Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The "Leadies"

When I started this blog, the day after the end of the Ohio Pen Show last year, I set out with the goal in mind to write an article daily for a year and see how things stood at the end of it. One well-wisher commented that he hoped I could find enough material to write about.

Obviously, finding stuff to write about hasn’t been a problem. In fact, every time I dip my toes into the infinite pool of pencil history I usually end up doing a cannonball. Here’s just part of the pencils I’ve got waiting to be photographed and given their due here:

Time has come for me to take a break. I’ve got a few projects in the works that I’m just not able to get to while I’m doing a daily blog. My first order of business is to finish compiling this blog into book form so that it’s more handy, with an index and a table of references to The Catalogue. Then I’ve got a couple other books in the works and, of course, career and family (Janet, whom I’ve described in the dedication to The Catalogue as "the most patient woman alive," has certainly lived up to her reputation).

While I’m getting caught back up with life, if you’re just now peering in and wondering what this is all about, here’s a couple of top-ten lists to help you navigate the highlights:

Putting together a top ten of the most popular articles list is kind of unfair, since the articles that haven’t been around as long obviously haven’t been viewed as much. However, according to Google’s counter, as of today, here’s the ones that have had the most hits:

1. The Grim Reaper’s Own Pencil (Hampden - February 8)
2. Repair Tutorial: Sheaffer Middle Joint Pencils (Repair/restoration - February 7)
3. I’m Pretty Sure I Know What This Is . . . (Houk - May 14)
4. The Pen That Finally Fits In (Parker - May 15)
5. I Won’t Get Lost In The Woods With This One (Biltwell- March 6)
6. Leadhead’s Tread: Baltimore 2012 Show Report (Show Reports - March 5)
7. Will The Gentleman From Bulgaria Please Stand (Eagle - May 16)
8. This Eversharp Has Me Stumped (Eversharp - July 19)
9. No Price Sticker, But Something Better (Eversharp - January 27)
10. My Forehead’s A Bit Flatter After This One (Pen-N-Pencil - January 24)

And in case you’re wondering what I think are the ten "must-read" articles (or series of articles) that presented new information I haven’t seen anywhere else, here’s the ones I recommend:

10. The Personal Collection of Edgar B. Nichols, Inventor of the Tripoint (June 11 - June 17), in which I introduce the inventor’s personal collection, includiing what appear to be several prototypes and shop pieces.

9. The anonymous collection auctioned by Tanya Hile (October 8 - October 17). I’ve never seen so many pencils I’ve never heard of surface at once.

8. Walpuski’s "Ordinary Form of Pencil" (March 19), in which a pencil I thought was just an artist’s rendering 140 years ago is actually found to exist.

7. Early Eagle Patents tracked down during "Eagle Week" (February 13 - February 18).

6. Now You Can Call Them By Name (June 8), in which the maker of a very common pencil is found to be Lipic of St. Louis.

5. An Even Greater Public Service (September 5, with follow up articles on September 6 and September 7), in which the patent behind the mysterious "PATO" clips is revealed.

4. The Only Thing I Accomplished That Day (June 19), where the inventor of the "Roller Rule" is finally revealed.

3. Auto-Confusing, More Like (January 30), establishing that the "Auto-Sharp" was likely Diamond Point’s first pencil.

2. One Wild Goose Chase (November 1), revealing the true manufacturer of the Selfeed

1. My Find Of The Year (December 31), establishing that Eversharp appropriated the design for its repeating pencil from the Gilfred Corporation.

It’s been one heckuva year, and I have more people to thank for it than I can count. Most of them were at the Ohio Show and were pictured yesterday, but there were a couple people who didn’t make it to Ohio who I wanted to introduce and thank for their help. Here’s Matt McColm:

and George Kovalenko:

Daniel Kirchheimer:

David Nishimura:

Richard Fernandez, holding something that is definitely not a pencil (I can hear it now:  "no really ... some of my best friends are pencil collectors"):

Vance Koven:

Roger Wooten also deserves special mention, but I don't have his picture.

I’ll see you soon with plenty more stories. Until then, happy hunting!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Leadhead's Tread: The Ohio Pen Show

It feels good to be home.

As it is every year, I’ve been running around across pretty big chunks of the country all year long, meeting people, talking pencils and even buying one or two . . . give or take a few. Each November, when I walk in the door at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Dublin, Ohio, it feels like crossing a finish line after a long, long journey home.

There’s more to that statement than it might sound. Yes, I live a mere forty minutes or so from the hotel – close enough that I usually commute back and forth for a couple days – so of course I’m home. But the more people I talk to at this show, the luckier I feel that I live here, because I think most of us that come to this show agree that it wouldn’t matter in what city this show is held. No matter how far away you live, this show feels like home.

