Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Holes Are OK This Time

You know, with all that talk about Dur-O-Lite lately, I really should have shown this one off:

I got this from Michael Little in Chicago, who has advised me that if I continue to be so obviously excited about the things I buy from him, he’s going to start raising his prices. Therefore, in the interests of self-preservation, I will state for the record that I’m not the least bit excited about this one. Geez, Mike, what are you trying to sell me here? This one has a hole cut in the top!

And what’s this? More holes? What, Mike, you got mice in your pencil boxes?

And another one here? And it’s got a name on it? I thought pencils with someone’s name on them weren’t worth as much!

Sigh. Yes, it’s a Dur-O-Lite demonstrator pencil. Yes, the holes are supposed to be there. And yes, I looked like a kid at Christmas when Mike pulled this one out to show me. I don’t have much of a poker face when I stumble across a really cool pencil. But then again, I seem to remember Mike losing his composure after he regretted selling a certain Eagle to me in DC . . .

Guess we’re all just kids here, aren’t we?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dur-O-Lite Repeaters Revisited

It occurred to me that while I was discussing the Dur-O-Matic the other day, I didn’t include a full-length shot of the later-style Dur-O-Lite Ejector pencils:

This one is imprinted with "Loyal Order of the Moose"

Dur-O-Lite apparently had a very good relationship with the fraternal organization; in addition to the Ejector line, the company made several models for the Moose, from run-of-the-mill advertising pencils to some that even had a modified clip that incorporated a moose head into it.

All these later Ejector pencils have a neat stylistic feature that you have to look closely to see:

Sets of rings, in groups of two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. That makes for an interesting connection with another Dur-O-Lite series. Remember Lovejoy’s patent, first used by Moore then later licensed to Eversharp and also to Dur-O-Lite? Michael Little recently sent me a Moore in blue plastic:

I hadn’t seen a Lovejoy patent Moore in plastic before this one:

But when I looked more closely at the tip, there was something else that caught my attention:

One, two, three, four, five, six. Looks like Dur-O-Lite borrowed "Moore" than just the mechanism!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Neither Dis One Or Dat One

If you ever get the chance to go to Newfoundland, take it. It’s not a glitzy place, and my trips there have been hunting trips – woodland caribou and moose. But it’s home to the best people on earth, with the best sense of humor to match.

There’s two major airports on the island. One is in St. John, the only metropolitan area in the province. The other is Gander, which more towards the center of the province. While at most airports you fumble around trying to find the right gate, you won’t have that problem in Gander, because there are only two – which the airport workers refer to, in their Newfoundland dialect, as "Dis One" and "Dat One."

Incidentally (I’m getting a little off topic with this, but it’s a great story that should be remembered), on September 11, 2001, Gander is the airport to which all of the large international planes that were in the air were diverted and grounded, because while it lacks a lot of amenities it has several large runways that could handle them. That tiny airport in that small town suddenly had dozens of planes on its runway and thousands of terrified and uncertain people with only two small hotels to house them.

So how did so many of us get through that darkest day in modern times? Through an amazing display of kindness and love in a place none of them ever expected to visit. Hundreds of Newfoundlanders from the surrounding area showed up in their cars at the airport that day. They each picked up as many complete strangers as they had room for, and they took them back to their own homes. They fed them, housed them and let them call their loved ones so they would know they were safe. Gradually, things calmed down and they brought them back to Gander airport, to see their new friends off, waving best wishes as they left from either dis gate or dat one.

That’s what Newfoundlanders are like, and I still get choked up when I tell that story. So if you ever feel the need to make fun of Canada – and Newfoundland in particular – don’t. Particularly in front of me. They are my friends and they should be yours too.

OK, end of sermon and back to the story at hand. The reason all this came to mind was as I was thinking about the Gold Bond pencils (Montgomery Ward’s store brand), I was thinking about the two types I’ve seen. There’s dis one, the kind made by National Pen Products under the Rex Patents:

And dat one, made by Wahl Eversharp:

But now, here’s "dat udder one":

This one is stamped on the side of the upper barrel:

The clip on this is really unusual:

Who made this? Well, it does have the same three narrow bands seen on some of the Wahl-made examples, but the color isn’t a Wahl color and the clip doesn’t resemble anything the company made, either. I’ve heard that some Gold Bonds were made by Parker, and the plastic does look a lot like a darker version of the Parkette Zephyr grey.

So, my little Gold Bond collection now has three arrival gates – and no departures!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drop The Quotations

Way back on February 14, I wrote an article on Eagle Drop pencils. A few weeks ago, I was rereading that article to see if I put the phrase "Drop pencil" in quotes – I’d always heard them called that, and the name fits perfectly for what they do, but the only words on the examples I’d found were "Eagle Pencil Co." and the patent dates.

