Banner of Light featured an advertisement on August 17, 1861 for a “New Patent Combination Pen, which slides upon a wood pencil”:


The reference is to Jonathan Warren’s patent number 29,426, issued on July 31, 1860, which includes “a socket to receive the stick.”


Then history appears to take a strange turn.  One William A. Ludden, of Brooklyn, serves in  the 14th Regiment of the New York Militia at the outbreak of the Civil War.  The New York 14th, which dressed in distinctive baggy red trousers, got an equally colorful nickname name from none other than Confederate General Stonewall Jackson at the First Battle of Bull Run in April 1861, who upon seeing the 14th New York trying once again to take Henry House Hill, supposedly said, “Hold on boys!  Here come those red legged devils again!”

The nickname “Red Legged Devils” stuck, and Ludden survived Bull Run.  But in November, 1861, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that he was missing in action after a skirmish (note his name is misspelled "Judden”):


Fortunately for Ludden, in the early months of the War the North and South exchanged prisoners rather than holding them captive; two years later, and Ludden would have been confined in horrific conditions as a prisoner of the Confederacy, in places like the notorious Andersonville.  However, in February, 1862, Ludden was released from Richmond and was back in Brooklyn:


The very month the red-legged devil came home, a William A. Ludden formed a new partnership with William C. Vosburgh, notice of which was published in the February, 1862 issue of American Agriculturalist:


They took out patent number 35,355 for a pencil with an eraser on an application they filed in April 1862


Patent number 35,355 was reissued in 1869; but in that same year William A. Ludden applied for and received patent number 92,853, with no trace of Vosburgh and no assignment to the partnership:


That may be because his association with Vosburgh had long since dissolved, as an 1865 business directory lists a “Vanvalkenburg & Ludden” under “Gold Pens” at 179 Broadway, and no other listing for Ludden in the directory (thanks to Daniel Kirchheimer, who found this one):


It would appear that between 1869 and 1878, Ludden was in business for himself, until his short-lived partnership of Ludden & Taylor, which was over by March, 1879 and replaced by Ludden & Dow, which continued through at least 1884 (see yesterday’s article for trade announcements).
All of this seemed to fall into place until I read Ludden’s obituary:


There’s William A. Ludden, “a veteran of the civil war and a pioneer manufacturer of gold pens,” but this ran in the New York Tribune on February 21, 1920.  For a man who went into the pen business in 1848 and served in the Civil War, that’s one epic lifetime!

One clue in the obituary unlocks the story behind Ludden – or should I say the Luddens.  According to William’s obituary, he was only seventy seven years old when he passed - that means he was born in 1843, and only five years old when William A. Ludden’s advertisements first ran in 1848.

The mystery was resolved by a biographical sketch of William A. Ludden, which appeared in Volume III of A History of Long Island From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, by Peter Ross, published in 1902.


It’s easy to see from this history how the lives of father and son were conflated in the younger Ludden’s obituary.  Senior, born in 1818, and junior, born in 1843, shared the same name.  Both had military ties: while senior founded a home guard at the outbreak of the Civil War, junior pulled on his red pants and embarked on a successful military career as a “Red Legged Devil.”  Junior worked for Senior and “was associated with him in business through an extended period.”

I haven’t found a definitive date when senior passed away, although one source on ancestry.com indicated it was “after 1880.”  This is consistent with the Ludden & Dow advertisements from 1881; was the last reference to Ludden & Dow as a “Trustworthy House” in 1884 post mortem?

Or maybe the question should be: which Ludden, father or son?

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