Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Eagle Update

Some people have a hard time admitting when they are wrong, but I am not one of them.  When I admit I'm wrong, in doing so I'm saying at the same time that I've learned something new that is right.

Today I get to admit I was wrong twice, in both cases regarding statements I've made about The Eagle Pencil Company.  This article corrects statements I've made concerning the "Stars and Moons" Epenco pencils (page 49 of The Catalogue, as well as my entry here on November 22) and the "Arrow clip" Eagles (page 48 of The Catalogue and my entry here on November 20). 

I'll start with the "stars and moons," because it was a discussion of that article on the Zoss List that led me to make both discoveries.  When Mike Kirk said that he had heard the "stars and moons" pattern was called the "Merlin" (and Mike Little suggested I should be turned into a frog for some reason), I started digging into the history of these pencils a little further to see what I could find.

My first and last stop in this inquiry was the online library at the Pen Collectors of America's website.  Yes, I am a PCA member, even though I hate meetings, committees and assignments (I get enough of all of these things at my day job) because the Pennant magazine is a great publication and the online resources are truly spectacular.  Being able to download vintage catalogs from dozens of different manufacturers is tremendously helpful.

Turns out, the PCA has a copy of the 1937 Eagle Pencil Co. catalog, and there was the answer:

So there you have it.  The "stars and moons" pencils were referred to, at least in 1937, as the 25 cent "Gleam." 

And the 1937 catalog has a lot more to offer, regarding what I have always referred to as the "Arrow clip" Eagles.  Here's the photograph of them from page 48 of The Catalogue:

I had theorized that these were Canadian, since the colors were so different from other Eagles and there is a resemblance to Canadian-made Eclipse pencils.  However, the 1937 Eagle catalog begs to differ:

So what I have been calling the "arrow clip" is actually Eagle's "Visehold" clip, and it wasn't Canadian.  In fact, it was used on all the high end Eagle products in America, including not only the "Flash Fill" line shown here but also on all of its other "Gold Standard" products.  The patent drawings reveal even more about these clips, in particular, that the triangular arrows are not purely ornamental.  Here is an excerpt of two of the drawings from patent number 1,926,852, which was applied for by Benjamin Hanle on May 31, 1932 and was granted on September 12, 1933:

Turns out that "arrow" is actually the separate piece that holds the clip in place!  Hanle's second patent, 2,022,416, was applied for on January 5, 1935 and was granted on November 26, 1935.  This improved design incorporated a washer-style feature into this design for mounting at the top of the barrel:

Note that in addition to the top-mounting design, the shape of the clip ball has been changed.  It is this shape that was the subject of Design Patent 95,681, issued in May, 1935.  Since the round ball Visehold clip appears nowhere in the 1937 catalog, it appears that Eagle phased out the round ball design by that time.  Also absent from the 1937 catalog are any Visehold clips mounted mid-barrel.

So now I can break down the examples in my collection into three groups: 

1.  Round ball Visehold clips, all of which are mounted mid-barrel, streamlined, thinner and found in conventional marbled colors (introduced around 1932).

2.  Faceted ball Visehold clips, mounted mid-barrel like the earlier round ball clips, squared off top (introduced around 1935).

3.  Faceted ball Visehold clips, mounted at the top of the barrel, squared off top (introduced by 1937). 

Now that I know what I'm looking for, I'll have to look more closely at these when I run across them!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And Presto! My Good Deed Definitely Went Unpunished

At some point, most collectors end up buying things against their will.  We've all had someone come up to us and say, "You're the pencil guy, right?  I've got something to show you . . ." and then we end up looking at something they are a lot more thrilled to show to us than we are to look at.

