I don't remember how this one came to me, although I do remember it was with a bunch of other stuff and wound up in the purgatory that is a box of things I'll look at more closely later:
When "later" arrived, I took a closer look and noticed some faint lettering on the side:
"Advance-Rumely . . ."
"La Porte, Ind." This is a wood-barreled mechanical pencil, along the lines of a Rite-Rite, and it is capped with a rather distinctive top:
With "Pat. Appld. For," of course! So I hit the books to see what I could find out about Advance-Rumely. I found out quite a bit, but not what I was expecting.
The M. Rumely Company was incorporated in La Porte, Indiana in 1887 to make agricultural equipment, including threshers and corn shellers. In the 1910s, Rumely began to purchase other companies, including, in 1911, the Advance Thresher Company. In 1915, the company was reorganized as the Advance-Rumely Company, under which name the company continued to do business until 1931, when the company was acquired by Allis-Chalmers.
That answers a lot of questions, but not the one I was hoping for. So I hit the patent databases to see if Advance-Rumely ever got into a little side business making wood-barreled mechanical pencils. Thirty-nine patents were assigned to the company, for all sorts of agricultural equipment, but nothing smaller than a breadbox (does anyone even have a breadbox anymore?). The trail went cold, until I found another example:
This one had nothing to do with tractors, although the lettering was even fainter to read:
"Beats All . . ."
"American Pencil Co. New York, USA," followed by a strange symbol and the number 10. Although American Pencil made a typical wood pencil (the kind you sharpen) called the "Beats All," it had a different imprint, so it appears these barrels were made specifically for the mechanical pencil version.
So there's the answer -- my Advance-Rumely was merely an advertising pencil for the company.
My story would have ended there, had I not received an email from Dan Linn, a collector with a question concerning some strange pencils he'd found:
At least my little diversion into the world of agricultural equipment was not a total waste of time: I can say, with authority, that at least some of the "Beats All" pencils were made between 1915 and 1931, and I can look just a little bit smart for knowing that.
We'll leave out the part about thinking that a tractor manufacturer might have gotten into the pencil business, right?