People usually start trickling into Columbus on Wednesday afternoon. I picked up Michael Little at the hotel on Wednesday. We said hello to a few people in the hotel bar, but since we didn’t see any trading going on in the trading room, we scooted on home to Newark where, as Janet described it, we looked like a couple kids playing with baseball cards. By the time it was over, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Michael and I each had a big pile of things we’d pulled out of each other’s stuff. The next morning, we started trying to figure out who owed money to whom, but after we horsed around with the math for awhile we decided we both felt like we’d gotten a good deal so we called it even.

(Thursday morning, Janet took one look at our respective piles of pencils, kissed me to leave for work and said, "Those will be gone tomorrow, right?")

Thursday trading is a one room affair, but that one room was FULL. Dealers and weekend registrants were allowed half a table each to display pens and pencils, and there was not one empty half table in their. With little room side to side, stuff was stacked on tables layers deep, giving real meaning to "mining" for pencils! In my little corner of the world, space was even more limited since I’d chosen to display (on a not-for-sale basis) David Moak’s Mabie Todd pencil collection, which I’d purchased from David earlier in the week and which had arrived by FedEx Thursday morning, just before Mike and I left Newark to scoot back over to the show:

When I trooped back over Friday morning I had an overnight bag and I checked into the hotel. One of the best parts of the Ohio Show is that once you set up on Friday, you can really settle in because there’s no teardown. Friday night was the pizza party, Saturday night was the dessert party and second auction, and by Sunday afternoon people were starting to look a little haggard but everyone was still ready for more. In fact, Joe Nemecek decided to crash at our house Sunday night, since Newark is on his way back to Maryland, and we were up past midnight this morning taking pictures of his Columbus finds and talking pencils.

("What the heck were you guys talking about after being together for four days?" Janet says. "Pencils," I respond. "No really," she says. Repeat conversation several times and give up.)

I really don’t think I’m being biased when I tell you that I can’t think of anything that would make this show a better experience. The Crowne Plaza is very nice, with more amenities than we hobbyists would ever use. The restaurant serves a nice breakfast buffet for ten bucks, and the bar across the hall will make you a double Glenlivet for ten bucks, too. That might be perfect symmetry if I only had one breakfast and one scotch per day! A private courtyard outside the pool area breaks the November wind nicely for drinks and cigars into the evenings – and this year is the first I can remember that you could get by with just a light jacket.

Show organizer Terry Mawhorter got a lot of us into this hobby, myself included, and his knack for bringing people together always keeps things running smoothly for everyone. Here he is, announcing a door prize, under the close supervision of Howard Levy of Bexley Pens:

The only complaint that I heard was that the public attending the show was sparse and stingy, but without exception that comment was followed by "but boy, I bought some really fantastic stuff!" It’s hard to say where all that money goes, but plenty of money did change hands and I think nearly everyone – certainly the vintage collectors – went home happy.

Most of the people that have appeared here at the blog over the last year were at the Ohio show this year. Here’s Michael Little, on the left, doing another of his multi-million dollar deals with Frank Hoban:

And Rob Bader:

And here’s Rob with Roger Cromwell on the left, and Lee Anderson on the right:

Dan Reppert, showing no signs of stress:

Gary Garner’s mug shot:

Pat Mohan:

Tim Pierson:

Bruce Mindrup:

Jack Leone, on the right, shown here with John Hall, a friend and local pen maker and enthusiast who somehow fell in with the "pencil crowd’:

Francis Bulbulian, shown here with blog enthusiast Greg Proctor:

Dale Yessler:

Cliff Harrington:

Mike Kirk, who after this photo was taken with Don Castle, said "Wait a minute. Can I see what I was pointing at?":

Brian and Lisa Anderson:

Lee Chait:

Andy Beliveau, on the left, here with Don Lansford:

Rob Morrison, left, with John Hubbard:

I’m sure there’s others I've forgotten to mention. After all, I didn’t realize until I got back to Newark that I’d forgotten to get an action shot of Joe Nemecek at the show, so here he is touring the Museum:

And . . . drum roll . . . here's the pencils that I found at the show:

But the best of the bunch are shown in this tray:

From left: Moore, Moore, Eclipse, Parker, Parker, Eversharp, Sheaffer, Waterman, Autopoint, Presto, Dow and Ross-Memo.

Yeah. There’s some killer ones in there that you’ll see me write about. However, great as the pencils are, as the 2012 Ohio Show closed up and my friends from all over the world dispersed to the four winds, I think the memories they left with me are even greater. As write this, as the first day after the Ohio Pen Show dawns, I’m already looking forward to the day, early next November, when all my friends come home with me again.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


In two separate online auctions, I found pencils marked "Gilliam’s":

The small ringtop is marked "Gilliam’s EZERITE 14k Gold Filled Pat"

The larger one is marked "Gilliam’s True-Point Sterling."