What I always try to remember in those circumstances is that while antique dealers are in the business to make a profit, they wouldn't be doing it if they did not get a sense of pleasure out of finding things that make people happy.   I figure, as I mention in the collecting section of The Catalogue, that if someone has taken the time to put something aside to show me, I'm going to take the time to appreciate the gesture and, unless the price is unreasonable, I'm going to buy what they are offering even if I'm not really interested.  If nothing else, I'll take the time to explain to the dealer what the piece is and how although I'd love to have it (sometimes it's a little hard to keep the straight face when I say this part) I would just have to pass this time.

After all, if this dealer finds a really spectacular piece next week, what I'd want that dealer to remember is to save it for me -- not that I'm the guy who never buys anything from him or her anyway.

This story started out as one of those stories.  One of the regular dealers from the Scott Antique Market still remembers me from a couple of years ago, when I was excited to find a few nice pens and pencils that I bought from him.  Every month since, when he sees me, he says "You're the pen and pencil guy, right?"   Unfortunately, most of the time he follows that with, "You know, I had a bunch of pens here this morning, and I sold them to someone.  They were really nice pens,  Don't remember what they were though."

Yeah.  I love hearing that.   But I've always managed to keep a pleasant face and say "Oh well, maybe next time you will show them to me?"

I thought maybe this time it had finally sunken in.  I arrived at his booth and he said to me, "Hey, I've got a pen to show you that you might be interested in."  He hands me a small box and I open it up to find this:

Such a tiny, tired little Sheaffer.  The blind cap actually has a hole in it.. how does that happen?   Maybe the nib is good, I tell myself:

Hmm.  Looks like the feed is shot, too.

So the guy is looking at me, so proud of himself that he had remembered to save a pen for me.  I tried to let him down gently by explaining that holes aren't good and while yes, the nib is gold, the gold content doesn't make up for the fact that it looks like Shrek might have used this pen to scratch an itch on his fanny (ok, I didn't use those words exactly). 

He took it pretty well, and said that I should just take it if I could use any part of it because he had no use for it.  I did want him to remember me as a paying customer, so I dug $3 out of my pocket and told him maybe I'd find a use for the cap someday.  We parted friends, him $3 the better and me, the proud owner of this little jewel.  I put the box in the pocket of my hoodie and moved on.

When I got back to my booth, the fellow at the booth next to mine (more on him later in the week) asked me what I had found.  As I was showing him my new acquisition and we were having a good laugh, I happened to look inside the box lid and I noticed something I hadn't seen before:

My jaw still hurts from dropping on the hard concrete floor.  Presto!  One of my favorite brands!   Here's a group shot of my Prestos, from page 122 of The Catalogue:

The bottom pencil, a demonstrator personalized with the name "Samuel Kanner," was the clue that led me to stumble onto the original patent for the Presto (Kanner was the assignee of the original patent and later went on to patent a second, improved design) and unlock the history behind these mysterious pencils. 

The unexpected find of an original box for Sam Kanner's Prestos turned out to be "the" find of the weekend for me.  I didn't want to buy it at first, but now that I have, there's no better place for it than right where it is now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Adding a Bit More Balance to the Collection

At page 138 of The Catalogue, I illustrated what I thought was a fairly comprehensive set of the "rigid radius clip" Sheaffer Balance pencils, which date from around 1935 to 1940:

Here is a closer view of the smaller examples:

While in general the shorter models had shorter clips and the longer pencils had longer clips, sometimes the shorter models are found with longer clips:

It doesn't break my heart a bit that the two clip variations happen to occur on my two examples in "rose glow," the red and grey striated celluloid that is the rarest and most desirable color in the series.

Or so I thought.  I recently ran across another long rigid radius clip, small size pencil:

Wow, huh?  The grey and black marble celluloid frequently appear on the lower priced Sheaffer Jr. line (a picture of one appears on page 142 of The Catalogue) and less frequently on the earlier "flat ball" Balance pencils from 1934-1935, but this is the first example I've run across with the later rigid radius clip.   The imprint on the back of the upper barrel matches the imprints on the striated examples.

