Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Final Thoughts on Straka's Eversharp

As mentioned earlier, John Straka’s patent for Wahl Eversharp’s removable-nose pencil was applied for in 1920 but wasn’t issued until 1928. By the time the Straka patent was issued, both Dur-O-Lite and Autopoint were producing similar pencils.

Charles Keeran, who had been ousted by Wahl in 1917, was the president of Autopoint in 1928, and in February, 1928 he was still writing letters to Wahl Eversharp demanding additional compensation from Wahl for the Eversharp pencil he invented.

Every time I see one of these "Eversharp-Autopoint hybrid" pencil, I instinctively pull the nose off to see if it says "Pat. App. For," which would indicate that they were made prior to 1928 (when John Straka’s patent was assigned a patent number). I’ve never found one – not that they aren’t out there somewhere, but if Wahl had made them in any quantity prior to the issuance of the Straka patent in 1928, you’d think a few would turn up once in a while.

The fact that the Straka application predated any applications for a removable-nose pencil by Charles Keeran bolsters my theory, on page 62 of The Catalogue, about why Wahl Eversharp would have made them. Wahl didn’t need to make the Straka pencils – it had other utility pencil lines, and since the Straka pencils didn’t share very many of the same components, Wahl would have gone out of its way to make something that, from outward appearances, looked a lot like what Keeran’s Autopoint Products Co. was making just across town.

Why? To settle Keeran down. Imagine what would have gone through Keeran’s mind when, in response to Keeran's demands for compensation, Eversharp begins production of an Autopoint-type pencil. The patent-conscious Keeran would immediately have objected, and Eversharp’s response would have been direct and terse: our Straka patent application predated any of yours, so if anyone is going to quit making removable-nose pencils, it’s going to be you.

But there’s one last footnote to the story: although I don’t think the numbers of surviving examples support the idea that very many of these were made, Eversharp may have produced them for longer than I previously thought, and the example pictured at the beginning of this article appears to prove it. I found it over at the Scott Antique Market a few months ago, and whenever I see one of these with the plastic cap still present, I’ll buy it if it’s reasonably priced just for the cap since they are usually missing. Finding one in a dollar junk box – now that was as reasonable as they come! This one had a black cap instead of a red one:

I didn’t look at any more than the cap at the time I bought it, but when I brought it home I noticed something else:

All coolness aside, the square leads reference got me to thinking: the patent for Eversharp’s square leads wasn’t even applied for until mid-1932 (see "Hip to be Square," back on May 18, 2012). So while it looks like these didn’t go into production before 1928, it looks like they stayed in production for longer than would have been necessary just to make a point.

Since the Depression hit just after the Straka patent finally issued, perhaps the Eversharp head shed decided it had better get its money’s worth out of the exercise.

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