Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Other Fairchild

I’ve been on a Victorian pencil kick lately. I’m probably making up for lost time, since I didn’t pay much attention to them for the first decade or so I collected, but these days, whenever I’m checking out online auctions, I’ll search for some of the Victorian makers – "Todd" (which will pick up both Edward and Mabie), "Hicks," and another standby: "Fairchild."

One day a few months ago this one popped up during my Fairchild search:

The seller had faithfully indexed the item under "Fairchild" due to what’s written on the other side of the barrel:

"Panopepton – Fairchild Bros. & Foster." I knew this was not my man Leroy W. Fairchild – maybe he had a brother, and maybe he had a buddy named Foster, but Leroy was a manufacturer of high-quality writing instruments, not more cheaply constructed numbers like this one. Nevertheless, I had to bite: what interested me was what it was, not what it wasn’t.

What it is: another example of the "Perpetual" by the American Pencil Company. Here’s a shot from "All American," posted here on August 7, 2013:

Those patent numbers on this new example were another dead giveaway:

So what’s this "Panopepton" business? This is an advertising piece. Panopepton was – skip the next few lines if you are prone to being queazy – "predigested beef." The firm of Fairchild Bros. & Foster popularized a canned liquid solution of beef and wheat flour, for those with weak digestion. Maybe also for anyone who’d like a beef ice cream float on a hot summer day? Here’s their display at the July, 1904 meeting of the British Medical Association, as published in the October 13, 1904 edition of The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal:

OK, I’ll admit the "ew" factor was motivation enough for me to buy this thing. But there was something else about it that attracted my attention:

What’s up with that "336333" on the upper section? It isn’t on either of my other examples, and the patent number (gulp) doesn’t show up in my patent book. Fortunately, the omission is with good reason. Patent number 336,333 was issued on February 16, 1886 to Casper Marti of Minneapolis, Minnesota . . . for an "egg register." Dead end there. I checked my book for other patents issued to Alfred Fornander, Byron Goldsmith and William Burt, inventors with respect to the other patent numbers imprinted on the pencil, turned up nothing.

Then I looked in the "Patents by Assignee" section in my book under American Pencil Company, and I did find a patent number 362,933 issued to Henry D. Caruso for a pencil, but that pencil doesn’t have anything to do with the American Perpetual and that would certainly be one sloppy typo on this example . . . about the only thing right about the number is the "33" at the end. "33". . . hmmm . . . maybe "336333" was imprinted on the back of every can of Panopepton, kind of like the inexplicable "33" you’ll find on a bottle of Rolling Rock? Naw, that can’t be it.

I think I might have found the answer. As a Hail Mary, I ran a Google search for simply "336333." Look what comes up under that number on the RGB (Red Green Blue) color scale, developed during in the second half of the Nineteenth Century (courtesy of color-hex.com):

Until someone comes up with a better explanation, I think "336333" designates the customer-ordered color of the paint for my pencil’s barrel.

I really hope it wasn’t the color of Panopepton.

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