Now every time I write something about a Sheaffer I haven't seen before, I awaken the high priests of hard core Sheaffer collecting, and I'm sure this article will be no exception.  Yes, this pencil appears in Sheaffer's 1935 catalogue, so it "should" be out there and "shouldn't" be newsworthy when one pops up.  But what I can say about this pencil, without fear of contradiction, is that (1) it's the first one I've seen, and (2) they aren't exactly falling off of the trees. 

And this now holds the title in my mind for the rarest of the rigid radius clip Balance pencils. 

Until I find one that is even more rare than this!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Piercepen

It's early Sunday morning, and Janet and I are getting ready to head back for day two of the Scott Antique Market at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.  I don't have much time this morning to write, so I thought I would just introduce another of the "no-names" that I recently came across:

I'm sure the pen was marked "Piercepencil" on the clip, right?  Must have gotten mixed up at the factory...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Conklin That May Be a Metal Duragraph

Metal Conklin pencils appear at pages 31 and 32 of The Catalogue and divide nicely into two groups:  the earlier design, patented by Harry P. Fairchild, and the later design, patented by C.N. Johnson.

And then there's this:

This example is a nose-drive pencil, like the other Conklin metal pencils, and it does have a three-spoke spare lead chamber, like the Johnson patent.  But the top is flat, unlike any other Conklin pencil I've seen.  Note also the location of the imprint, towards the nose rather than just under the cap:

In 1922, Conklin began production of the Duragraph, a flattop series of pens and pencils made from hard rubber rather than metal.  I had previously thought that Conklin ceased production of all metal writing instruments when it began producing Duragraphs in bright colors, and certainly by the time the Endura line was introduced in 1924 (in both rubber and celluloid). 

This piece, with its uncharacteristic flat top, suggests otherwise.  The earliest Wahl sets, introduced in 1918 after Wahl acquired the Boston Pen Company, were comprised of hard rubber pens accompanied by metal pencils, and other companies such as Parker did the same at first.  So perhaps it isn't a stretch to suggest that the earliest of the flat top, hard rubber Duragraph pens were accompanied by metal pencils.

Of course, the imprint doesn't match the location on the rubber Duragraph pencils...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ford's Junior Junior

In The Catalogue at pages 80 and 81, I include entries for the Ford's Deluxe, a rear drive, middle joint pencil measuring about 5 1/4 inches, and the Ford's Jr., which was a nose drive, middle joint pencil measuring 5 inches and made in some really wild colors.

And then came along this little guy:

In addition to being significantly shorter, at 4 5/8 inches, this example, rather than being middle-jointed, is in what I have referred to as the "improved flattop" style.   Those differences alone were enough to influence me to add this one to my collection.

However, when I got it home and compared it to what I had, I noticed a more significant difference when it came to the clip.  Here's the new example compared with the clips on the Ford's Jr. examples already in my collection and the Ford's Deluxe:

Note that the new Ford's Jr. has lettering running from bottom to top of the pencil, while the other Ford's Jr. runs from top to bottom.  Also notice that the new one has capital and lowercase serifed (little feet on the letters) lettering while the other example has all capital, sans serif lettering.  The Ford's Deluxe is lettered in the same direction, but it is also in all capitals (even the slightly smaller "e" in Deluxe) and sans serif.

I noted in The Catalogue that the Ford's Deluxe was identical to pencils marked New Yorker, which are illustrated on page 106.   Hmmm... I wondered to myself ....

Lettered the same direction, in the same font.  No question about it: the Ford's Deluxe, Ford's Jr. and New Yorker all come from one common ancestor.  And the junior junior was the clincher!  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

An Imperial to be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

This weekend is always a busy one, with family in town for the holiday and the Don Scott Antique Show starting tomorrow (more on that later).  We've got a full house, but things are still pretty quiet after playing euchre into the wee hours of the morning last night, so I've got a few minutes to post a nice find.

