Monday, October 13, 2014

Artfully to the Point

Artpoint is a brand that I hoard. If I see one, and it’s reasonably priced, I’ve got to bring it home for closer examination in the hopes that I might find out something more about it:

Here’s an example I picked up recently . . er, comparatively so. I think I found this one at the Chicago show:

The detailing and heavy barrels on these are what led me to describe these in The Catalogue as "the finest metal pencils of the 1920s."

More often, these are found in what appears to be nickel plate, but every so often one will turn up with gold fill over brass:

I’ve noticed a few subtle variations. Most of the ones I’ve found have "Artpoint" cast near the nose. Sometimes there are four distinct lines that fill the empty space where the word doesn’t wrap quite all the way around:

Sometimes there are three and a half lines:

Sometimes there’s just one:

And sometimes there's none at all.  By the way, did you notice that the floral motif wraps the other way around the barrel in the above picture? I haven’t found any rhyme or reason to that . . . some just point one way, and others point the other.  Very rarely, you might find one with no floral motif at all:

One thing I have consistently found is that when the bands are plain, the imprint reads "Dollarpoint"  accompanied by three distinct lines.

"Consistently" in this case is hardly based on a good representative sample: in all my scrounging, all I’ve found are a pair of ringtops, and both have three lines. And of those two, one has a fun detail: the ring attached to the top is formed in the shape of a "D":

The reason I find myself compelled to purchase these whenever I find them is because there’s sometimes a secret hidden under the caps. They are threaded on, but most of the time they are wedged on so tightly that it takes quite a bit of . . . persuasion to coax them off.

Since it usually takes quite a bit of wrestling with these caps to see what’s underneath them, and Sellers get nervous if you wrestle too much with their wares before deciding whether to buy them, I usually find it’s best to pony up a few dollars and do the aggravating part, accompanied by appropriate expletives, in the privacy of my own home. In many cases, I have no luck and the pencil will stay like this. When I’m lucky, the cap eventually eases off, and if there’s anything stamped on the barrel under the cap, here’s what you’ll find

"Patented / Dollarpoint Pencil Corp. / Los Angeles, Cal." The "Patented" bit had me stumped for years. I would have been surprised if the mechanism itself is what was referred to, since it is nearly identical to the patented mechanism found on the Eagle "Pointer" issued on February 7, 1922 (see ):

Other than this observation, my research stalled long, long ago, leaving me wrestling cap after cap in the vain hope that one day I’d find a more helpful imprint underneath. Years went by, until I began researching patents for American Writing Instrument Patents Volume 2: 1911-1945, and as I was reviewing patents one by one this one caught my eye:

Design patent 57,397 was applied for by Amadee J. Taussig of Hollywood, California on November 9, 1920, and was issued on March 15, 1921. The patent was assigned to a Jesse E. Roach, also of Hollywood.

Even though the cap in this design patent is different from the Artpoints and Dollarpoints I’ve found, the ribbing near the nose paired with a southern California connection, seemed like too much to be a coincidence. I jotted "Artpoint?" in the margin of my notes, thinking I might later find something else to tie this patent to the Artpoint/Dollarpoint line of pencils. I didn’t have to wait for long, since the next one on my list to look at was design patent 57,398:

I removed the question mark from margin of the previous entry. This patent has the same application date, issue date, inventor and assignee. As a bonus, there was a third variation patented as Design Patent number 57, 399:

By the time I finished my research for Volume 2, these were the only three patents I had found which were issued to Mr. Taussig. However, as for Jesse Roach, the assignee, the story wasn’t over. In addition to these three design patents, he was also assigned three utility patents, all from an inventor named Wade W. Moore. The first, number 1,352,677, was for an eraser and cap design:

This is clearly the threaded cap found on both Artpoint and Dollarpoint pencils. Then there was number 1,369,347:

Maybe, but probably not. While this may share some elements of an Artpoint/Dollarpoint, the tip on this drawing appears to be integrated into the barrel, rather than being detachable. Also, when I compare this to the examples I’ve found, the lead magazine feature shown in these drawings isn’t present – there’s a slot running from the center to the edge of a solid disk under the eraser, but the slot isn’t wide enough to admit a piece of lead.

But the last of Moore’s patents was number 1,382,928, applied for on February 17, 1920 and issued on June 28, 1921:

This is clearly our pencil – and note that the lead storage in the nose rather than the barrel, just like an Eagle Pointer.

Alfred Michael’s patent for what later became the Pointer was filed on March 26, 1921 – more than a year after Moore filed his application on February 17, 1920. Michael’s patent was also issued a year later than Moore’s, on February 7, 1922. One thing is clear: I will never again say the Artpoint looks like an Eagle Pointer. I will say the Pointer looks like an Artpoint!

Note:  part two of this story follows at

No comments: