Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I Finally Get To Write About These

I’ve had these pictures taken since January, 2015:


What’s had me just itching to tell you more about them was what’s on the top of the bottom one in that first picture:


That Indian Motorcycle logo is the real deal, from the late teens or early twenties.  As an original piece of motorcycle history, it cost me more than I care to admit – but there was no hesitation when the opportunity arose, since Indian bikes are a passion of mine and I’ve got a pair in the garage.  This first one is actually a 2001 Kawasaki Drifter, which I’ve modified so heavily that when I took it into a dealership for brake work, they told me at first that they didn’t work on vintage Indians:


My other Indian is a 2013 Chieftain, the first one sold in Columbus, Ohio.  I heard that the new dealership in town was receiving a shipment and took off time from work to go over on the day they were scheduled to arrive, to buy the first one straight off the truck:


If you’ve been to any cold weather pen shows east of the Mississippi, you’ve probably seen me walking around in a leather riding jacket with “Indian” emblazoned across the shoulders – not because I’m trying to look like a tough guy, but because it’s the warmest jacket I own, perfect for those bracing evening cigar-smoking gatherings.

Yeah.  A pencil with an Indian logo is going to be mine.   The other two pencils along these lines have the word “Bamby” on top.


The most likely explanation I have for the word “Bamby” is that this too is an advertising piece, for Bamby bread:



What’s held me back from telling you about these pencils is the part I wasn’t able to explain.  On the side of each is a manufacturer’s imprint:


“WHCo.”  All my efforts to learn what this meant failed, and so these pictures slipped into the dead letter office awaiting the day when I would be illuminated.

That day came this week, and from an unlikely source: an eBay seller going by Qweeds Collectibles, who had for sale this later plastic pencil, marked “W&H Co.” on the clip:



Often I’m chuckling rather than marveling at the descriptions online sellers use to describe the pencils I’m finding online.  In this case, however, while the pencil itself doesn’t provide any intrinsic clues to indicate what “W&H Co.” means, this seller had the knowledge to fill in the gap.  He (or she) titled the listing “Whitehead & Hoag Mechanical Pencil,” describing the company as a Newark, New Jersey firm which was “the king of the advertising novelty business in the tri-state region early in the 20th Century.”

While all my searching for this brand by initials was turning up nothing of value, once I had the full name in hand, it didn’t take much poking around to verify the accuracy of Qweed’s attribution.  Whitehead & Hoag was founded by Benjamin S. Whitehead and Chester R. Hoag in 1892, and is best remembered for making political and advertising buttons, pins and medals to order.  The company remained in business until 1959.

I wondered whether “W&H Co.” was the same outfit as “WHCo.,” but I’m satisfied that it is.  To verify that the company was engaged in something writing instrument related, I checked American Writing Instrument Patents Volume 2: 1911-1945 to see if any pen or pencil patents were assigned to Whitehead & Hoag –  and I found one:


I remember thinking to myself as I was writing the book, “Huh.  Another Conklin,” but since there was obviously no relation between the Toledo pen and pencil manufacturer and Edward D. Conklin, who invented and patented an accommodation clip with a built-in button for advertising, the rest of that thought had long since escaped me (as did the likelihood that W and H might stand for Whitehead & Hoag).

Yeah, I know.  Read your own damned books, Jon.

Conklin’s patent was applied for patent number 1,183,436 on November 6, 1915 and it was issued on May 16, 1916 – assigned to The Whitehead & Hoag Company of Newark, New Jersey.  That’s perfect for establishing that Whitehead & Hoag was involved in the writing instruments when my metal pencils were made, and it isn’t surprising that pencils wouldn’t sport both a button on an accommodation clip and an advertisement inset into the top.

Of course, now I’m going to have to find an Indian Motorcycle accommodation clip to go with these!

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