Those of you who are frequent flyers on ebay are probably familiar with the seller "speerbob," who in real life is my friend Robert Speerbrecher.  I've bought a lot of things from Bob over the years, and he's a very honest and reputable guy.  That doesn't mean, however, that we don't haggle, sometimes vigorously. When it comes to today's find, while we were in the midst of a good haggle someone else swooped in and hit the "buy it now" button, but Bob was willing to grant me the use of his picture.

Today's post involves a low-quality piece named the Imperial, which is usually found in distinctive zigzag striped plastics (see page 91 of The Catalogue).  The cheap washer clips and round top buttons are very similar to some of the last Conklins made in Chicago (after what was left of Conklin was acquired by Starr Pen Company, leading me to list the Imperial among those brands which may also have a Starr connection on page 153). 

Finds like this are what keeps the knowledge base growing.  In addition to being in black, which is a bit unusual for these, Bob's set was accompanied by the original paperwork which proves that the Imperial Pen & Pencil, Inc. of Nassau, New York, apparently had nothing to do with Starr, which was located in Chicago. 

My thanks to Bob for allowing me to use his picture.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Different Keystone

On page 93 of The Catalogue, I illustrate three different examples of the Keystone, all of which are middle joint, nose drive pencils.   This example, a rear drive flattop, surfaced a couple weeks after The Catalogue went to press.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Stars and Moons for the Constellation

At page 49 of The Catalogue, there's a crude picture of the Epenco "Stars and Moons" pencils.  Truth be told, that picture was taken with my cell phone at the DC Supershow in August, because at the time I just couldn't swallow the price the fellow wanted for all three.  I don't even remember how much he said he wanted for them.  I think I was just having one of those guilty moments thinking about how much money I'd spent, how I should really be at my table selling stuff rather than shopping around, etc., etc.... anyway, they were the ones that got away at DC.

Fortunately, this fellow and I see each other at DC and Ohio every year, so in November, there he was, there they were, and I'd love to have tape recordings to compare our conversations from August and November, because I'm sure they were identical.  This time, however, when we got to the part where I was saying I thought that was just too much, and he was saying he couldn't take any less, at the end of that long pause I zagged instead of zigging and brought them home with me (for a little more than the price I listed in The Catalogue).  Here's a better picture of them now, taken with a better camera under controlled conditions:

As mentioned in The Catalogue, Epenco is a contraction of Eagle Pencil Company, and until recently, all of the Stars and Moons pencils I had found bore the Epenco name:

"Until recently," I said... as has happened more times than I can count, something that didn't quite fit in popped up nearly at the same time.  One of the reasons I stretched a bit to buy the above trio was this piece, which showed up on ebay scheduled to close during the Ohio show:

There's nothing more frustrating than an online auction closing during a pen show.  I knew there would be too many distractions at the show to tune in and keep an eye on this one (as if staring at the computer screen watching the last few seconds of the auction tick away would help), so I just had to put my highest and best bid in and forget about it.  What happens, happens, I told myself.  Fortunately, I did win.

Instead of the Epenco name, this example has the deco-style faceted Eagle clip and is made in the style of the "Deco Eagles" I illustrate on page 48 of The Catalogue.   Since this is the only example I have seen, I have no way of knowing whether the black cap is correct on the brown barrel. 

The new addition does fit in well with the other deco Eagles in my collection, but now I have to wonder.... do the stars and moons deco Eagles come in black and red?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Auction of the Century

For those who haven't been to the Ohio Pen Show in the first week of November, you should go.  It is my favorite show of the year, and I'm not just saying that because I live just half an hour or so away from the venue.  Besides having about the best selection of vintage writing instruments of any show, the atmosphere is just more relaxed and social than at the other big shows (well, I can't speak for LA, but certainly compared to DC and Chicago). 

One of the highlights of the Ohio Show each year is the auctions.  Saturday's auction is usually the one featuriing a wide variety of rare and mostly mint pens and other writing instruments, some of which sell for significant prices.

