Wednesday, July 31, 2013

These Shur Were The Best They Made

We pencil guys – particularly we pencil guys who have to take everything apart to see how these things work – just love the Shur-Rite.  Most of the time they are pretty ordinary looking metal pencils, until you pull them apart to see just how ingenious they are:

Early examples are marked “Pat. Applied For,” which is a reference to Julius Swanberg’s original patent application of November 10, 1919, which was issued on June 14, 1921 as number 1,381,517 and assigned to “Fabart Instrument Company, a Corporation of Illinois”:

Later examples usually have the 1921 patent date along with “others pending,” which must be a reference to Swanberg’s patent for an improved version, which he applied for on June 2, 1921 and which was finally issued on January 25, 1925 as number 1,524,062:

This patent was also assigned to Fabart, but I’ve never found a Shur-Rite with the 1925 patent date on it, suggesting that these went out of production by the time it was finally issued.

Recently, I’ve picked up a couple of Shur-Rites that are definitely a cut above what you usually find:

The lower one came from an online auction and, unlike the typical gold-filled or silver plated examples, this one is marked sterling and has the 1921 patent date.  The pattern on this one is really interesting:

The other one, while it’s gold-filled, is the nicest one of these I’ve ever seen.  It came to me by way of Keith Prosser, a Canadian collector at the Chicago Show.  While the composition of the barrel may be ordinary, the pattern is anything but.   There’s hand-hammered detailing in between the panels:

and the pattern is one of the more intricate I’ve seen on any pencil:

Note also the patent date of November 10, 1919, which I’ve never seen before.  Since I bought it from a Canadian, I checked to see if that date made sense north of the border, but the Canadian patent for the Shur-Rite (number 215,361) was issued on January 24, 1922.

I can’t find any patent issued for these on November 10, 1919, and since that was the very day Julius Swanberg applied for his 1921 patent, I’m thinking either there was a mistake on the imprint or the producers of the Shur-Rite were getting impatient and decided for whatever reason that a patent date sounded better than just “Pat. Applied For.”

Shur-Rite pencils were marketed by the Sandfelder Corporation, which had offices in Chicago and Attleboro, Massachusetts.  My source for this information is a 1922 advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post – unfortunately, the Google Books scan has the advertisement partially obscured due to an indelicate page turn.  Whether Sandfelder made the pencils or had them made by Fabart I don’t know, but I do know that Sandfelder claimed complete ownership of the brand.  In fact, their defense of the name led them to a conflict with another well-known character . . . one that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time!

Tune in tomorrow for that story . . .


Raychelle said...

Hi! Thanks for this post. Do you know what kind/size lead can be used with the Shur-Rite pencils?

Jon Veley said...

Hello Raychelle,

These would take a 1.1 mm (.046 inch) lead. Currently offered by Autopoint and Retro 51.

Brittany Thompson said...

How do you get it open?