I try to be careful when I don’t have any evidence that a title for a pencil is the formal name given to it by its manufacturer, because otherwise it’s simply a descriptive collector’s nickname that we use today as a matter of convenience. I probably should apologize that I didn’t say "drop pencil" is a nickname.

But I can’t.

A while back, a seller in an online auction who didn’t appear to know beans about pencils included in his description of a fuzzy picture showing several pencils that one was an Eagle Drop pencil. Here it is:

and "dropped":

This early hexagonal example is clearly identified by a remarkably well-preserved imprint as a number 3003 "Drop":

The patent dates are the earlier 1877 and 1883 patent dates, with no mention of Claes Boman’s 1884 improvements to the design, which suggests that the pencil dates to 1883 or early 1884:

I can’t really do a "see Iwas right happy dance" on this one – even though I was right, I had no idea that I was. I guess the moral here somewhere is that sometimes what we think is just collector lore has a lot more behind it.

Like fact!

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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


"Ever seen a ‘Rite-O’?" Michael Little emailed me a while back. I hadn’t yet, but I’d seen something close:

I’d found this stocked display of lead and eraser refills in an online auction some time ago, and even though I didn’t know there were any pencils to go with it, I just thought it was too neat to pass up. The display indicates it was made by the "Tri-Ess Corporation" of Jersey City, New Jersey:

The box that the display came in provided another clue: "Rite-O, Inc." in Martinsburg, West Virginia:

When Michael’s Rite-O arrived, it strongly resembled a Scripto:

The accommodation clip with which it was fitted was strongly reminiscent of a Wearever clip:

But the inscription on the pencil left me with more questions than answers:

Really? A "bouncing pencil"? I decided against throwing it down onto the floor to see if it would.
And then, in another one of those flukes, something came up in another online auction that caught my eye:

A fully stocked display card with a different variation on these, with streamlined caps over the exposed erasers. The card also attributes the pencils to Tri-Ess Products, Inc. Better still, when I received the item, I found that it was actually stocked on both sides, with only one missing on the other side:

My research hasn’t turned anything up yet about the Rite-O. Any further information is certainly welcome!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Ruxton Multi-Vider

I’ve been wanting to write about the Ruxton for a long, long time. There are only two reasons I haven’t: (1) I didn’t think I was qualified to say anything intelligent, and (2) I haven’t had one cross my path. On the first count, I’m not sure I’m any further along than I was before; however, one finally did cross my path:

This one was in that last mess of stuff that came from the estate of Edgar Nichols (inventor of the Tripoint, among other things). Figures, right? Of course Edgar Nichols had one of these.
Ruxtons are marked on the side opposite the clip with the "Ruxton Multivider" imprint:

The principle between these is pretty slick: if you grasp the tip in one hand and the crown in the other and pull apart, the two halves of the barrel telescope outward:

Then, the pencil acts like a big slide rule. If you want to know what 17 times two is, for example, slide the barrels apart until the "2" reaches the arrow, trace down to 17, and the answer appears on the opposite side of the barrel. Pretty slick, huh?

Whenever Ruxtons come up, they always command a premium. I had always thought it was because they sit at the nexus between two hobbies: pencil collecting and technical drafting instruments collecting, and while that may be part of the explanation, the little I’ve been able to find out about these suggests there’s probably a little more to it than that.

The Ruxton Multivider was actually patented in Great Britain, although it was widely marketed in the United States and the Ruxton Multi-vider Corporation’s headquarters was listed as being in the Graybar Building in New York City. The patent application was filed on January 21, 1929 and was granted on February 20, 1930 as Great Britain patent number 325,327. The applicants were A. Gahagan and W. V. C. Ruxton, the latter of which might explain things.

I believe that W.V.C. Ruxton was in fact William V.C. Ruxton, a World War One veteran who went on to become the classic Wall Street Tycoon during the roaring twenties. At around the time the Ruxton Multivider was being dreamed up, Ruxton was at the center of a controversy involving another innovative product: the Ruxton automobile.

The year was 1928, and a fellow named William Muller had a great idea for a front wheel drive car. His car was radically different from anything that was produced in the 1920s – his front-wheel drive concept meant that the car could be built much lower than anything else on the market at the time, and he also designed some sleek-looking cateye headlights which, while distinctive, were not very effective (many Ruxton owners quickly replaced them with conventional headlights that made it possible to actually see after dark).

Muller formed New Era Motors to market the vehicle, and he decided to name his car the Ruxton. While all sources agree that he was naming his car after William V.C. Ruxton, sources disagree as to why – either Ruxton was an investor in the project who quickly regretted his decision and backed out, or Muller named the car after Ruxton in a misguided attempt to convince W.V.C. to invest in the project. Either way, Ruxton was not amused that his name was used on the vehicle, and he ended up suing Muller and New Era Motors to prove that he had nothing to do with the car. While Ruxton won the legal battle, it didn’t matter much. Muller’s other missteps resulted in the car only being produced for about four months in 1929 and 1930.

