Friday, September 13, 2013

Uwanta Pencil?

John Coleman sent me a picture of a couple of his other “mystery pencils”:

Both are fitted with accommodation clips with eerie faces on them.

Although the clips can easily be moved to other pencils (or pens), these are usually found on pencils just like the ones John has.  They are a pretty common sight – I’ve got one, and I imagine if you’ve got a shoebox full of no-names, you’ve probably got one as well:

The top part of the barrels on these is faceted, and they are imprinted with a patent date of June 22, 1915.  Most are poorly stamped, and mine’s no exception:

The date refers to Harry Clarence Welton’s patent number 1,144,082, which he applied for on
September 9, 1914.   He assigned the patent to the Mattatuck Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut:

Mattatuck Manufacturing Company was organized in 1886, and for nearly a century the company made a wide variety of metal products, from handcuffs to upholstery nails to . . . well, I guess pencils, too.  The company’s facilities were located at the corner of Southmayd Road and East Main Street in Waturbury, which is known as “brass city” for its reputation as a manufacturing leader in brass products.   By the end of the last century, the EPA had labeled the abandoned plant a brownfield site, and the building was razed in 2002.  Currently, the site is being converted into a memorial site for a local funeral home.

But what’s that face on our accommodation clip?  These also tend to be poorly stamped, but on close examination, you’ll notice letters encircling the figure:

I must have had more than one of these at some point, and the other one must have been better stamped, because I recalled that the letters spelled “UWANTA” even though it’s tough to make them out on this one.

A search for the meaning of “Uwanta” turned up an interesting tidbit.  Barry Smart, in his 2010 book Consumer Society: Critical Issues and Environmental Consequences, identifies the first million-dollar advertising campaign in the United States as the National Biscuit Company’s 1898 campaign (the company name was later shortened to “Nabisco”) for its “Uneeda” brand of biscuits.    “Lest You Forget, We Say It Yet, Uneeda Biscuit” was the campy slogan the company used.   The campaign was so successful, according to Smart, that a host of other companies started cooking up their own goofy product names, “but such obvious imitations as ‘Uwanta Beer, Itsagood Soap and Ureada magazine’ were not as successful” (page 62).

The Otto Huber Brewery of New York filed a trademark on the word “Uwanta,” at least for marketing beer, on July 23, 1899.  The date of first use claimed was July 1, 1899:

But the trademark was just for the name “Uwanta,” which didn’t help much when it comes to placing the face.   So I flipped over to the online auctions and searched the name “Uwanta,” and I think I found the answer.  Since Otto Huber only cornered the market on the word “Uwanta” when it came to beer, that left the field wide open for makers of other products to claim the name for their goods – like cigars, for example:

The “Uwanta” brand of cigars used this artwork on the inside of cigar box lids, and the picture was copyrighted – you guessed it – in 1899.  When I compare the man on the cigar label with the man on our clip:

That little squggly on top of its head is supposed to be a feather, and you can also see the long hair.  So there you have it: the Mattatuck’s Manufacturing Company’s only known (to me) contribution to the world of mechanical pencils was apparently an advertising piece made to promote “Uwanta” Cigars.  

1 comment:

Le Diable Volant said...


I have bought an all brass one last week for 5CAN$ at a flea market. As those ones shown in your blog, the Indian head clip is poorly made. However, on the pencil itself, it is fairly imprinted "PAT. APPL'D FOR", and below "MADE IN U.S.A." According to what I read on your blog about the patent, this means that this pencil was produced in 1914 or 1915.

I had to clean the pencil to read "uwanta" in the clip, and some google search brought me to your blog.