Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Bug

Early metal Redipoint pencils, made by Brown & Bigelow of St. Paul, Minnesota, are like Sheaffer pencils – they are so good that they are easy to take for granted.  I have a couple dozen of them laying about, most of which came to me because they were included with the pencil I was really trying to buy.  While I haven’t gone through them to start categorizing them in detail – yet – they check in but they don’t check out because I appreciate how well they work.

At the Raleigh Show, however, this one caught my eye and I bought it on purpose:

Like most Brown and Bigelow pencils, this one is also an advertising piece.  This one was made for “F.A. Ogden, Jr. / Manufacturers’ Agent / Pittsburgh, PA”:

But that wasn’t attracted me to this one.  At the top, there was something that I found irresistible:

“Redipoint / Pat. 9-21-20 & Pdg. B&B St.P.”  While I haven’t studied my metal Redipoints that closely, I didn’t recall ever seeing a patent date imprinted on one of these.  So I hit up the databases, and I found the patent that Frank J. Kristofek and Howard L. Fischer applied for on November 11, 1919 and which was granted as number 1,353,352 on September 21, 1920:

What struck me was those little “antennae,” and as I read the description I learned that those are spare leads, stuck into little protrusions attached to the mechanism.  That’s pretty goofy, but it’s also really, really cool.  Excitedly I disassembled my 1920 patent Redipoint,and I found:

Nothing.  No trace of any spare lead doohickey.  So I found my little pile of metal Redipoints and started poking and prodding them to see what they were all about.  As I had remembered, nearly all of the ones like this were imprinted “Patented” with no mention of any date, and none of those had the spare lead thingy either.  But there were two examples that stood out from the crowd, shown here next to the new addition:

Note that the bottom example has a top identical to the one on my ringtop, and it too is marked with the 1920 patent date.  The center example, however, has a slightly different top – much closer to the one shown in the patent drawings -- and is imprinted “Pat. Pdg”:

(By the way, note also the cool “Premier Jr.” accommodation clip, which is not original to the pencil but neat anyway.)   When I took them apart, I found that the one marked with the 1920 patent date also lacked what I was looking for, but the Patent Pending example did not disappoint:

There’s the spare lead attachment shown in the patent drawings:

I armed myself with three pieces of lead and checked to see if this goofy idea actually worked.  I was sure that the tension inside the barrel would cause the leads to snap:

Nope.  After I operated the pencil and removed the mechanism a couple times, the leads didn’t break.

I’ve got a lot of questions about this.  Why would Brown & Bigelow remove the patent date from the imprint so quickly?  Why would the company continue to make the pencils with mechanisms that removed so easily, after the need to remove it to get to the spare leads was eliminated?   And most importantly, if this idea worked as well as it appears to have worked, why was it apparently abandoned so quickly?

Maybe it made the pencil look too much like a bug.


Chthulhu said...


ALl the metal Redipoints I have do store spare leads in the barrel; they are just loose and rest against the collar near the tip end of the threaded sleeve.

Mike Hungerford

Chthulhu said...


Only one of mine bears the patent date, and it, too, lacks the spare lead sockets.