The last of the Tri-points to come out of Edgar Nichols' estate was this example:
In a lot of ways, this looks like the Tri-point pictured in Edgar Nichols' original patent application of 1927: the slimmer profile and flatter top all figure nicely into the original design. However, the buttons are the later style larger buttons, and the clip is unmarked and very streamlined, lacking any trace of a ball at the end:
and the lower end has an interesting fishscale pattern engraved in it:
On the side of the barrel is the typical "Nichols Products Co. Mooresville, NJ" imprint:
Metal pencils generally fell out of vogue in the mid-1920s, when Sheaffer and others started producing brightly colored celluloid pencils, and then came back into vogue in the late 1940s, after Parker's wildly successful 51 was launched. Putting everything together, I'd say this example falls into the late 1940s or early 1950s. Nichols' last patent for the Tri-point was applied for on February 28, 1948 and was granted November 21, 1950 as number 2,530,902:
The method shown here relates to metal pencils, as the top sections were stamped out of a flat sheet and then bonded together, rather than being milled out of a tube of celluloid or plastic.
Before this week, I thought all Tri-points were essentially the same. Thanks to this group of pencils and a bit of digging at the patent office, I've been able to put together a pretty good chronoglogy of the Tri-point's development. Pulling together all of this week's clues, here's what I've been able to put together:
c. 1927: first flattop Tri-points introduced
June 1, 1927: Nichols applies for first patent for the Tri-point
Oct. 8, 1929: First patent granted
c. 1930: "Bullet shaped" Tripoints introduced with round ball "Tripoint" clip.
Dec. 29, 1931: Canadian patent granted
1932: Patent numbers added to imprint
Mid-1930s: Clip modified to round ball, hyphenated "Tri-point" clip.
1937: Nichols applies for patent for "cartouche" style inlaying technique
Late 1930s: Patent numbers dropped from imprint
Late 1930s: Clip modified to flat ball Tri-point clip
1941: Nichols applies for patent for inlaying different shaped metal objects.
1944: Nichols applies for patent for improved version of Tri-point
1948: Nichols applies for patent for process of making metal Tri-points.
If anyone has information that could help me firm up these dates some more, please let me know!