Monday, February 25, 2013

Document, Document, Document

It isn’t always the superstar pencils that everyone knows about that get my attention. Sure, I get a kick out of writing about a Waterman Patrician, because they are beautiful and there are some interesting variations.

But there’s also a lot of stuff out there that, to my knowledge, no one has really thought about yet, mostly because no one has yet thought it was worth thinking about. So when I find something that has a little bit of extra information with it that you might not ordinarily find, I don’t care that I may be the only person that cares. It might turn out to be the last piece that solves a puzzle I’m working on, whether it be now or ten years from now, or maybe some researcher will make sense of it long after I’m gone.

So I have a philosophy about such things – document, document, document, whether it looks like a gold mine or a dead end.
Today’s story is about one of those finds. It turned up at the Scott Antique Market in November for just a couple bucks:

The pencil is marked simply "Messenger" on the clip. It’s just a plain white plastic pencil with a brown cap, marked "Swift Funeral Home" in gold lettering on the side and packaged in a plain white box. I’ve seen others with this name on the clip; all look like they might have a St. Louis connection, possibly through Ritepoint.

However, what attracted me to this one was the wadded-up tissue paper into which this pencil had been pressed:

I was thinking to myself that if this is how the instructions for these pencils looked, there probably were hardly any of them left – if any. So I decided to buy it just to see if the paper contained any useful information.

At the time, I couldn’t unravel enough of it to make anything out, but on the kitchen table, an investment of way too much time carefully straightening it out and mounting it in a rigid plastic holder revealed that it was in fact the original paperwork that accompanied this pencil:

And at the end of the instructions, the one piece of information that made the history of this one spring to life, so to speak:

I combined the generic word "Messenger" with "Auburn, Indiana," which wouldn’t have been possible without this wadded up piece of paper, and I learned immediately that Messinger is still very much alive and well, no pun intended. According to the company’s website, Messenger was founded in 1913 by a fellow named Frank Messenger in Chicago as a "sacred art" calendar manufacturer. Sometime in the 1930s Messenger purchased the Auburn Greeting Card Company and relocated to Auburn, Indiana.

Gradually, the company’s product lines evolved and the company reports that it is the leading supplier of funeral stationery products.  So that explains the "Swift Funeral Home" imprint on the side of my Messenger pencil, and now I know a lot more about my Messenger pencil than I ever expected to learn.

Does it also explain this one?

By coincidence, this one also came from the Scott Antique Market, that same month, but from a different dealer entirely. It also appear to have a St. Louis connection, and it also is funeral-related, but is it tied to the Messenger Company of Auburn?

"‘Yours Hell’ - The Worst Funeral Home Gave Me This"?

Doesn’t exactly fit in with Messenger’s "sacred art" theme, does it?

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