Friday, September 7, 2012

These Guys Really Did This Right!

Occasionally at a pen show, Rob Bader will make a beeline for me with his hands behind his back and a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face, and I know he’s really found something special. Rob’s got a great eye for a good pencil – I can’t ever remember a time that I wasn’t as excited by what he’d found has he was.

Usually, he’s content to have me drool all over whatever he’s found and then tell me it isn’t for sale, which is one reason why I started bringing my camera to pen shows. But this time I was salivating pretty heavily and he didn’t bring a big enough towel to wipe it off, so with a bit of cash (ok, more than just a bit) he let me bring it home:

This is a sterling silver Mabie Todd "Fyne Poynt" pencil, marked on the dome at the top:

Although it does bear the typical Mabie Todd patent on the clip, this one’s a bit unusual in that the imprint is in "tombstone" style lettering, rather than in the usual two vertical lines:

By the way, the patent date of January 19, 1915 refers to patent number 1,125,144, which was applied for by Charles H. Mabie on May 29, 1914:

However, it isn’t this imprint that makes this Fyne Poynt more than just a bit unusual. It’s an advertiser pencil – that alone is unusual for a sterling Mabie Todd – but the artistry and craftsmanship that went into this one is what really makes this one special.  Here’s a closeup of the imprint near the nose:

"American Jobbers / Supply Co. / New York." Notice that this is no ordinary imprint, but is actually embossed on a specially made barrel! And, to pull a Billy Mays, that’s not all:

A.O. Schleif, the owner of the pencil, also had his name embossed on the barrel in the same fashion: so this was a special barrel individually crafted for one person!

Think that’s interesting? Hold onto your shorts now . . . What had Rob grinning like a loon, as if all this weren’t enough, were the curious things embossed around Mr. Schlief’s name – interesting shapes that Rob said looked like "badges":

As I stared (and drooled) with my loupe in hand, after a few minutes I recognized what they were, and they weren’t badges. From my early years collecting antique bottles, I recalled that these items were a frequent sight at bottle shows, but given how heavy they are, collecting very many of these can be exhausting to lug around all the time. Give up? Here’s a picture of some that I saw at the Springfield Antique Show last month:

What you are seeing around Mr. Schleif’s name are a pair of telegraph poles, flanked by rows of different styles of glass insulators!

I found a great article from the October 1, 1919 issue of Telegraph and Telephone Age, a trade publication, about a man named H.C. Law, manager of – you guessed it – the American Jobbers Supply Company, which was located at 1122 Woolworth Building in New York.

Before becoming manager of The American Jobbers Supply Company, Mr. Law was a sales representative for the Brookfield Glass Company. Although the article doesn’t say so, a substantial number of the glass insulators you’ll find at an antique show will be marked "Brookfield" (Hemingray insulators are the most common, with Brookfield being a close second place).

By 1925, business for The American Jobbers Supply Company must have been booming. Bruce Oran, an online seller, had a copy the company’s catalog for that year, and he allowed me to use one of his pictures:

The catalog indicates that the company’s offices had been expanded to 1502, 1504 and 1506 Woolworth Building, and the catalog contains "A complete listing of pole line construction material and useful information for those interested in building better transmission and telephone lines."

I was really hoping that "Scheif" was an uncommon enough name that an internet search would turn up something about him, but no luck as of yet. Certainly, though, more than I expected to learn about such a unique pencil!

1 comment:

Joe Nemecek said...

Nice piece of research, Jon!