Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rex Manufacturing Company: Father of the Triad

As I was mentioning yesterday  (, my research into the history of the Tri-Pen Manufacturing Company, makers of the original Triad pens and pencils, was yielding unexpected evidence that there may be a connection between the Rex Manufacturing Company and Tri-Pen.

The first clue I found came from a book titled "Michnapert the Citadel: A History of Armenians in Rhode Island," by Varoujan Karentz (iUniverse, Inc. 2004). At page 190, Karentz presents a brief autobiographical sketch of one Harry (Movsesian) Burt, and states that Burt owned several prosperous companies in Providence, including "Rex Mfg.,Triad Pen and Royal Moulding."

Karentz’ sketch appears to be based on oral history and contains a couple of inaccuracies. There was no "Triad Pen" (there was a Tri-Pen Manufacturing Co. until 1932 and a Triangle Pen Co. after 1940). Also, while Harry Burt was a Vice President of Tri-Pen, Burt’s contributions to Tri-Pen and Rex appears to be overstated – apparently George Coby and Howard Sweet, the president/design patentee and sales manager of Tri-Pen, respectively, weren’t Armenian.

However, after I enlisted David Nishimura’s help in piecing together the Tri-pen puzzle, I was able to confirm more of a connection between the two companies. David’s study of the 1931-2 Providence directories revealed that Charles Okoomian, the secretary of Tri-Pen Manufacturing Company, was also the president of Rex Manufacturing Company; George Coby, president of Tri-Pen, was the treasurer of Rex.

Rex was located, according to the 1931-2 directory, at 69 Gordon in Providence. As was also the case with Tri-Pen, that was the last time Rex was listed.

The following year, 69 Gordon was occupied by Edgewood Pen and Royal Moulding, both in connection with none other than Harry Burt.

All of these clues put together a nice story, but what I really wanted to see was an artifact that would definitively connect the two companies. The good folks at Google, bless their hearts, led me straight to it.

The thumbnail picture which popped up in the "images of Triad Pencil" section of my Google search was described as a "Rex Triad pencil." Since it was just a thumbnail the picture was pretty grainy, but it appeared to show two views of a yellow pencil that looked like it had a Rex clip assembly. The picture linked me back to an online auction that had closed a few months earlier -- long enough ago that all it provided was a blank error message for that item number.

So I Googled the auction listing number, which led me straight to the feedback forum for the buyer and the seller.  That enabled me to send each of them a message asking for a better picture from the auction. The seller never responded, but the buyer did and his response and generosity bowled me over.

It turns out that wasn’t two views of the same pencil in that thumbnail picture – there were actually two identical pencils in that auction. Since they were identical, and one was missing the cap, the guy offered to send me one if I provided him my address. I jumped at the opportunity and, about a week later, I received a package from Puerto Rico. Here’s what was inside:

To learn more, this full article is included in The Leadhead's Pencil Blog Volume 2, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and everywhere else you buy books, or you can order a copy signed by yours truly through the Legendary Lead Company HERE.


Anonymous said...

Nice job!

Jim Carpenito said...

Jon, outstanding piece of detective work!