Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Tale of Two Empires . . . Maybe

At page 53 of The Catalogue, you'll find an example of the "Empire," along with my suggestion that this was either an Eclipse subbrand or the clip was licensed:

A few weeks after the book came out, I got one of those "Nuh uh!" emails that run the gambit from helpful to heckling.  This one was from my friend Michael "Ferengi" Little, who does his fair share of "na na boo boo" dances but who has in the short time I've known him provided me with a lot of good information . . .not to mention a lot of good pencils.

Before we get to Mike's happy dance, here's a photo showing the similarities between the Empire and the Eclipse:

If the Empire was made by someone unrelated to Eclipse, then whoever made it either had it made by Eclipse, licensed the Eclipse 1923 patent clip, or stole it.  Even the position of the clip, lapping slightly over the gold filled trim at the top of the pencil, is the same on both models.  Although the business end of the pencil doesn't exhibit a typical Eclipse mechanism, other Eclipse subbrands (such as Jackwin) used similar mechanisms.

Mike's point, and there's probably a lot of wood pencil guys out there that would chime in, is that there was an Empire Pencil Company, which was unrelated to Eclipse, that also made mechanical pencils:

I was familiar with the Empire Pencil Company of Shelbyville, Tennesee, but I didn't know that the company ever made mechanical pencils until this one came along.  Empire, founded at the beginning of the twentieth century, was by the 1950s a subsidiary of Hassenfield Brothers, Inc. -- that's "Hasbro" for short (the toy company that made, among other things, the G.I. Joe).  Empire was later spun off by Hasbro in the 1980s and is now a part of Sanford Corp. 

The piece is fairly unremarkable overall, with a cheaply made nose drive, but it does have a few interesting features:

Even though it has a simple accommodation clip that resembles a Rite-Rite clip, this one has some pretty neat detailing, and the ferrule on the top is pretty unusual, as well.

The E in a shield is what causes me to conclusively attribute this pencil to the Empire Pencil Company of Shelbyville.  And as you know by now, I'm always a sucker for a patent number.  Design patent 112,582 pertained to the unusual design at the top, and was granted on December 13, 1938 to Frank H. Beck:

So is our Eclipse-style Empire also made by (or for) the Shelbyville wood pencil manufacturer?  Maybe.  Could Eclipse or some other manufacturer appropriate the name "Empire" for use on mechanical pencils while a major wood pencil manufacturer was also using the name?  Maybe, but without an agreement I should think doing so would result in at least the threat of a lawsuit.    Would Empire Pencil Company put its logo, an E within a shield, on a mechanical pencil made in the 1920s?  Maybe.

So is there some paperwork out there somewhere that can answer all these questions?


Monday, January 30, 2012

Auto-Confusing, More Like . . .

At the Ohio Show last November, a fellow that was liquidating his collection had a nice selection of metal pencils, including this one:

Joe Nemecek, Michael Little and I spent quite a bit of time staring at the clip under a loupe, trying to figure out what it said.   It was like looking up at the clouds and saying "I think I see a doggie..."

After a number of guesses, one of us finally suggested "Auto-Sharp," and that's what it turned out to be (there's a very fine imprint on the cap -- a bit more legible -- that says the same thing).  There are no other markings on the pencil.

Ahhh.. a challenge!!  Who made this interesting piece?  Step one for me is usually to take the pencil apart, examine it, and compare it to other examples I've already got.  This time, I got lucky:  the Auto-Sharp has an identical twin!

The pencil at the top is our Auto-Sharp, and the one below it is a Salz Sta-Sharp pencil, manufactured by the Pencil Products Corp. and patented by Lucifer Most on December 23, 1919.  The Auto-Sharp is a dead ringer -- right down to the ill-conceived lead storage concealed under the removable tip. 

So is the Auto-Sharp a Salz brand?   Maybe.   The maybe not part is much more interesting, and to set the stage for that possibility, let's take a step back and look at how the writing instrument industry changed in the late teens and early 1920s.

When Eversharp and Sheaffer started selling pen and pencil sets in 1917 and 1918, the concept was a new one that caught on like wildfire and many other pen manufacturers quickly realized they would need to offer a matching pencil in order to remain competitive.  However, since many of these manufacturers lacked a pencil design of their own, they would either license a design from someone else or simply have another company manufacture pencils to match their pens.

Another interesting thing during this time was that the pen companies didn't normally use the same name for their pens as they did for their pencils.  Thus, Sheaffer pens were accompanied by the "Sharp Point" pencil; Wahl Pen was accompanied by the "Eversharp"; and Parker's "Lucky Curve" Pen was accompanied by the "Lucky Lock" pencil.

