Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Eclipse With a Twist - Or a Push

The Ohio Show was extraordinary. In one show, to find a Parker Zaner Bloser, a red and pearl Sheaffer Balance, and an Eversharp Skyline demonstrator? Things like that just don’t happen to me.

But before all that happened, on Friday morning as Mike Little and I drove over to the Crowne Plaza hotel for preshow trading, I had this little guy in my pocket. At the time, before I’d found all the other neat stuff that turned up at the show, I was sure that nothing I was going to find would measure up to this:

Mike had stayed at my place on Thursday night to trim a little bit off of his hotel bill while he was in town, and that night (and into Friday morning) we engaged in a swap-a-thon in which we made piles of things we liked from each others stashes, compared them, and decided in the end that we were both equally happy. He had a bigger pile than mine, in large part because this little jewel was in my pile.

It’s a large, early- to mid-1920s flattop made by Eclipse. It’s shown here polished so that you can see the detail, because as I had received it from Mike all of the trim was oxidized to nearly black. What would have been the original thin gold plating is gone now, leaving three distinct shades of brass underneath:

What’s really fascinating about this pencil is the way it works. All of the early Eclipse pencils I've seen before this are conventional twist pencils, with either a nose or rear drive. This one, however, is an early 1920s repeater:

"Eclipse Self-Feeding Pat. Pend." And underneath that glorious, large bell top is a very modern-looking repeater mechanism:

But where is this patent? I haven’t tracked one down that leads directly to Eclipse, but I do have a theory. Here’s the Eclipse shown next to an early "Presto" in red hard rubber, another find from the Ohio Show (at Jim Carpenito's table):

Notice that the two are nearly identical in their profile overall – the only differences are in the ornamental style. But even when it comes to the outward appearance, there are some strong similarities. Take the clips, for example, viewed from the side:

Samuel Kanner’s Presto was invented by Abraham Pollak sometime prior to November 24, 1924, when he applied for a patent for his pencil, which was granted on July 13, 1926 as number 1,592,502:

This is the patent that was at issue between Samuel Kanner’s Gilfred Corporation and Eversharp during their patent litigation over the repeating pencil (and which Gilfred ultimately lost – see "My Find of The Year" posted here on December 31, 2011). Notice that the drawings show a cap that fits over the outside of the top of the pencil, rather than inside it – just like the Eclipse, but unlike the Presto. Also notice that the tip shown in the drawings is a one-piece nose, just like the Eclipse, while the Presto has a two-piece nose.

If an Eclipse repeater like this ever turns up with a patent number on it rather than "Pat. Pend.," I’d be surprised if the patent number wasn’t 1,592,502.

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