Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rex Redux

When this one showed up in an online auction, I got so much more than I bargained for:

This one is imprinted "Rhoads & Company," a name with which I wasn’t the least bit familiar:

In addition to the great hard rubber barrel, the "Rhoads" has a cool ferrule (note the distinctive rib) as well as an equally distinctive cap that screws off:

Great style, different name – all this one would need is a patent date imprinted on it to possess the trifecta of bloggability, right? Yes! The seller indicated in his description that this one had a 1924 patent date. But when the pencil arrived and I examined it more closely, the patent date on this one didn’t tell me anything about "Rhoads & Company."

It told me something a whole lot better:

That patent date of February 19, 1924 sounded familiar, but I didn’t make the connection until I cracked open the patent databases to see what it was:

Lawrence T. McNary applied for patent number 1,484,180 on October 11, 1921, but the patent was not granted until February 19, 1924. And if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve read about this patent before. McNary’s patent was assigned to the Rex Manufacturing Company.

I’ve written a lot about the "four horsemen" patents assigned to the Rex Manufacturing Company: patents issued on August 4, 1925, November 24, 1925, January 5, 1926 and another one on January 5, 1926. These four patents are found on a whole host of pencils (see "Prequel: Let’s Make That Birth, Death and Transfiguration" posted on March 20, 2013 at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/03/prequel-lets-make-that-birth-death-and.html):

From left, these are marked Blue Ribbon, Gold Bond, Gold Medal, Gold Medal, Corona, Webster, Supremacy, John Holland, Salz, Johnson and Eisenstadt.

I’d noted in that March 20 article that the third one from the left – that one marked Gold Medal that has the one-piece tip rather than the two-piece tip normally encountered – was marked only with McNary’s February 19, 1924 patent date. At page 120 of The Catalogue, in my discussion of the various Rex patents, I’d noted that this particular pencil didn’t look anything like the drawings from McNary’s 1924 patent.

But my "Rhoads & Company" pencil is the pencil McNary was drawing. Apparently these early Gold Medal pencils were produced while Rex was busy taking out the 1925 and 1926 patents, and it was thought best to stamp the Gold Medal with an actual patent date rather than "patent pending."

At this point I puff out my belly, don a fake beard and channel Billy Mays to the best of my ability – But wait. There’s more!

Here’s the "Supremacy" in that last picture shown next to a couple other pencils marked "Supremacy" in the picture taken from page 155 of The Catalogue:

I’d noted in the text that while the large Supremacy pencils were clearly Rex patent pencils, the small ringtop "is a completely different design."

And it is – it’s a completely different Rex design, in fact.

Hang in there. Just as all of this was coming home to roost in my head, another online seller was listing several Artcraft pencils for sale. John Hubbard, a fanatical devotee of the Artcraft brand (which hailed from his home town of Birmingham, Alabama), tipped me off about the listings, mostly to call dibs on a couple things I’ll discuss another time.

(As an aside, if you haven’t read John’s recent article in Pennant magazine, it’s available in the Pen Collectors of America’s online library. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth logging on and checking it out. If you aren’t a member yet, join and then log on and check it out.)

John emailed me to call dibs on one of those Artcraft lots, and much to my relief it wasn’t this one he was after:

Speaking of relief, ever seen a ferrule engraved like this??

What had me fired up about this one was that it is identical to the ringtop Supremacy – it’s another example of a 1924 McNary Rex patent:

Time for the punch line. If this Artcraft is a 1924 McNary, you might be wondering, wouldn’t there also be Artcraft pencils made under the later "four horseman" Rex patents? Here’s a photo John sent me some time ago of another Artcraft pencil from his collection:

Yes, Virginia.  Artcraft’s early pencils were Rex patent pencils.

There’s a few questions to which I still don’t know the answers. Was Rhoads & Company another long-lost, obscure brand of pencils, or is my pencil simply an advertising piece for an unrelated concern? Beats me, although if I had to guess, I’d say it’s an advertiser (the imprint is more typical of an advertisement than a producer).

Were the 1924 McNary patent pencils actually made by Rex, or were they also made by National Pen Products under license like the "four horsemen" patent pencils? I don’t know – yet – although I’m inclined to believe that if Rex actually made the later pencils marked "Rex" (see "Rex Manufacturing Company - Father of the Triad on March 21, 2013" at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/03/rex-manufacturing-company-father-of.html), they would have made the earlier 1924 patent pencils, as well.

Are there 1924 McNary patent pencils made which are marked Blue Ribbon, Gold Bond, Gold Medal, Corona, Webster, John Holland, Salz, Johnson or Eisenstadt, or yet others? I don’t know, but I’ll bet you a couple Klondike bars I’ll be looking for them!

And last but not least –

Why is there a flathead screw built into the side of my Artcraft?


Anonymous said...

"Why is there a flathead screw built into the side of my Artcraft?"

Probably because it was made by Franklin Norman Stein...you know....Frank N. Stein

Jon Veley said...

Ar ar ar ... :)