This story is not about that auction.

The other auction is held on Thursday night, and although the advertising doesn't call it such, it's more of a "parts auction" featuring lesser quality items, parts, and larger lots.  Many of the people who exhibit at the show like to buy these items for repair, restoration or simply to restock their parts bins.  That's usually where I find the pencils.

This year, there was only one lot I was going to bid on:  the "Eversharp Pencil Lot":

Now those of you who know me know what an Eversharp fanatic I am.   The brand occupies 24 pages in The Catalogue, and I have more Eversharps in my collection than anything else.   One of these days, now that my photography skills  have progressed far enough, I'll post the article I wrote on the different variations of imprints on the metal pencils with illustrations.

So it was no surprise to anyone that knew me that when this lot came up, I was the first bidder and I was the last bidder.  What would be a surprise is that I wasn't bidding on an Eversharp.  Don't get me wrong, I was excited to add several Eversharps to my collection, but to be honest, I didn't even look at them until I got home (the interesting variations that were in there will be discussed another day).

Take a closer look at the auction photo, and you'll notice that four of the pencils pictured are not Wahl Eversharps.  The top on the green example gives it away as a Moore.  The bright red one, with its pierced clip, is obviously a Welsh Mfg. Co., and the woodgrain example is a typical unmarked, lower tier pencil, along the lines of a Biltwell.   The orange example, while it doesn't have the crown top shown in the other Eversharps pictured, is an Eversharp "75," but that wasn't what piqued my curiosity, either. 

It was that second pencil from the left that was the only reason I got a bidder's number Thursday night.  Here's a closeup shot of the top of that pencil:

These tend to slip under the radar becuase the imprint is lettered vertically, wrapped horizontally around the top, which makes it hard to read.  It's a Century, made by the Century Pen Company.  This is only the second example of these metal pencils I've been able to find.  Here it is, shown with the gold filled example I had already at home:

The history of the Century Pen Company has not been well established and has been a topic of lively debate in the online community over the years.  What we do know is that it was a Wisconsin Company, that it had some relationship with Parker (I identify it at page 28 of The Catalogue as a Parker "subbrand," although that word may not accurately describe the relationship between the two), and that Century began making fountain pens in 1881, formally incorporated about ten years later, and continued to produce writing instruments until the early 1920s. 

As I explore at page 111 of The Catalogue, Parker did not enter the pencil business until the introduction of its "Lucky Lock" pencil in December, 1922, and the patent application for those first pencils was filed in November, 1921.  I do not know whether Century delved into pencil manufacturing earlier than did Parker, but judging from the design of these pencils, the early 1920s seems to be reasonable.  The design of Century metal pencils is nothing like the Parker "Lucky Lock" pencil, or any other pencil for that matter.  I have not been able to remove the tops on either of these, but with the tip removed, here is what it looks like:

As far as other pencils made by the company, I have been able to find two other Century pencils.  Of these two, one is a higher quality piece which strongly resembles the "Lakeside" (another Parker brand), and the other of which is pretty, but much lower quality:

Here's a full length shot:

I am always cautious about saying that a pencil is rare.  Just because I haven't seen many doesn't mean there aren't buckets full of them in some antique store I haven't visited, but I haven't seen bucketloads of Century pencils and I considered myself fortunate to have found a fourth to add to my collection.

That's why, when I think of the Thursday night auction at the Ohio Show, I don't think of it as the auction at which I bought a group of Eversharps.  In my mind, it was . . . the auction of the Century.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Great Thing These Pencils Have in Common

Today I'm offering a pair of seemingly unrelated pencils, which are now forever linked in my mind by a single commonality. 

The first is a mid-1930s Eagle with the distinctive arrow clip that I theorize in The Catalogue is probably Canadian. The celluloid,a  mix of brown and red, is very unique among vintage pencils and could be said to be ahead of its time, since many fountain pens currently in production are made in acrylics using a very similar color pallate. 