A little research led me back to the May 20, 1922 issue of The American Stationer.  Remember the little Q&A snippets that led me to the conclusion that the ACFAD was the earliest of the Moore pencils?  Well, another Q&A addressed our Auto-Sharp:

So is our Auto-Sharp an early Diamond Point pencil?  Probably.  Even though this reference is to an "Autosharp" rather than "Auto-Sharp," I think they are one and the same (remember that Salz was also from New York).    Was it made by The Pencil Products Corp.?  Maybe.  Note that the writer asks who "manufactures" the pencil, not who was having it made for them.

A few years ago, The Pennant (the magazine for the Pen Collectors of America) published a series of articles on the New Diamond Point Pen Co., which were originally written by Marc Kolber (whose family owned the company), and posthumously edited by David Moak.  In the first installment, published in fall, 2007, the authors note that the New Diamond Point Pen Co. began offering mechanical pencils in 1922 or 1923, and when they did, they installed tools and equipment in their factory to make their own pencils. 

Did Diamond Point start making their own pencilsfrom the outset, licensing Most's design from The Pencil Products Corp.?  Or did Diamond Point have The Pencil Products Corp. supply it with pencils until the company was ready to start making pencils on its own?

I don't know.  But I do know now that it was one or the other.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The "Moderne"

Here's a neat piece, snagged off of ebay in the last few weeks:

The color is the same as the "Brazilian Green" found on Wahl pens and pencils during the 1920s, but also found on the Parker "Thrift Time" series, as well.  Here's a close up shot of the clip:

The double band is a higher quality touch, and the clip design is a cut above, as well.  There are some Parker "Reporter" pencils made in Canada that share this basic shape, but there's also something reminiscent about the styling that suggests an Eclipse connection, as well.

All I can tell you about this one is what I know... and I just did.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

They Are Really Bonding Now

At page 90 of The Catalogue, you'll find a picture of the Wahl-Eversharp made pencils marked "Gold Bond," which was Montgomery Ward's store brand of pens and pencils.  Since the book was published, a couple other examples have found their way to me:

It seems that Wahl Eversharp only used the green marble, red marble and black celluloids for the pens and pencils it made for Montgomery Ward; in addition to the ones I've shown here, I have seen other examples, but always in these same colors (although the Doric-styled faceted version does also come in a full sized model). 

Friday, January 27, 2012

No Price Sticker, But Something Even Better

There's two very distinct types of joy antique dealers experience when they make a sale at a show:  the joy of making a buck, and the joy of helping another collector find something that makes them happy.   Other than a few people who set up at a show just to dispose of a dead relative's collection, everyone you find sitting behind a table at a show is doing what we do for both kinds of joy, getting a little ying in with the yang, so to speak.

Rick Fernandez is a pen (and pencil) dealer who never loses sight of this -- he loves the charge he gets out of helping you find the things you like.  At the 2010 Ohio show, he and Mike Bloom split up a set and sold me the Eclipse red hard rubber pencil which appears second from left on the cover of my book.  At the DC show a few months later, he sold me the Dunn multicolor pencil which is also on the cover of my book, right next to the Eclipse.

At the Ohio Show this year, he had something special to show me.  He waited until the very end of the show to finally part with it.  I'm not sure if he wanted that last rush at the end of the show or wanted to be sure he had gas money!

By the end of the show, I had the pencil and Rick had a fair amount of my money and the knowledge that he had simply made my day.  I told him about my plans to launch this blog, and he told me he was really looking forward to reading about his pencil. 

A couple weeks ago I was talking to him, and he mentioned he hadn't seen a blog entry on his pencil yet.  Sheepishly, I told him that hadn't gotten to it, and he sounded . . . disappointed.  So, without further ado, with all due credit to Rick for the find and with due apologies for the delay, here's today's subject:

This is a Wahl Eversharp "bumblebee" pencil (the name is a collector's nickname and not an official title, best I can tell) and is quite a rare.  The longer tip indicates they were made post-1924, and the internal workings, which are Charles Keeran's original design of 1913, was phased out by 1930.  Bumblebee pencils also came in yellow and in red; a while ago Joe Nemecek sent me a picture of the yellow one:

Joe's yellow one has the "military clip," but don't get too hung up on that.  Although military clip caps are unusual, they are also interchangeable from one pencil to another.  The rare part is the barrel color.

Ordinarily I prefer side clip or military clip pencils to ringtops, but when it comes to Rick's teal bumblebee, I'm equally excited to find a ringtop because of a neat feature that appears on some of these early Wahls: the price "tag."

