Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Question Was Answered . . . Six Years Ago

At the 2012 Baltimore Pen Show last year, I picked up this "Ever Last" pencil from Paul Erano:

The pencil was the subject of an article that ran here on April 5, 2012 (http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2012/04/everlasting-mystery.html). Paul indicated that he thought the Ever Last was a Conklin subbrand.

As if a large flattop pencil weren’t exciting enough, the prospect of finding another Ohio brand to study was like throwing candy at an Ohio native like me. In fact, I’m so proud of my Ohio connection that on occasion this lead-addicted soul will even stray into buying the occasional pen:

This crescent filler was missing the nib, but I just had to have it when I found it anyway, because it’s not what you think it is:

Where you’d expect to see a Mooney clip and "Conklin" on the crescent filler, this one has an ordinary z-clip marked "Toledo" and a filler bar marked "Skidmore." This one also has a great Skidmore imprint on the barrel, too:

But wait! Isn’t this blog about pencils? Just hang in there for a minute – we’ll get there –

Getting back to my pencil, I thought the key to tracking down its lineage would be the logo on the cap, which I thought just had to be trademarked somewhere:

But alas, I never found the trademark, and after awhile the Ever Last mystery was consigned to the dead letter office, where it’s been out of sight, but not entirely out of mind . . . until the other night, when I was looking for something entirely different and stumbled across the answer.

In my search for the meaning of the acronym "S.W.P.," I ran across a thread in the old Lion & Pen forum, which is still active but isn’t accepting any new registrations, so young whippersnappers such as myself can only read what others have been writing. But a lot of great minds have written some really great stuff there, so even if the discussion is one-sided, it’s definitely worth tuning in when the search engines point you in that direction.

This Lion & Pen discussion, from 2007, was about Ohio penmakers generally, so after I found my SWP answer (more on that one later), I kept reading to see what else I could learn about my home state’s contributions to pen(cil)dom. That’s when I learned a bit more about the brothers Skidmore and their ill-conceived plot to take a slice of Conklin’s market share.

Major F. Skidmore and Elmer L.Skidmore were partners in the Skidmore Pen Company, which was either a successor to or just another venture that followed an earlier pen company, called the "Major Pen Co." Major and Elmer cooked up what they thought was a great idea: since Roy Conklin’s patent for the Crescent Filler had expired, they would make and sell copies of Conklin crescent filler pens under their own name.

But the brothers Skidmore didn’t think things all the way through. Sure, the rights to the crescent filler had expired, so sure, they could make crescent filling pens. But that didn’t mean they could make crescent filling pens that looked exactly like Conklins! Their stunt attracted the attention of the new Federal Trade Commission, charged with enforcing the new Federal Trade Commission Act. The FTC charged the Skidmores in 1920 or 1921 with unfair competition, for making pens which "deceive and mislead the purchasing public into the belief that the pens manufactured by respondents are Conklin pens . .."

Note that the complaint says Skidmores were doing business both as "Skidmore Pen Co." and as "Toledo Gold Filler Fountain Pen Co." That explains the "Toledo" on the clip of my un-Conklin. It did take some time, but in the 1924-1925 record of the FTC’s proceedings, I found the disposition of the case, in which the Skidmores were ordered to cease and desist from "advertising, selling, or offering for sale" fountain pens that were made to look like Conklins.

Back on Lion & Pen, John Chapman (aka "Tinker") posted a picture of a Skidmore from his collection that looks a lot like a Conklin Endura, so much so that it must have been turned out prior to the FTC’s order, assuming that the Skidmores agreed to comply:

Yes, the color and general shape of a Conklin Endura are present, but notice that clip? It looks just like the clip on my Ever Last – and the name on the lever is "Skidmore." But all doubt was resolved by the second picture John posted, which shows the imprint on the barrel:

There’s our Ever Last logo, smack in the middle of a Toledo Pen Mfg. Co. imprint! So it looks like Paul Erano was close – although my Ever Last is not in fact a Conklin subbrand, the people who made it sure wanted us to think it was!


Anonymous said...

Interesting! I picked up an Everlast 3-piece set, in original vinyl case, at the Philadelphia show. Since it includes an early ball pen (and the case is vinyl) it must be late 40's early 50's. Wonder if the Skidmores were still making pens then, or someone else was using the same trademark after they were gone?

Jon Veley said...

Good question, Harry. There were at least 2 companies using the name "Ever Last," and the "Everlast" (one word) you are talking about is the New York company from much later - like you say, late 40s. There's a pic of three examples of this later company's stuff on page 54 of The Catalogue.

Anonymous said...

Excellent - thanks for the answer! I shall curl up with The Catalog tonight and watch it snow.

George Kovalenko said...

Jon, this also helps to finally solve another big problem. It answers the question of who made the Thompson pens and pencils. Their pens and pencils had the same clip as these Toledo, or Skidmore pens and pencils. Chris Thompson, the modern penmaker and lathman, and also collector of these vintage pens, will be very glad to hear this. He's been waiting for this answer since the 1990s.

It also explains the Parrott and the Postal pencils with that clip.

George Kovalenko.

Jon Veley said...

Hi George,

I stopped short of that conclusion because I'm still not sure whether Skidmore made all of these or whether they just bought parts (and possibly entire pencils) from the same supplier.

The Postal Pen Co. had no connection with Skidmore, did it?

George Kovalenko said...

You're right, there is still the possibility of a third party maker of the Thompson pens. And you'll notice that I said that it helps to explain only the "Postal pencils with that clip". As far as I am aware, the Postal Pen Co. had no connection with Skidmore, but only with respect to their pens.

George Kovalenko.