The Eagle has another interesting feature which is fairly novel among Eagles:  the deco stepped end has a black band and color-matched endcap.

Here's a picture of the second, an Autopoint from around 1927, shown here with the tip and end cap removed.  The color is one of the scarcer ones in this series, but what makes this example truly unusual is the rounded and color-matched end cap.

Shown much closer, this example is also a bit different in that it is marked only in very tiny lettering on the gold band.

So what bond is it that links these two pencils, separated by a decade, one Canadian and one American? 

My daughters have been over to see me this weekend.  I am no longer married to their mother, so I've been seeing them as time allows.  When they were little and I lived closer, I would see them every Thursday through Saturday.  After both their mother and I moved and we lived an hour apart, we saw each other every other weekend.  But now, with one 16 years old and the other at 14, it's been harder and harder with all their activities for us to get together.  Although all three of us couldn't be together for the entire weekend this time, I did have both of them over yesterday for the first time in far too long. 

I thought it would be kind of nice to involve them in this blog, so I asked them each to pick out their favorites in my collection.  Out of thousands on display, my older daughter picked the Eagle, and the younger one chose the Autopoint.

So these completely unrelated pencils do have something in common.   They are my daughters' favorites.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Amazing Karmo

"Karmo". . . for me, the name conjures up images of a sideshow magician who, regardless of the promoting, just isn't very amazing.  Or maybe a Buddhist superhero whose superpower is to make what goes around, come around.

The pencil itself is what I refer to as a typical "Welsh" style pencil, after the Welsh Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island (see page 171 of The Catalogue), which produced pencils using this mechanism in greater numbers and colors than any other maker I can think of.  Essentially, Welsh pencils are merely a tube, offset by about a half an inch on either end, with a mechanism pushed up into one end and a cap on the opposite end. 

I don't know whether The Welsh Manufacturing Company made all of these style pencils on order for different customers, or whether the design was licensed or just fell into the public domain and was produced by several manufacturers.   Those marked Welsh, with very few exceptions, are so marked on the top.  This one is not, and is marked only on the clip.

Since Welsh pencils were so simple, there's nothing on these to break other than the barrel.  If the mechanism won't work, the problem is going to be a lead jam.  If the top is missing, just pull one off of some other one and presto- you're back on the road.  Clips are simple z-clips.

There are hundreds of variations on this simple design, all set apart only by color and the name imprinted on the clip.  This one, in addition to being made from the nice tortoiseshell swirled plastic (some call it butterscotch swirl), has a pretty cool name accentuated by a flourished letter K.  Just a little extra oomph to set this one apart from the pack.

So step right up, folks, and see The Amazing Karmo . . .

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rite-Rite Threadline: new finds from the Hopalong Cassidy Museum

I mentioned earlier that while Janet and I were communing with nature on our recent getaway at Salt Fork State Park (near Cambridge, Ohio), we saw the insides of antique stores a lot more than we saw the outside at Salt Fork . . . not that I'm complaining at all, mind you.  One afternoon, we ventured into downtown Cambridge to explore the sights, one of which was the combination 10th Street Antique Mall and Hopalong Cassidy Museum.  A Hopalong Cassidy Museum, we thought?  That's something we had to see!

(As an aside:  the museum is not as random as it sounds.  The star of the Hopalong Cassidy TV series from the 1940s and 1950s was William Boyd, who was born in Hendrysville, Ohio, near Cambridge, in 1895.)

This place was really . . . something.  According to the young lady that was monitoring the building, new owners have just acquired the place, contents and all, and (my words, not hers) they really have their hands full.  The dilapidated building appeared to have been a rooming house that has seen much better days, with floors that are uneven like a funhouse, drafty windows and an overall aura of mildew throughout.  Every room is packed full of stuff, about half of which is Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers memorabilia, but mostly the place looks like someone had taken the contents of several garages and basements and just dropped it off.  In the very back are two rooms which are identified as the "Hopalong Cassidy Museum," with roped off displays and a fishbowl for your $1 donation.  There were a few dollars in the unattended jar, and even a $5 bill - but I think the latter might have been a suggestive plant.