The story seems hauntingly familiar when we turn back to the Ruxton Multivider pencil. While there’s no evidence that our man W.V.C. He is listed as a co-inventor on the patent, an unusual little diversion for a man interested in high finance, not tinkering. Was he truly a co-inventor, or was he merely an investor who was induced into becoming involved in the project by giving him top billing as a co-inventor and having the pencil named after him? I don’t know. Did he sue the Ruxton Multivider Corporation to stop them from using his name, as he had done with Muller and New Era Motors? Not that I’ve found.

Is he really the same man as the individual listed as co-inventor of the pencil? I think he is. His service during World War One would have given him connections in Great Britain, and our man William Ruxton had another British connection: his service as president of the British American Ambulance Corps., Inc.

I wonder whether any of those ambulances were front-wheel drive?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not Quite A Waterman

Here’s an interesting piece. I don’t remember where it came from:

The nose has the same style tip seen on many Waterman models of the 1930s, including the Patrician, Lady Patricia, Thorobred, Ink vue . . . the list goes on and on:

And the stepped top end treatment is the same as found on the Number 7 and Ink-Vue pencils:

It’s interesting that this one is an advertiser:

I think this might be a reference to the Overland automobile. Overland was an early twentieth century manufacturer that was purchased in 1908 by Willys and renamed Willys-Overland, but the company continued making cars under the Overland name until 1926. 1926 looks like it might be about right.
But more interesting is that this is no Waterman:

It’s a Redipoint.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Odd Ducks

The Riedell, as the title of today’s article suggests, is an odd duck. It appears on page 126 of The Catalogue, and in addition to the fact that I’ve never had one in working condition, I can’t figure out how they ever did.

The internal workings look like they were designed by Dr. Seuss – here’s the picture from page 126 showing the tip removed:

In Chicago, as Mike Little and I engaged in our early swap-a-thon, I found two amongst his hoard:

The orange one is a duplicate of the one shown in The Catalogue, but I don’t care – these are too rare to pass up when you find one! And the red one still has the price sticker:

The price, sometime in the late 1920s, was $2.50

The price sticker indicates that these were "Repeaters," although the top is just a screwed on piece of plastic. While neither one of these is working, they are mint enough that I now understand at least how they were supposed to work: the nose cone twists and springs back to its original position. I messed around with one of them while Mike and I were talking, and I thought I had it working, but when I went to show Mike, nothing happened . . .

It was like I heard a Who or something.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Out Of 62 Ain't Bad

That lot of 62 "mostly advertising" pencils had one other great piece in it, shown here next to the one I had in the blue "clown" plastic typically found on Sheaffer Balance pencils:

It’s another Rite Rite "torpedo" pencil (that’s my description, not an official name), patented by Herbert H. Lang on August 22, 1933 (patent number 1,923,153), although he filed his patent application two years earlier, on August 27, 1931:

This Rite Rite is a little different from the ones I’ve found in the past. First, as you can see, it’s a little longer, but also, it has a couple nice nickel-plated trim bands on the top cap:

The colors on this were a little washed out in that online seller’s fuzzy pictures. I was so pleasantly surprised when it arrived and I saw that the colors were actually yellow, lime green and black veins, because there’s only one other place I’ve seen it:

That’s our Rite Rite shown with a Wahl Eversharp Equipoised Purse Pencil from around 1931. Eversharp called the color "borneo pearl," but it’s identical stock to what we see on the Rite Rite:

It gets even more interesting. At the Springfield Antique Show last week, I found a ringtop example of Lang’s torpedo pencil. Here it is, shown next to a Wahl Eversharp flattop pencil from around 1929 or 1930 in Wahl’s super-rare "flamingo" celluloid:

That makes three times I’ve found Rite Rite torpedo pencils in a Wahl Eversharp celluloid (the third, shown on page 127 of The Catalogue, was Wahl’s green and bronze color they referred to as "brazilian green"). In The Catalogue, I’d also noted the similarity of the clips on the Rite-Rite to those found on the Equipoised purse pencil series:

Could there be any connection between Rite Rite and Wahl Eversharp? None that I’ve been able to find. Hyman E. Golber, doing business as H.E. Golber & Co. in Chicago, filed a trademark for the name "Rite Rite" on June 22, 1922, claiming that he first used the name on March 5, 1921.

By the time Lang’s patent was issued in 1933, the company had changed its name to "Rite-Rite Manufacturing Co." Sometime after World War II, the company was apparently sold to the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company in Newark, New Jersey, and later examples are marked "Dixon Rite-Rite."