Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scoping Around For Some More Information

Sometimes, after one of my stories runs here at the blog, I’ll get an email that gives me more pieces to the puzzle that I just haven’t been able to find. On those occasions when I thought I knew the whole story but didn’t, that can be a little embarrassing. But I don’t mind, since I never would have learned the story if I hadn’t lobbed something out there.

This is not one of those times. This is an occasion where I’ve got some random information but I just don’t feel like I’ve been able to connect the dots yet, so if anyone out there has the scoop to tell, I’d love to hear it.

Here are the pencils:

They don’t look much like pencils, do they? I usually find these in junk boxes, and both of these came from the Scott Antique Market last fall – does that tell you how long I’ve been struggling with these? Here’s what they look like when they are extended:

Most of these look like this on the end, stamped "Writescope Pat.Pend.":

But the other one in this pair is marked "J.L. Patent Pending":

And there are other variations on these. At the DC show in August, I ran across another example, marked "Risdon Patent Pending":

Another variation surfaced at the Springfield Antique Market over the summer, but I didn’t have the stomach to pay eighteen bucks for the thing (especially when I asked her if she could do any better, and her response was that no, she couldn’t). Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name that was on it, only that the brass case was wrapped in leather. I tried to take a picture of it with my smart phone, but when I got home I discovered that my phone was so smart that it focused in on the hangnails on my thumb rather than on the end of the pencil, which was too out of focus to read. Way to go, Einstein!

The point is, there’s a lot of these out there, and a lot of variations, so you’d think there would be a lot of information out there concerning who made them, right? Unfortunately, the only thing I’ve been able to turn up is a little blurb in the April 1, 1950 issue of Billboard Magazine:

So the Writescope was offered by Princess Eve Products, and "Jay-Ell" produced, not suprisingly, the J.L. There’s also mention of a Rubicon, a "Cute" (made by Temple Manufacturing), and the "Sterl-Write" by Sterl-Art Novelty. No mention of Risdon, but I did find an interesting headline in the May 21, 1952 issue of the Naugatuck (Connecticut) Daily News:

I came up empty-handed in the patent databases, which might mean a patent was never issued, or it might also mean that one was issued, but with a title that describes the innovation using some word combination I haven’t tried.


Leah Bliss said...

Do you have any information on how to replace the ink in the Writescope? This is such a neat little pencil. It came out of a box of antiques we picked up from an old friend.
The lead is almost gone, but then would replacing the lead reduce it's "value"?

Thanks for the detailed info on this interesting little pencil. I recently became interested in mechanical pencils. Had some real old ones that were lost, but the info you peovided here was great! Thank you.

Leah Bliss said...

I did mean to say pencil lead in that first sentence...

Jon Veley said...

Replacing the lead will have no impact on its value. To insert a new lead, first wind the mechanism all the way forward to be sure there's nothing left inside, then wind it all the way back, put a new piece of lead in, and press it in to seat it in the mechanism.