At the time we were in there, we were the only customers in this enormous, 2-story mall.  We cautiously picked our way through the place, room by room.  One room had commemorative plates, another had a display cases full of toy horses, another had photography and film equipment . . . what I will remember most about the place is that I never had any idea at all what might be in the next room -- even more than usual for an antique mall. 

One room had a pegboard mounted on the wall with hooks, on which the dealer had pierced Ziploc bags full of ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils.  Fortunately, the dealer label each of the clear bags "pens and pencils," so there was no mistaking what mysterious items might be inside!  (OK, I know that was uncalled for, but really? Clear bags?  Are the people of Cambridge truly unable to identify a pen or pencil when they see one?)  Anyway, I did find a couple bags that had what looked like Rite-Rite Threadlines in them, so for the couple bucks each bag cost I just had to bite.  It wasn't until I got home that I knew how happy I was that I did!

I first learned about the Dixon Rite-Rite Threadline by accident a few years ago, when I found one amongst a bunch of Sheaffer "pearlies" I had bought online (the Sheaffer pearlie is covered on pages 144 to 146 of The Catalogue).  They are clearly meant to copy the Sheaffer Pearlie:  they are about the same size and are also middle joint pencils.  Many of them have a nearly identical pearl middle section, color matched lower barrels and top sections; others are solid color and strongly resemble Sheaffer utility pencils.  A few are in striated plastics that strongly resemble Sheaffer pre-1948 celluloids.  I cover Threadline pencils at page 128 of The Catalogue.  Here's the photo (the Threadlines are the six on the left):

Threadline Rite-Rites stand out from Sheaffer pearlies, other than by the name on the clip, by the different colors in which they were made and the lengthwise grooves on the lower barrel.  Here are the new additions I found in the 10th Street Antique Mall:

I pick up Threadlines whenever I find them because it seems like whenever I run across one, I learn something new about them.  This time was no exception.  The reverse of the upper barrel on the lower most of the maroon ones looks like this:

In The Catalogue, I report that the Threadline design was patented in 1942 (patent number 2,274,702), and that the Threadline tradename was adopted in 1940.  This piece proves that the Threadline may have been developed even earlier than I had previously thought:  patent number 2,170,734 was issued to Herman F. Smenner of Muncie, Indiana on August 22, 1939; the application was filed only four months earlier, on May 1, 1939.

Smenner's patent was only for the tip of the pencil, which features an elongated ferrule designed to make the pencil more suitable for draftsman's work (tracing along a ruler is much more accurately done when the tip has a thinner ferrule).  However,  I have long theorized that the striated examples were the earliest, and all the ones I have found feature this tip; if correct, this suggests that the 1939 patent was an integral feature of the Threadline when it was first introduced. 

The 1939 patent example provided yet another interesting revelation:  of the examples of the Threadline I have been able to find, I can now identify three distinct clip designs:

The top example is the one marked with the 1939 patent.  The middle example is representative of the "pearlies."  The bottom one resembles other examples found in all solid colors, primarily black or maroon. 

I recently ran across a Federal court case from 1950 (Rite Rite Mfg. Co. v. Rite-Craft Co., 181 F.2d 226) which provides a little more information about Rite-Rite:  ". . .appellant [Rite-Rite] and its predecessors since 1921 have been engaged in the manufacture of fountain pens, mechanical pencils, pencil leads, pencil clips and erasers, and have been distributors and sellers of such items; that its trade-mark "RITE-RITE" has been applied to articles and packages containing its products, and the mark has been used in literature and advertising matter relating thereto; that after the year 1939 appellant started using the name "DIXON RITE-RITE" on some of its products, and since then both marks have been used concurrently, each on different types of goods; that appellant is a subsidiary of Joseph Dixon Crucible Company; that appellant's trade-mark "RITE-RITE" was duly registered April 17, 1923, but that said registration had been allowed to lapse and an application to reregister was filed in the United States Patent Office on May 15, 1945, and was pending at the time the stipulation was made."

