Friday, June 30, 2017

A Mysterious Victorian - G.R. & Co.

As I finished organizing the museum, putting like things together for the first time in years, there were a few square pegs left and nothing but round holes as far as the eye could see.  Here’s a few things that just don’t make sense . . . yet.

This first one has a very typical Fairchild-style center joint twist mechanism:


The quality is just so-so, and usually these are unmarked.  This example, however, has an imprint, and it’s one I haven’t seen:


“G.R.& Co.”  Since the mechanism is so plain vanilla, any association between pencil patentees with last names starting with G or R would be pure speculation.  I checked to see if there were any pencil companies going by “G.R. & Co.”, and I did get a hit.  Although my pencil appears to be American, there was a George Rowney & Co. operating out of London, England in the nineteenth century:


Although the late 1800s looks to be about right for my pencil, George Rowney & Co. was in business much earlier.  Here’s an advertisement the company placed in the Aethenum in 1837:


There’s a couple problems with the Rowney theory.  First, all the references I found to the company were in England, while this pencil clearly appears to be American – there’s no indication the company had an American office, and my piece doesn’t bear any English hallmarks or export markings..  Second, all of Rowney’s advertisements were for wood pencils, not “propelling” pencils (in the King’s English).

We’ll see.  Sometimes I throw things like this out there, and it’s years later before someone stumbles upon it with the missing piece of the puzzle.  Here’s to hoping . . .

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