Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It Was All In the Names

Note:  this is the second part in a series of articles.  The first part is found here:  http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/10/artfully-to-point.html.

Sometimes all it takes for the pieces of the puzzle to come together is a name. When it comes to the Artpoint and Dollarpoint pencils, yesterday’s article gave us several of them: Wade W. Moore, inventor of the Artpoint and Dollarpoint, Amadee J. Taussig, the pencil’s artistic designer, and Jesse E. Roach, the man to whom both the utility and design patents were assigned. These names, and a few others that turned up in connection with them, were all the ammunition needed to unravel a fairly complete history of the Dollarpoint and Artpoint pencils.

The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer reported the organization of the Dollarpoint Pencil Corporation in its July 1, 1920 issue, identifying the incorporators as J. E. Roach, Wilbur E. Smith and Lester William Roth:

Also in 1920, Modern Stationer announced that The Dollarpoint Pencil Corporation was planning to introduce two lines of pencils: the lower-priced Dollarpoint line for $1.00, and the more expensive Artpoint line with prices from $1.50 to $3.50. That explains why the Dollarpoint pencils lack the intricate patterns found on the Artpoint line:

In the February 12, 1921 issue of The American Stationer and Office Outfitter, the Cardinell Vincent Co., a firm better known for greeting cards, post cards and similar products, announced that it had also become the western agent for the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation and that samples would be ready by the end of that month:

Why would a greeting card company get involved selling mechanical pencils? In this case, it was because the company had experience dealing in them. Here’s an advertisement for Ever Sharp pencils during the days Charles Keeran owned the Eversharp Pencil Company, before he was bought out by the Wahl Adding Machine Company:

See that last line? Five years earlier, Cardinell Vincent became the sole Pacific coast agent for Keeran’s Eversharp Pencil Company. Just as sales were beginning to take off, Wahl decided they didn’t need Charles Keeran and apparently decided they didn’t need Cardinell Vincent, either. One can only imagine what they were thinking over at Cardinell Vincent between 1917 and 1920, as they watched Wahl’s meteoric rise to become one of the "big four" writing instrument manufacturers in the country – no doubt they would have thought about how much they would have made in commissions had they been kept on board! Given this, it’s no surprise Cardinell Vincent would roll the dice on another fledgling pencil company.

Dollarpoint began operations in May, 1921 in a leased building located at 1001 West 16th Street, Los Angeles. That same month, Southwest Builder and Contractor reported a curious development: the incorporation of the J.E. Roach & Co. as a "manufacturer’s business" in its May 13, 1921 issue. J.E. Roach, G. H. Janeway and Ruth E. Leaf served as initial directors:

On July 16, 1921, the American Stationer reported that the new pencils were in circulation on the west coast and were being well received:

In November, 1921, Western Advertising reported that J. E. Roach & Co. hired the advertising firm of Smith & Harris Advertising Agency. By this time, it is unclear who is making the pencils: the patents were assigned to Jesse E. Roach and J. E. Roach & Co. is identified as the manufacturer of the "Dollar Point Pencil":

In December, 1921, The Timberman reported that the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation was producing 1,000 pencils per day and was hoping to double its production.

On December 21, 1921, Geyer’s Stationer corroborated the note in The Timberman with a more detailed account of the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation’s activities, including the company’s plans to construct a permanent manufacturing facility to move into at the termination of the company’s lease at 1001 West 16th as well as a national advertising campaign "as fast as production will warrant":

The J.E. Roach Co. is listed in Western Advertising’s January, 1922 directory of advertisers, associated with Smith & Harris to promote both Dollarpoint and Artpoint pencils:

By 1924, however, J. E. Roach & Co. is not listed in the Directory of California Manufacturers published by the California Development Association – however, the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation is, still at the 16th Street address, and still making Dollarpoint and Artpoint pencils:

What was Jesse E. Roach up to? From all the evidence I have found, he is the only common denominator between the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation and J. E. Roach & Co. – and contemporary reports are inconsistent with respect to which company was making these pencils. Roach was the assignee on the patents – at least at the time they were issued, but it looks like once Dollar Point is up and running, Roach doesn’t have much of anything to do with it.

Was J. E. Roach & Co. a separate company set up to market pencils made by Dollar Point, or was it the other way around? Or was Jesse E. Roach so dissatisfied with the Dollar Point gang that he set up a competing company to try to muscle them out? I wish I knew.

What I do know is regardless of whether Jesse E. Roach was still affiliated with Dollar Point, he was still actively involved in the mechanical pencil industry as of April 25, 1923, when he applied for the only pencil patent he received in his own name:

This new design looks like it might be along the Dollarpoint/Artpoint lines – at least, it appears to have the same joint part of the way up the barrel, where you would expect to see one on an Artpoint. Roach’s design patent number 65,352, issued on July 29, 1924, wasn’t assigned to Dollar Point or J.E. Roach & Co. -- but that doesn’t mean much, since all the other Artpoint/Dollarpoint patents were assigned to Roach individually, as well. If an example of these ever surfaces, it would be interesting to read whatever imprint lurks underneath the cap!

I found no references to the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation dated after 1924. Elaborate plans for a new factory must have been scrapped, since the 1924 Directory of California Manufacturers lists the company at the same leased space it had occupied since 1921. Also abandoned must have been the planned national advertising campaign – or else Smith & Harris were really lousy advertising agents. Cardinell Vincent apparently decided that two losing bets on fledgling pencil companies were a clear sign that the company needed to go in a different direction, and I haven’t seen their name in connection with any others.

And so, on the eve of the rise in celluloid pencils and the decline in metal pencil, the Dollar Point Pencil Company apparently vanishes without a trace.

Almost without a trace, that is . . .

Note:  this story continues at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/10/whats-going-on-in-that-phone-booth.html.

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