The comment that Rite-Rite was a subsidiary of Joseph Dixon Crucible Company is tantalizing.  I do not know whether Rite-Rite was a Dixon subsidiary from the outset, or whether the company was acquired by Dixon later on - and this court case directly addresses that issue without answering it!  Isn't that just like a lawyer?

So I still don't know everything I would like to about the Rite-Rite Threadline, but I know more than I did.  I never thought I would have Hopalong Cassidy to thank!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Sheaffer that's flat in one too many ways

We will start today's article with a review of the evolution of the Sheaffer pencil, picking up with the introduction of Sheaffer's celluloid or "radite" models:

Flattop plastic pencils such as the one at the top of the picture were introduced in 1925 (see page 137 of The Catalogue for a picture of several different variations).  In 1929, the torpedo-shaped Balance line was introduced, with a similar ball clip as shown on the middle example (also on page 137).  In 1934, the clip was redesigned for the Balance line; by that time, jade green had been dropped from the color lineup (page 138).  Here's a closer view of the clips:

Note that on the 1925-1928 flattop, the clip is signficantly narrower, and the lettering is all one size.  The "round ball" balance clip of 1929-1933 is quite a bit wider and has a larger "S" at each end of the word Sheaffer's.  The "flat ball" clip of 1934-1935 is a bit shorter, with a more pointed top end.

First one, then two, then three.  See how nice and orderly this evolution is?  But then I found this in Indianapolis:

All right, who tossed a neanderthal into the homo sapiens dinner party?  Or vice versa?  A flattop from 1925-28 with a flat ball clip of 1934-35?  And in jade, a color that disappeard from Sheaffer catalogues long before 1934?

At first, my inclination was to believe this was a clip that was replaced, perhaps by Sheaffer under the company's lifetime warranty.  Here's a "normal" flattop next to the new addition to the family:

Note that while the mounting of the normal flattop clip are at the very top of the clip, the mountings for the flat ball clip are located a bit farther down on the clip, so that if the hole for the clip were not cut lower on the barrel, the top of the clip would actually partly overlap the cap.  On this flat ball clip example, note that the clip mounting is in fact located farther down the barrel, so that the clip extends up just to, but not overlapping, the top.

Since this entry was initially published, several Sheaffer scholars have weighed in on this piece.  The consensus seems to be that while Sheaffer catalogues don't show flattops being produced after the introduction of the Balance, flattop pens remained in production, but in smaller numbers.   Since that is the case, it would seem reasonable that pencils were made to match them.

For my 2 cents' worth:  I agree this was a probably a factory production, and I think it's extremely unlikely that the clip has been replaced.  Sheaffer flattop pencils, both of the metal and celluloid variety, were extremely well made and were not meant to be disassembled.  In all my years of collecting, I have never been able to disassemble one to replace a clip.  To disassemble one and machine the barrel to accommodate a different clip?  The exercise would have been so much more difficult and time-consuming than it would have been worth, when compared to simply replacing the pencil with a new one. 

But as I'm fond of saying, I wasn't there when this pencil was made.  It could be that Sheaffer was using up whatever parts were on hand during the Depression or that the company was continuing to court a greatly diminished market for the flattop pencils that Sheaffer itself made passe with the introduction of the Balance.  It might also have been a lunch break special, a joke, or a repair for an extremely cantankerous customer who refused a replacement and wanted a clip repaired at any cost, long after Sheaffer ran out of replacement clips for flattops.

I just kind of like to think of it as a missing link.