We try to do all of the outdoor stuff first, because we never know when the Ohio weather will stop cooperating and besides, the indoor dealers are there every month – it’s the outdoor vendors you’ll typically see only on Extravaganza weekends.
Sunday morning, while we were browsing around outside, a big breakfast and a few belts of coffee caught up with us, so we ventured inside one of the main buildings to answer nature’s call. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to walk down an aisle full of antiques without stopping to look at anything, and of course, the first vendor inside the door was someone I see every month and buy something from every month.
Usually it’s nothing spectacular she has for me – maybe a couple cheaper pencils in colors I don’t have or a few dip pen nibs that look just interesting enough to shell out a buck or two. This time, I saw a great box marked “Zaner-Bloser” on the side, about half full of erasers, lead and ballpoint refills. Since Zaner Bloser is a Columbus, Ohio company, I couldn’t resist.
But there was a problem. The dealer wanted $12.00 firm for the box, I’d spent all my small bills and the dealer couldn’t break a fifty. She said she’d hold it for me while I went to break a larger bill. Just as I was about to leave her booth, I noticed this laying nonchalantly out in front, separate and apart from where she usually keeps her pen and pencil stuff:
When I first laid eyes on it, I thought I was looking at another example of an F.T. Pearce leadholder, which have snake clips sort of like this (see “It’s Not File Transfer Protocol” on January 11, 2012 at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2012/01/noits-not-file-transfer-protocol.html):
The Pearce clip, which is also sometimes found on comparable pencils made by A.T. Cross (there was some relationship between the two companies, both of which were located in Providence, Rhode Island), was patented by George T. Byers on January 6, 1914 as Design Patent Number 45,102:
But then I looked a bit closer, and I saw that the clip on my new find was no snake:
The head resembles more of a dragon or sea serpent, and the clip is much more detailed and elaborate even than what you’ll find on a Pearce. Here they are compared:
On the reverse side, notice the delicate fins down the creature’s spine and the finely detailed tail, neither of which is present in Byers’ design:
Yes, the clip can be removed, but underneath it, the metal of the barrel is brighter, suggesting that if it hasn’t been there since it was made, at least it has been there for a very, very long time. I also believe the clip is original to the time period, since on the underside of the head, there is wear consistent with decades of slipping in and out of a shirt pocket. I haven’t been able to find any modern clips that match it, either.
In addition to the clip, the pencil has another interesting detail in the machine work on the barrel. One half of the barrel is machined with a checkerboard pattern, while the other side is different altogether. I've seen a lot of pencils with different machining from the top part of the pencil to the bottom, but I don't think I've ever seen one that's different from front to back:
So who made this piece of art? The only engraving on the barrel was the word “Sterling,” which wouldn’t have deterred me from buying the pencil with that killer clip. However, this is a leadholder, which means the top screws up a little bit to release the lead and screws down a little to clamp down around it. I recalled that many pencils of this style, such as those made by Heath, had the manufacturers imprint on the inner barrel, so that it’s only visible when the top is unscrewed. I unscrewed the pencil, and there it was:
“Salz Bros. Mfg. NY.” No longer did I have any worries about breaking a larger bill to buy the Zaner Bloser stuff – I used a bigger bill or two and threw this one into the deal.
It makes sense. Ignatz Salz, like David Kahn and his Wearevers, has a reputation of being a lower-quality manufacture turning out writing instruments made to look (sometimes a little too closely) like higher-quality manufacturers made by first tier companies. This is vintage Ignatz Salz, turning out a sterling leadholder that resembles a Heath and adorning it with a clip that certainly calls Pearce and Cross to mind. In my opinion, the Salz name on this pencil is additional evidence that the clip is original and is original to this pencil.
And in this case, Ignatz outdid himself, turning out something that was better than the real thing!