These delicate plastic discs are secured to the pencil by the base of the ring.  With a quarter turn, it slips easily over the ringtop and into the trash can, onto the sidewalk, or is otherwise lost to history.  Although I had heard of these, this is the first time I'd seen one in person.

So Rick, there you go -- you've got two on the cover of my book and one in my blog.  How are you going to top that?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Say Finepointer, You Say Finerpointe, Let's Call the Whole thing Off...

Error alert!  Error alert! 

My subject today concerns the Hutcheon, which is covered at pages 90 and 91 of The Catalogue.  When I opened up my copy to prepare writing this article, I noticed that the book discusses two "Finepointers" and a third example, a GE advertising pencil. 

Only problem is, the picture that accompanies the text only shows two pencils.  For those who bought the photo supplement, the correct picture is in the supplement, but that picture never made it into the printed copy of the book.  Here's the picture that should have run:

While we're at it, I mention that the Hutcheon logo is very tiny and legible only under magnification.  Now that I'm getting better at photography, here's a shot of the logo:

The top two I describe in the book as "Finepointer" pencils, and the lower one has the GE logo on the top.

Then, as I was browsing through George Kovalenko's patent book, I noticed Trademark Registration number 166,978:  Alfred G. Hutcheon registered the name "The Finerpointe" on April 17, 1923, claiming use of the name since February 1, 1922.

"Finerpointe," not "Finepointer."  I looked up the trademark and found that George is absolutely right.  The trademark registered by Hutcheon was in fact "Finerpointe."

Error alert! Error alert?  Not so fast this time, buckaroo!  I marched straight down to the museum and pulled my Hutcheons out for a closer look.  Here's a closeup of the gold-filled example:

"Finepointer," just like I said!

But in the drawer with the three Hutcheons I've pictured so far was a fourth example.  I don't remember where or when I got it, and I don't even remember if I had it at the time I wrote The Catalogue.   I do remember putting it away with the other Hutcheons, thinking to myself that it wasn't worth reshooting the group of them since that was just another example of the same old thing.  Boy, was I wrong.  Here's the imprint:

"Finerpointe."  Just like George said!

In The Catalogue, I mention how closely these Hutcheons resemble pencils made by Mabie Todd, which used the name "Fyne Poynt" on its pencils.  Apparently, the pencils were just a little TOO similar, and I theorize that after Hutcheon rolled out its "Finepointer" line, the company was threatened by Mabie Todd (which was a much larger company) and, rather than risk litigation, decided to change its name, registering a trade mark for the tweaked name.

And making its pencils finer than fyne.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just One Point on these, but It's a Good One

Since I got onto the subject of the Pen-N-Pencil Co. yesterday, this is a good time to explore another one of the manufacturer's interesting offerings:  here's a pair of magnifier pencils made by the company, shown with yesterday's "Smokers Companion" pencil:

Funny story about the red, white and blue one.  A while back a guy contacted me interested in selling a group of pencils.  I picked a few out and made him an offer, and he countered with a higher number but said I could have three or four of the "junkers"  in the lot.  This junker had a great imprint, and led me to seek out the red one on ebay:

The imprint on the red one shows up a bit better in photographs.  Design patent number 113,663 was awarded to Max Kahn on March 7, 1939:

Was Max Kahn any relation to David Kahn, the man behind the Wearever brand?   That's a question I haven't found the answer to yet. 

However, the red example I've pictured did provide a few other answers.  With it was included full paperwork for "The New Marvel Two-In-One Combination Magnifier and Mechanical Pencil":

Awfully complex instructions for something you can just lay down on its side and make letters get bigger:

But what's really interesting about this paperwork is the part down at the bottom:

A "Twinpoint" product?  So this company was the same outfit that made the "Twinpoint" combos?  I don't have a complete Twinpoint in my collection, but I did have a couple of barrels in my parts bins to show off the imprint:

So what was previously called the "Pen-O-Pencil Co." later changed its name to the "Pen-N-Pencil Co."  And my "junker" find now led to the documentation that shows there's a real story.

And of course, it comes in a wide range of colors.  Sigh... something else to look out for!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Forehead's a Little Bit Flatter After This One

In The Catalogue, there's a listing for the "Pen-N-Pencil Co." of New York.  Here's the picture, from page 119:

This company made a lot of interesting "gadget" pencils.   A few months ago I bid, albeit unsuccessfully, on a Pen-N-Pencil that had a postal scale built into the top of it.  After losing on that one, I knew I was going to have to up the ante if I was going to add to the collection.

So when a "smoker's companion" Pen-N-Pencil came up that had a set of pipe smoking tools concealed in the top, I threw in a bid that I knew would guarantee success this time.  And . . .

I lost. 

