Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's All Right . . . Mostly

I won’t say which of my pencil brethren was speaking ill of the Salz recently.  To each their own, and I’ll be the first one to admit that Salz made some really terrible stuff.  Then again, almost all of them did at one point or another (I’ve got more than a few Eversharps that only an Eversharp fanatic could love).

But Salz claims an important little corner in the pencil world, mostly from their spinoff company, “Pencil Products Corporation,” which turned out some nifty metal pencils which were offered as Diamond Point’s first pencils (marketed as the Autosharp – see “Auto-Confusing, More Like” on January 30, 2012 – — and “Whew!” on March 2, 2013 at  Others were marketed directly by Salz under the tradename “Sta-Sharp.”  Here’s a few examples that are worthy of note, taken from page 132 of The Catalogue:

You’ve got to wonder if the folks over at Mabie Todd didn’t get a little upset with that bail ringtop version.  Here’s the Sta-Sharp next to a comparable Mabie Todd Fyne Poynt:

Some of my favorite Salz pencils come from this same time period.  Sometime between 1919 and 1921, Salz introduced the ‘Salrite. The metal versions were identical to the Sta-Sharp - here’s a couple examples:

That intricately engraved gold-filled example has a twin, marked only with an “SB” logo on the clip for Salz Brothers:

The "SB" logo clip is shown in this Sta-Sharp advertisement, which appeared in The American Stationer on May 22, 1920, suggesting that the 'Salrite name debuted some time after that:

The ‘Salrite was also introduced in hard rubber, as shown on page 132 of The Catalogue.

Since the book was published, I’ve run across two other variations of the hard rubber variety: a ringtop that actually has the ring on the top instead of the side, and a full sized example which for whatever reason has a slightly shorter top section.

‘Salrites, like other early Salz pencils, have the unusual lead storage compartments that can only be accessed when the nose cone is removed:

All of these have the “Pencil Products Corp. Pat. Dec 23, 1919" legend stamped on them:

The patent date refers to Lucifer Most’s patent number 1,325,570, applied for on June 11, 1919 and assigned to Pencil Products Company.  It’s one of the more nifty patent drawings:

There’s a reference to “Other patents pending” on these, but the only one I can find that’s close is another Lucifer Most patent.  He actually applied for this one earlier, on August 26, 1918, but it wasn’t issued until June 20, 1922 as number 1,320,275:

I’ve never seen one of these with the 1922 patent date.  On the full-sized models, ‘Salrite is found on the clip.   On the ringtops, there’s a nice big imprint on the barrel:

Salz always had a knack for turning gimmicky phrases, but as the Mabie Todd knockoff above illustrates, the company also made a habit of paying the sincerest form of flattery to its competitors (that is, imitation). With the ‘Salrite, the name got Salz into a bit of trouble.  When the company went to file a trademark on the name “Salz Rite,” someone thought it was a little too close to what they were calling their pencils and filed an objection to the use of the name:   the Sandfelder Corporation, producers of the Shur-Rite line of pencils.

There must have been more to this story, because Shur-Rites don’t look anything like a ‘Salrite and the names don’t sound anywhere close to me.  Maybe Salz was deliberately marketing their pencils in Sandfelder’s backyard; maybe the colorful Ignatz Salz (who spent his fair share of time tipping a few) let slip at a cocktail party that he got the idea for the name from the Shur-Rite.  Maybe Salz’ reputation for copying other people’s products preceded them.  Whatever the reason, the Patent and Trademark Office sustained Sandfelder’s objections and denied trademark registration for the name to Salz in March, 1923:

But say what you will about Salz, the Sta-Sharp and the ‘Salrite pencils themselves were truly original.  The trade mark fiasco couldn’t keep the company down, and soon Salz was on to bigger and better things.


George Kovalenko said...

By the way, the Shur-Rite trademark is not 144,417, as stated in the Patent And Trademark Review. It's 144,917.

George Kovalenko.

George Kovalenko said...

And here's an early reference to the Salrite in a Canadian stationery magazine that calls it a "new pencil". No sooner did Waterman's come out with their hard rubber pencil than Salz came out with their version of a hard rubber pencil.

George Kovalenko.