Monday, October 31, 2016

Somebody Else's News

I’ve been holding off writing this article until your Pennant arrived (assuming, of course, that you are a member of the Pen Collectors of America), so that I could quote David Nishimura’s article rather than steal his thunder.   In David’s article, “Leroy W. Fairchild: The Little-Known History of a Well-Known Company,” he clarified something I never fully understood: the Fairchild-Johnson partnership.

I had always assumed that at some point along the line, Leroy W. Fairchild and Ephraim S. Johnson went into partnership together - and that’s not right.  According to David, one of Leroy W. Fairchild’s sons, Harry P. Fairchild, went into partnership with Ephraim S. Johnson, Jr., the son of Ephraim S. Johnson, in October, 1898, trading under the name Fairchild & Johnson.  The following year, Fairchild & Johnson purchased what was left of Leroy W. Fairchild.

Ephraim S. Johnson, Jr. wasn’t into the pen and pencil business as much as his father was, and David says that in 1905, he left the firm to pursue other interests and the name of the firm was changed to Fairchild & Co.

David says that what makes Fairchild & Johnson’s products stand out is “their embrace of naturalistic and asymmetrical Art Nouveau motifs,” and that is what I was going to write about.  Here are two examples I’ve had for awhile:


The top example is a relatively conventional snail pattern – perhaps a vestige of Leroy W. Fairchild, produced after Fairchild & Johnson bought the shop in 1898.  But this one has the Fairchild & Johnson hallmark - a shield with a diagonal line through it, with an F in the space above and a J below:


The cable twist pencil, though, is much more unusual, befitting of David’s description of the company’s unusual designs:


Then there were these two, which came from a collection of Victorians I purchased from Alan Hirsch at the DC show in August:


Note the nice, ergonomic peanut shaped cases unlike anything I’ve seen by any other manufacturer:


The lower example sports an imprint with a date, “Quoin Club 1905,” dating these to the last year of in the partnership’s run:


Both sport the same hallmark:


A piece in the March 21, 1903 edition of The St. Louis Republic, said the Quoin Club “is composed of the advertising managers of magazines and periodicals.”  By 1905, however, the membership in the club included, in the words of this 1906 advertisement, “an association of all the leading periodicals (which reach practically every intelligent English-speaking family in the United States).”


The guest list at the club’s 1906 banquet at the Waldorf Astoria included many of New York’s wealthy, famous and elite.   I did find a notice of the upcoming 1905 banquet, at the prestigious Aldine Club in New York:


This may well have been a party favor for the club’s annual banquet.

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