Wednesday, September 26, 2012


When I first started practicing law twenty years ago, one of the old lawyers in the firm I was working for told me something I’ve never forgotten. "The whole trick to this," he said, "is to be able to read the words that are actually there. Not what you assume is there, and not what you think is there – only what is actually there."

Those words have served me well in life, not just in the practice of law but in a variety of situations, including the one that leads to today’s story. Were it not for that bit of wisdom, I would have seen an online auction listing for a "Dur-O-Matic" pencil and breezed right past it, assuming that the seller meant "Dur-O-Lite."

But I could hear the old lawyer’s voice in my head say, "Dur-O-What?" So I zoomed in closer for a second look, and by golly, that’s exactly what it said:

Inside that box was a mind condition example, complete with all the paperwork:

The pencil itself is in the same plastic I’ve also found on some of the "Eversharp style" Dur-O-Lites:

But unlike most Dur-O-Lites, this is a repeater pencil, actuated by the top button. The trim is chased with an attractive chevron pattern, and the clip appears to be older than other repeater style Dur-O-Lites. This looks to be classic art deco 1930s design:

Like the other Dur-O-Lite "Ejector" pencils, this one also features a screw-advanced eraser. Here’s the Dur-O-Matic shown next to a more commonly found Ejector:

Viewed more closely, the eraser assembly says "Dur-O-Matic Trademark":

Dur-O-Lite first registered this trademark on June 20, 1938 as Ser. No. 407,665.  But then for some reason, the company re-registered the name on February 14, 1952 (registration number 572,608), and in that later registration, Dur-O-Lite claimed a date of first use of December 7, 1951.

The paperwork that came with this pencil is also interesting. Here’s the front and back:

The really interesting part is here:

Both "Trademark" and "Patent applied for."  What makes the Dur-O-Lite Ejector pencils unique is that propel-repel eraser assembly, and I think that’s what "Patent applied for" refers to.  John Lynn, one of the founders of Dur-O-Lite, was the inventor of this feature, for which he applied for his patent on June 15, 1938 and received patent number 2,293,993 on August 25, 1942:
That puts our Dur-O-Matic between 1938 and 1942.

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