Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So What Does "A.N.C." Mean?

During Thursday trading at the Ohio Show, I found this one – on Rich Lott’s table, I think:

It’s a nice but cheaply made "Peerless." I liked the color, and the clip was very prominent, too:

I tucked the Peerless away in my folder, but that "A.N.C." over the clip nagged at me. I’d seen it on several different pencils, but I’d never been able to draw a connection between most of them . . . although most looked as if they had been made by David Kahn, Inc. (makers of the Wearever, among other brands). One day, I resolved, I was going to figure out what that "A.N.C." stood for and write an article here about it.

I didn’t think I’d circle back around to this one so quickly!

Over my break, one of the things I wanted to try to do was download all of the copies of The American Stationer that I could find online. Google’s book scanning project has resulted in most of these weekly magazines being scanned in their entirety and posted on the internet for free, from the 1870s through the 1920s, and the wealth of information contained in them about the American writing instruments industry is just staggering.

Unfortunately, while Google searches online will pick up content within The American Stationer, the downloadable versions are not in text-readable format, which means each page is like a picture rather than a searchable document. With thousands of pages available, a specific answer to any given question is still a needle that may or may not exist in an enormous haystack – the only practical way to glean information from The American Stationer is still thumbing through the pages for a good old fashioned readin.’

But at least the haystack is in my house now, so after I’d downloaded as many as I could find for my research, I spent an evening just browsing around beginning with the most recent issues I could find, which dated from 1922.

And there, in the August 5, 1922 edition, was an advertisement that didn’t just answer my question about what "A.N.C." means – it is the Rosetta Stone that carves out, ties together and explains an entire family of writing instruments!

The American News Company was founded in 1864 and was mainly a stationer, postcard manufacturer, book dealer and magazine distributor. The company, a media giant through the 1950s, abruptly collapsed in 1957 among allegations (and a flurry of litigation) that it had been intentionally sabotaged by insiders who thought they could make more of a profit by selling off parts of the company.

Since the American News Company was involved in so many different business operations, I’m not sure how many of the trade names listed in this advertisement pertain to pens and pencils. But looking down through this list, there’s quite a few familiar names:

Another one that jumped out at me was "Cosmos," since I’ve got one of those with an "A.N.C." clip that’s a dead ringer for a Wearever:

The Cosmos appears on page 35 of The Catalogue, next to a couple of earlier flattop examples that also look enough like David Kahn products that I concluded all three were examples of a Wearever subbrand:

And those earlier Cosmos closely resemble an example of a "Dandy" set I photographed at the Ohio Show. The dealer asked that I not use his name:

The clips on these are a little more elaborate, and none are marked with "A.N.C.":

But inside the boxlid is the same logo of a boy holding newspapers and the initials "A.N.C." in the lower right-hand corner:

The "Hamilton" appears on page 84 of The Catalogue, although none of them has "A.N.C." printed anywhere on them:

The "Standard," which appears without comment on page 151 of The Catalogue, also appears without "A.N.C." on the clips. Note how much the example on the top resembles an early Wearever:

So in one moment, an awful lot of these made perfect sense. If all of these look like Wearevers, it’s not because they were David Kahn subbrands, but because David Kahn manufactured them and supplied them to the American News Company under A.N.C.’s trade names. The hunt is now on to find A.N.C. clips with all these other names on them!

But a couple of these names are problematic. "American" couldn’t be an A.N.C. trade name for pens and pencils, since both the American Pencil Company and the American Lead Pencil Company, had already laid claims to that name (even scuffling between themselves over who had dibs on it).

And the "Ever Ready" . . . well, on that one I was already prepared to write something entirely different about that one . . .


Anonymous said...

thanks for share..

Anonymous said...

I had the same question about A.N.C. Thanks for doing the hard work for me. I collect wood pencils, and have Peerless and Cosmos Koal Black A.N.C. models.
Good luck. Doug