The barrels on both of these have the same pattern, although the detail is much clearer on the ringtop:

Although I don’t know who "Gilliam" is, I do think I know who made these. Barrel patterns on early metal pencils are a lot like fingerprints, and this pattern is very distinctive. Here’s the ringtop Gilliam’s next to a more familiar brand of pencil:

The other pencil shown is a Superite, made by DeWitt-LaFrance. Although I can’t get it apart to see what’s going on inside, the same is true of the DeWitt-LaFrance pencils – the barrel design alone is enough to convince me!

***UPDATE*** Hey, I got one right, but it was another case of taking, as we say in Ohio, "the long way around the barn!"  George Kovalenko just posted an article over at "Lion and Pen," in which he reveals that Joseph Maynard Gilliam, owner of the "Dubel Servis Corp." (a maker of fountain pen/pencil combos) had a business address, in 1925, of 130 W. 42nd Street, New York -- the same building in which DeWitt-LaFrance's business offices were located.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Worth The Price Of Admission

For the bargain basement price of 99 cents, I won a small group of tired pencils in an online auction, including this one:

It’s a leadholder, and the barrel is so thin that someone actually cracked it in a couple places just by tightening the clutch around the lead. But it has a few interesting features. Around the top is a name I hadn’t heard of before:

"Beegee." It seems that the only reason I hadn’t heard of this one is that so few of them survived (did I mention how thin the barrel was?), not that there weren’t many made. The earliest advertisement I could find for the pencil was in the June, 1914 edition of The Magazine of Business:

And according to this advertisement,in the 1914 edition of "The World Almanac and Book of Facts," the pencil could be ordered with your birthstone:

Well whaddaya know! The example I received has a turquoise jewel on top, and that happens to be my birthstone!

The latest reference I could find for The Beegee Co. is in the May 8, 1920 issue of The American Stationer under "clutch pencils." And with that, the company appears to have slipped into history.

There’s one other interesting tidbit about this Beegee. Did you notice that interesting accommodation clip?

Well, this one’s in pretty bad shape, but that clip has its own story. While this one has an advertisement in it for The Petroleum Iron Works, most of these have a tiny calendar in them. Were it in better shape, you’d be able to see the patent date of January 27, 1914 on it, which refers to number 1,085,386, issued to Joseph Leitschuh:

I’ve had more than 99 cents’ worth of fun with this one, haven’t I?

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Pencil Formerly Known as Prince?

I’ve had a few of these over the years, and sadly I let them all go, because the pencil itself is pretty unremarkable:

And the only marking appears to be what looks like the letter W, or maybe an M.

This one’s a little better than usual, as it’s sterling silver and marked "Patent Pending":

But that’s not why I bought the pencil, and it’s not the reason why I now regret letting so many others slip through my fingers into the junk boxes that I’ve long since sold. It’s because there’s more to the story, and this example gave me a tantalizing clue that there’s much more to this one than meets the eye. This one was in the original box:

And it proves that it isn’t an M or a W that’s on these pencils, but something else:

Best I can tell, the symbol appears to be the uppercase letter sigma. It could simply stand for the letter "S" (its comparable equivalent in English), but it is also used in a variety of scientific and engineering contexts. Running through the list of possible uses along these lines, the only one that isn’t so obscure that only an engineer or chemist would recognize it (and therefore, waaaay over my head) is a mathematical function – meaning, the sum total.

So how to search for more information? Do I look under sigma pencil? Nuthin, unless you count the cosmetics pencils under that name. Sum? Zilch. "The Pencil formerly known as Prince?" Heck, even Prince gave up on using an unpronouncable symbol instead of his name. And a trademark search? Under what?

Anybody got one of these with paperwork that might solve this one?

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Here’s another great one from the "why haven’t I ever heard of this one before" file:

Around the top is imprinted "Nickel Silver Pat. Applied For EVRDA"

When this one came up in an online auction, I assumed the seller had probably made a typo in the description. However, since I’d never heard of an "Everyday" pencil either, I thought I’d take a chance on it.  After it arrived and I saw that it did in fact say "Evrda," I was stumped.

The google search I ran led me straight to the Pen Collectors of America’s online library and answered my question within just a couple minutes.* The PCA library has a catalog from around 1920 of "Chicago Safety Pens and Evrda Pencils" from the Chicago Safety Pen Company, 538 South Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois. In the introductory pages, the EVRDA pencil is described as "entirely an assembling operation, and can be put together, taken down, and rebuilt without harming the parts."

My EVRDA does not appear to match this description, and without any guidance regarding exactly how to take this thing apart, I’m reluctant to force anything on the only example I’ve ever seen just to see what’s going on inside. I suspect that this is a different model from what is shown in the catalog:

The PCA’s catalog illustrates seven different patterns in three sizes: a full size side clip model, a short side clip model, and in ringtops. In fact, there’s more pencils in the catalog than pens.

Kinda makes me wonder what rock I’ve been living under that I’d never heard of this one before!

*OK, I know I’ve said this before, but seriously? You STILL haven’t joined?