Monday, August 6, 2012

The Wrath of Kahn

If there’s ever a second edition of The Catalogue, some years down the road, there’s one great injustice in there that I’m going to be sure that I correct. I will need to call one of the most influential men in the American pencil industry by name. After all, he earned it.

David Kahn was a man who arguably holds the title of being the most prolific producer of mechanical pencils in the United States. Although I haven’t tallied how many patents and design patents are credited to him or assigned to his company (David Kahn, Inc.) in George Kovalenko’s book, he’s got to be right up there with Eagle at the top of the "most innovative" list.

And his most recognized brand? Wearever.

OK, I didn’t say recognized was necessarily a good thing, because many of Kahn’s innovations involved ways to make more and cheaper pencils, not necessarily better ones. But not everything that the company made was terrible – at least as far as the pencils went (the pens, however . . . sheesh).
Take this one, for example, from the late 1920s or so:

This is a "Jefferson," one which I identified as "probably" a Wearever subbrand in The Catalogue (see page 91):

Now, I’m positive it’s a David Kahn brand, because of the logo just above the name:

And now we come to the part where I get to admit to something . . . not a mistake, really, but more taking the long way around the barn to make a point.  In one of the first articles I posted here, way back on November 12, I addressed a "Madison" with a missing top, and after I disassembled it and compared it to a Wearever, I proudly announced that the Madison was in fact a Wearever subbrand.

That was like announcing that a 1957 Fairlane was actually made by Ford after tearing the engine apart and comparing the shape of the valve springs to those on a ‘57 Thunderbird. Geez, Jon, all you had to do was look at the clip!

Although this simple realization does move me a lot farther along towards confirming that a lot of Kahn suspects were actually made by the company, the "DK" trick isn’t exactly a Rosetta stone. Armed with this tidbit, I went back to examine some other suspects, such as the Mercer, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Jefferson:

I didn’t find "DK."

"BB." It’s not Bill Blass . . . maybe Kahn had a cold that day. "Hebbo. By Bame is Babib Bahn."

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