Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gorham's Other Precious Metal

Sometimes I’ll admit that I buy things online because I read the description, I think to myself “well, that can’t be right” and I think it will be a funny story seeing how things got a little mixed up in translation.  Such was the case with this one, which was described as a “Gorham Mabie Magazine”:


Gorham, with manufacturing facilities in Providence, Rhode Island and offices in New York, was known for its silver work.  When it comes to pencils, I featured a couple of Joe Nemecek’s early magic pencils here three years ago (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/09/other-peoples-fair-children.html).  In this picture, the pencil with the saddle on it and the mushroom-shaped one are Gorhams:


Then there’s this one, marked “B S & G,” made by Hicks for a later incorporation of the Gorham firm known as Black, Starr & Gorham which was featured here last year (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/02/welcome-to-family.html):


But all of these were in sterling silver, for which the company was famous. I wasn’t aware of any affiliation between Mabie, Todd & Co. and Gorham, nor of non-sterling pencils made by or for the company, so this find was doubly intriguing.  When it arrived, it proved to be exactly what the seller represented it to be -- at the nose is the imprint I would expect to see on a pencil matching this shape in connection with the Mabie name:


“Mabie Magazine Pencil / Pat. June 7, 10.”   The date is a reference to patent number 960,588, issued to Egon L. Schmitz and assigned, not to Mabie, Todd & Co., but to Eberhard Faber Pencil Company:


The Schmitz patent is an interesting one in pencil history, since it was under Mabie Todd’s stewardship that the pencil reached its greatest popularity and widest distsribution (for an example not marked with the Mabie Magazine name, see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-fabers-that-slipped-under-radar.html).   Just a couple years earlier, Schmitz was awarded a patent for what would become Eberhard Faber’s line of “Pony Clip” pencils (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2012/01/this-ones-got-something-for-everyone.html), and the Mabie Magazine worked on the same principle – screwing down the nose squeezed a piece of lead to hold it in place – but the Magazine incarnation held extra leads within the barrel.  Unfortunately, after a century inside the barrel, the leads rarely fall neatly into position as originally designed, and most examples have a few in the hole but none in the chamber.

But we’re getting off track here.  The reason I bought this pencil was to write about what’s stamped on the other end:


“Gorham Co. Archtl. Bronze.”  Since this pencil doesn’t appear to have any bronze about it – wear to the high points looks like ordinary gold fill over brass – I tried a plain ol’ google search with the exact words that were on it.  All was instantly revealed:


In addition to being silversmiths, the craftsmen at the firm had an Architectural Bronze Departmenet of “bronzesmiths” which fabricated lamp posts, bronze plaques, statuary and other artistic components, none of which would fit so neatly in the pocket as this pencil.  The above is the company’s 1920 listing in Sweet’s Architectural Catalog, and I also found a 1905 catalog online:


Was there a relationship between Gorham and Mabie Todd?  In this case, I think the evidence falls far short of proving anything more than a one-time customer/supplier relationship.  My “Gorham Mabie Todd” appears to be an advertising pencil, specially imprinted for a division of Gorham which had nothing to do with making pencils.

2 comments:

David Nishimura said...

Jon, Gorham was based in Rhode Island, not New York -- even though it had offices and operations there.

Jon Veley said...

Fixed. Thanks -