Monday, September 9, 2013


I can’t remember which of my collecting friends once asked me why I’m always yammering on about Slencils.  I didn’t think too hard about the question – after all, I don’t want to risk having an existential moment during which I wonder why I yammer on about any of the things I write about here – but I think the answer is easy.  When it comes to the Slencil, there’s a lot to yammer on about, and no one’s really yammered about it before.

Carl Harris, inventor of the Slencil, supposedly came upon the idea when he was riding on a train, and his pencil kept rolling off the table.  What may seem today as a single idea – a flat pencil that won’t roll – proved to be fodder for Harris to invent and patent dozens of improvements, attachments and accessories over a period of decades.

In the Slencil’s last incarnation, Harris’ interesting mid-barrel knurled mechanism was abandoned in favor of a conventional nose drive, inserted into a plastic rectangular barrel which was intially marketed as the “Stag Slencil.”    The design patent, number 119,263, was issued on March 5, 1940:

A few months ago, this turned up in an online auction, and since I’m a sucker for pencils with a card-playing theme, and I was hunkerin’ to do some yammerin’, I couldn’t resist:

The “Slencil Score Set” – “Stag” and “Score”.... how many suggestive words can we squeeze into this one?

Of course, manly men attending stag functions and looking to score probably aren’t so likely to use a bridge set for their poker games, are they?

This set even came with original paperwork bearing a copyright date of 1945:

And there’s something curious on the box lid.  In addition to a running deer (stag) logo I’ve never seen before, the label reads “Licensed Under C.C. Harris Patents.”  Harris owned the Slencil Company, so I’m not sure why this legend would be necessary – unless Slencil allowed someone else to manufacture the pencils under the Slencil name?

The Score set wasn’t the only Stag I’ve “scored” in recent months.  Check this one out:

Instead of the usual pressed clip, this one sports the wire clip seen on the metal “Social Slencil” pencils (the clip was meant to clip into a specially designed accessory notebook):

The patent for the clip and pad was applied for by Harris on November 3, 1943, and the patent was issued as number 2,383,858 on August 28, 1945:

Note that the patent drawings show a Stag Slencil with an exposed eraser – yet this is the first time I’ve seen a Stag with the wire clip and exposed eraser.

That red band around the top appears to be the stub of one of the usual Stag Slencil plastic caps.  It looks to me that in order to make the band, the manufacturer glued on a regular Stag cap, then cut the cap flush with the end of the barrel.   Note also the imprint on the barrel under the clip, which I’ve not seen before.  We’ve already discussed design patent 119,263 – “RE20,481" refers to the reissued patent for the original Slencil mechanical pencil . . .

. . . and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Stag Slencil.   There’s two more interesting things about this pencil: first, while the imprints on most Stags are just like this:

This one has a different imprint:

Simply “The Slencil Co. Orange, Mass. USA.”  And finally, turning over the pencil, there’s one more surpise:

It’s an “RCA Book Slencil.”

No comments: