Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Fair Children

Lately I’ve been getting more into Victorian pencils.  Here’s a few I’ve found recently:

All of these were made by Leroy W. Fairchild, the New York manufacturer who supplied nibs to the L.E. Waterman Co. early in Waterman’s history.  With the mechanisms advanced, they look like this:

Starting from the bottom is a large, heavy pencil I bought from David Ferguson at the Chicago show in May.  It’s rose gold filled, and the mechanism advances by twisting the back half of the barrel:

The imprint is around the top:

Next up from the bottom is a lucky gamble from an online auction.  The pencil advances when you pull the pencil end out.  I’ve heard this called a “sportsman’s” model – I think I saw that in David Moak’s book, and I like the term:

I bought the pencil based on very bad pictures on the seller’s word that it was a Fairchild bearing a patent date of June 22, 1869.  Check . ..

and check . . .

The reason I took the gamble was that the patent date really interested me.  On that date, John H. Rauch received patent number 91,665:

Rauch started making pencils in the early 1840s, and that’s where John Mabie got his start.  While Mabie left Rauch’s employ in 1851 to participate in a number of partnerships (most notably Mabie Todd & Co.), Rauch continued in business on his own until 1883.  Apparently, at some point Rauch also got mixed up with Leroy Fairchild!  

I was pleasantly surprised when this one arrived.   I thought I was bidding on a piece of metal with an imprint of some historical significance, not a complete and functioning writing instrument – if it worked at all and wasn’t too badly trashed, I would have had my story and been happy.  Imagine my surprise when I found the pencil was pristine and undamaged (usually the slider causes these hard rubber to crack), the pencil functions flawlessly.  And to top it off:

The seller didn’t know that the gold band around the barrel was the slider for a dip pen nib, so none of the pictures showed that this one was equipped with a correct Leroy W. Fairchild No.4 nib!

The next of these “fairchildren” also came from an online auction, but I recognized the seller – Michael McNeil from Northwest Pen Works:

What attracted me to this otherwise fairly plain magic pencil was the imprint – not only is it on the barrel rather than where you would normally find it on the upper extender, but rather than “Fairchild” this one reads “L.W.F. & Co.”:

The last one of these also came from a pig-in-a-poke auction that included four Victorian pencils.  I only needed one of the four to be in good shape for the purchase to have been worthwhile, and this one fit the bill:

The pencil is a heavy repousse in sterling, and it doesn’t look like the mechanism has spent much time advanced out of the barrel.

There were two like this in that bunch, and the other was unmarked except for the word “sterling,” was missing the nozzle and was dented badly enough that it was noticeable even on the repousse.  Fortunately, it was this one that was in good shape, because this one had a surprise imprint:

F/J in a shield is the hallmark for the partnership of Fairchild-Johnson, formed between Leroy W. Fairchild and Ephraim S. Johnson.

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