This time I was outright dejected.  That smoker's companion pencil would have gone perfectly with the black one I already have.  In fact, it looks exactly like . . . hey, wait a minute.  I gave the top of the one I already had a little tug, and:

Well whaddaya know.  I smacked my forehead twice for good measure on this one.   The only thing that would have been worse would have been to win a bidding war and paying waaay too much for one just like the one I already had!

A closeup of the tools reveals the imprint: "Smokers BEST Companion," with a logo at one end.

It's a bit of a crapshoot trying to unravel monograms such as the one to the right of this imprint, but my first guess, IMCO, turned out to be the right one.

According to IMCO's website (they are still in business today), the company was formed in 1907 as Julius Meister & Co. (the initials boil down to IMCO).  In 1918, the company began making lighters and other smoking accessories, and the company claims to be the second oldest continuously operating manufacturer of lighters, second only after Ronson.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Take a Memo: Pencils Are Everywhere!

A couple weeks ago, I had a bit of cabin fever.  Even though the winter's been pretty mild by Ohio standards this year, I just needed to get out and I wasn't in the mood to browse around in an antique store.  So I called up my buddy Jim, who I ride motorcycles with during warmer times, and we decided to head over to the Ohio State Fairgrounds to visit the RV and Boat Show they have every year.

Janet's instructions were crystal clear as I left:  "Don't buy a boat."

We arrived right when the show opened, or rather, when the ad said the show was supposed to open.  Turned out that while the ads said the show opened at 11 a.m. on Sunday, it actually didn't start until noon.  So there we were, faced with a quandry.  It costs five bucks to park a the fairgrounds, with no in and out privileges.  Off in the distance, we could see the soft glow of golden arches, but neither one of us felt like making the long, brisk walk for food we didn't really want to eat. 

I suggested that we see what was going on in the other buildings, because it is really rare that there is only one event at the entire fairgrounds.  Just on the other side of 17th Avenue, it looked like there were a lot of cars clustered around one of the buildings, so we decided to head over and see what was going on.

There we encountered the Columbus, Ohio Paper, Postcard and Book Show, which is held but twice a year.  With an hour to kill, we decided to pay the admission price and poke around a bit.  The show was really interesting -- if it's printed on paper, it's probably there somewhere.  My friend Jim, a former Marine, found plenty of military items to keep him interested, and we both found quite a few vintage postcards of Newark and the surrounding areas. 

And of course, where there's paper, there's bound to be . . .

Joshua Murray, a paper collector and budding pencil collector who had a dozen or so pencils in a case, including this one.  This is an interesting "Ross-Memo" pencil, which was patented by Ruth Warren Ross in 1937 and which is featured on page 131 of The Catalogue.  Here's the picture from the book:

The Ross-Memo's interesting feature is the on-board supply of paper for writing notes, which is scrolled out by pushing it through a slit in the upper barrel through a thumb hole in the barrel.  Normally, the Ross-Memo is found either in black plastic, as with the top example, or with a metal upper barrel.  Since the book was published, I noticed that there were a couple different clip variations on the black plastic examples, which I believe are the earlier ones:

Although I had thought the all black plastic examples were the earliest of the Ross-Memos, I suspect that our new example, in an attractive green marbled celluloid, is earlier still.  The celluloid is much thinner than on the black plastic examples, and it has warped a bit over time.  Honestly, it probably never functioned very well, even when it was new.  The clip is much more 1930s art deco than other Ross-Memo pencils I've seen, suggesting this one may be earlier even than the black plastic examples:

While this clip doesn't match any of my other Ross-Memos, it does provide a clue as to who may have manufactured it.  Here it is, shown next to a "Hartline," which I believe may have been a Ritepoint product:

The best part of the story was that I got to mess with Janet a little bit.  When I checked in by phone at lunchtime, I tried my best to sound very, very guilty:  "Well, I bought something, but at least it's not a boat . . ." I told her.  

There was a long, uncomfortable silence. 

I didn't let her get too wound up before I told her I'd just found another pencil.  It was one of the few times my pencil collecting looked pretty good to her, even if only comparatively speaking!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sheaffer Week Draws to A Close. Golf, Anyone?

When I shot the picture of my Sheaffer golf pencils that appears on page 137 of The Catalogue, it was like trying to organize a can of worms.   The unusual shape of these little guys, combined with my determination to shoot them on the wood background, had them rolling all over the place everytime I backed up to take the shot.   Although I'd like to say I posed them artfully for that picture, the truth is that was the only position they would all hold still and look reasonably symetrical with the imprints facing up. 

