Friday, March 15, 2013

A Colorful Mystery Is Solved

I wish I could say I’m a great researcher with the power to conjure specific answers from the depths of the historical record with pinpoint accuracy. But the truth is most of the time I learn things because I’m galloping through some old book like a bull in a china shop, usually looking for something else, and find things by accident.

For a long time I’ve been hunting for more information on the "Colorgraph," which I’ve written about here on December 8, 2011 and October 21, 2012 (see and

I don’t even remember what it was that I was actually looking for in George Kovalenko’s book when I stumbled across this:

Frank Furedy,of Penn-Wynne, Pennsylvania, applied for a design patent for what is obviously the Colorgraph on September 27, 1930. The design patent was issued on December 16, 1930 as number 82,821.

At last, I had a name to go with these pencils! So I searched Frank Furedy’s name in the regular patent database, hoping that he patented what was inside the pencil as well as what was on the outside, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had done so – three times, in fact. The first, number 1,638,026, was applied for by Furedy on July 22, 1924, when he lived in Brooklyn, New York. It was issued on August 9, 1927:

The narrative for Furedy’s first pencil describes a simple leadholder at the tip end. Leads of different colors are contained in separate magazines at the top half of the pencil, marked by an indicator window that shows which magazine holds which color. You’d select what color you want, hold the tip pointed down, and the lead would fall down into the leadholder, where it can be tightened into position. To change leads, simple loosen the tip, invert the pencil, and it falls back up into the magazine.

That doesn’t match the Colographs I’ve seen. Anyone seen one of these?

Both of Furedy’s other patents, 1,664,071 and 1,664,166, were issued on March 27, 1928. The latter was applied for on July 22, 1924, the same date Furedy applied for his first pencil patent and references an even earlier application by Furedy, serial number 694,990 which was applied for on March 24, 1924:

Note the slanted top complemented by a similarly slanted clip – Furedy had a sense of style even when he wasn’t applying for design patents:

Patent 1,664,071 was issued on Furedy’s last application for a pencil patent, which he applied for on April 28, 1925:

Showing a little different flourish on the clip this time:

And an intricate system of gears that spun the two worm drives in opposite directions when the cap was turned:

By 1930, Frank Furedy had moved from Brooklyn, New York to Penn-Wynne, Pennsylvania, just a twenty minute or so drive from downtown Philadelphia, which is consistent with the Colograph’s imprint:

I’ve never seen a Colorgraph marked only "Pat. Pending," but it would be interesting to see if any Colorgraphs were produced using the distinctive clip designs shown in Furedy’s early drawings. The "Patented and Pats. Pending" on my two imprinted examples suggests a manufacturing date between 1928, when the internal workings were patented, and 1930 when the design patent was issued for the external design. If I ever found an example with a design patent number, I’d believe they remained in production after 1930, but I suspect the U.S. Colorgraph Corp. faced the same fate as many other small manufacturers with the onset of the Great Depression.

But you know, I’ve only seen a slanted clip like that on one other pencil: the "Red Dot," an unremarkable conventional nose drive pencil:

I’m left to wonder, does that slanted clip suggest that Furedy’s U.S. Colorgraph Corp. survived the Depression after all, producing cheap nose drive pencils in the late 1930s or 1940s long after multicolor pencil production ended?

Or did someone else simply copy the least interesting feature from Frank Furedy’s patent drawings?

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