Since The Catalogue went to press, I was able to find the other two reasonably available colors -- black and jade -- and frankly, I was dreading trying to choreograph five of these guys instead of just three.   So I chickened out and used the soft black background for this shot.  And yes -- I did pose them artfully this time!

The jade one is actually my second "attempt" at purchasing an example in that color.  A few months ago I bought one on ebay, clearly advertised as a "Sheaffer Golf Pencil," but when it arrived, I was dismayed to find no imprint.  Thinking the seller might have mixed my pencil up with another one, I emailed him to ask him why my pencil didn't have the Sheaffer imprint.  His answer was along the lines of "well, it looks like a Sheaffer and it has the same basic shape as a Sheaffer . . ."

He didn't have a return policy but he took that one back anyway.  It was the second time that very seller had pulled a stunt like that with me.  Yeah, I know... fool me once, shame on you . . suffice to say he won't get a third swing at the ball.  But to get back to the pencils --

There has been a lot written about Sheaffer's design patent for its streamlined "Balance" design, and the legal action that Sheaffer took against manufacturers that copied that look.  Less well known is that Sheaffer's golf pencil was protected by its own design patent, number 80,362, issued on January 21, 1930:

A closer look at the imprints on examples of the golf pencils shows that some of them carry this patent number, such as the marine green one on the right (the grey with red veins example has the same imprint):

Design patents, unlike other patents, are only good for seven years, but given that most Sheaffer golf pencils don't have the patent number on them, I think it's unlikely that Sheaffer waited until 1936 to change the imprint.  I suspect Sheaffer went to the simpler imprint (1) for aesthetic reasons and (2) because it just didn't matter whether they put the patent number on them anymore.  Notwithstanding the legal actions Sheaffer took against a few copycats, Sheaffer simply couldn't singlehandedly stop the entire writing instrument industry from emulating Sheaffer's streamlined design.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Sheaffer was the most flattered manufacturer of writing instruments in the 1930s.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ending "Sheaffer Week" Will Leave a Vacuum . . . Fil

As we start wrapping up Sheaffer week, here's a shot of the black Vacuum-Fil pencil shown on page 143, frame 21b, third from left in The Catalogue, next to the marine green and black marble example that I knew was out there, but hadn't yet been able to track down:

"Vacuum Fil" was a name used by Sheaffer from around 1934 to 1936.    While the black example has the typical "WASP Vacuum-Fil Pen Co." imprint, the green marble example has no imprint at all. 

These are the only two colors in which I have seen this model.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Flock of Birdseyes

The specific name for the pattern remains, as of the writing of this article, lost to history.  Whether your preference is to call it "Birdseye," "Screaming souls in Purgatory" or "Howling Souls," there's one thing you can't call it: boring.  A few weeks ago I posted this shot of the examples I'd put together:

The example at far left is the one I posted on Fountain Pen Network, shown here alongside a green "lahn" and a wild reddish brown and blue swirl:

Recently, I was able to add another Birdseye to the flock:  the green Birdseye in the same series:

A closer examination of the imprints reveals a slight difference:

Since we are on the subject of these today, I decided to take some clearer pictures and illustrate some neat details on these that are harder to see in the photo shown at page 142 of The Catalogue.  Here are two apparently identical examples in green:

I had one of these on my table at the DC show briefly, thinking it was a duplicate, until I noticed a slight difference:

The one on the right doesn't quite "scream" all the way to the top, does it?  At first, I thought this was either a replacement for a damaged top piece or the wrong color was put on by mistake when it was made -- the color matches some later Wasp Addipoint pens.  But notice that the one at left does not have a separate top piece- the pattern is continuous across the top, indicating that it is a one-piece barrel.

Next, here is a shot comparing a pair of birdseye pencils with a Wasp "Crispline":

Comparing the clip on the two birdseyes reveals a neat variation, what I would call a "banjo" clip:

The reason I include the Crispline in the preceding photo is to illustrate the other differences between the "banjo clip" example and others in the birdseye line:

The "banjo clip" example (center) lacks a center band, and has the same groove found on the Crispline series.  It also lacks the "Clipper" imprint and shares the same imprint found on the Crispline.

Finally, I'll offer an observation that I realize will be controversial.  I recently ran across a nice Sheaffer Jr. pen and pencil set.  Actually, it was traded to me by a fellow at the Scott Antique Market:

While the pencil is in the typical grey marble, notice how the barrel of the pen has a bit of swirl in it?   Notice how the black areas are smaller and more defined in the swirly area?  Shown in between the grey marble pencil and a grey birdseye, doesn't it look like a natural progression?

Could it be that the birdseye pattern was made by simply swirling around an ordinary batch of grey marble or marine green and marble?