Friday, October 17, 2014

So Long To Some Old Friends

Note:  this is the last installment in a series of five articles.  The first part was posted here:

Until recently, I’d never heard of any of the people involved in the Dollar Point Pencil Corporation story. However, there’s been enough written about them that now that I’ve researched these articles I almost feel like I know them, including many details of their lives outside of Dollar Point.

Wade W. Moore, the inventor of the mechanism inside the Artpoint, never patented any other writing instruments or any other inventions, either. When I first started researching this article, I thought that was odd – most inventors with more than one patent don’t just quit. But after I read this historical account of Moore’s life in the 1926 History of Contra Costa County with Biographical Sketches, it made sense:

Moore (a fellow native Ohioan, I feel compelled to add) was born in 1889 and relocated to the San Francisco area in 1904, where he graduated from law school in 1916 and was admitted to practice in California in 1917. It’s impressive enough that he found the time to tinker around and invent pencils as a young lawyer, but once he was elected Justice of the Peace for Township 6, Contra Costa County in November, 1922, his political position would have eliminated any chance of further work in the field. By the mid-1920s Moore had become a Judge, a position he apparently held for the remainder of his career.

As for Amadee Jolivet Taussig, the stylist for the pencil, he was a building contractor by trade with offices in St. Louis. He was born in 1881, attended preparatory school at Smith Academy and went on to attend Harvard College from 1898 to 1900, but Taussig left Harvard a year before completing his degree.

Taussig apparently relocated to California for a time – whether the Dollar Point opportunity lured him there or whether he met the other principals while he was living there is unknown – but the experience appears to have permanently soured him on the writing instrument industry, and after he designs the Artpoint and Dollarpoint pencils I haven’t found any other involvement by him in the field. He returned to St. Louis, where life must have been very good to him for the remainder of his life: the Amadee J. Taussig Trust Under Will Number 849,131, a private foundation, is still filing tax returns showing assets remaining in excess of $1 million.

Fred Attula, the plant manager for Dollar Point during the days when the company was turning out 1,000 pencils a day, appears to be is the only character out of the bunch who remained involved in the writing instruments industry after the company failed. His formal name was Ernst F. Attula, and he later went on to receive two patents for fountain pens: number 1,548,502 awarded on August 4, 1925 and 1,607,111 awarded on November 16, 1926. The earlier of the two patents was applied for by Attula in January, 1924, which further supports the notion that Dollar Point was on its way out by then.

What’s fascinating about Attula’s piston-fill design was a filling tube which extended through the feed, eliminating the need to dip the entire point in ink to fill it:

Sound familiar? This 1920s invention later became the basis for the Sheaffer Snorkel, and Attula’s patent is referenced in the Snorkel patents. Unfortunately, as of this writing no examples of Attula’s pen are known to have survived, so for whom these pens were designed or whether they were ever put into production remains a mystery.

Fred might – just might – have another connection to the writing industry. Before I learned any of the things I’ve published this week about the Artpoint and Dollarpoint pencils, I didn’t have much to go on. In The Catalogue, I guessed that Samuel Kanner, the man behind the "Presto" and "Nupoint" pencils, might have had something to do with the production of the Western Pencil Company pencils. Kanner, a native New Yorker, died in Los Angeles in 1965, and the clips on these Westerns are very similar to what you might find on an early Presto flattop.

Since then, I’ve learned that Kanner was a producer and probably not a manufacturer, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Kanner acquired parts from jobbers who might have supplied other companies, such as Western.  Still, Kanner was in the area, and by 1940 Kanner’s pencils were made by the "Gilfred Corporation" . . . if only I could pin down who "Gil" might be, that might tell me if "Fred" might have been the name of one of Kanner’s buddies from Los Angeles . . .

Nope. Not enough information there. Yet. Someday, I hope to come back to add some more to Fred Attula’s story.

Most interesting of all is the mysterious Jesse E. Roach. There may have been more than one Jesse E. Roach, but I’ll string together the clues I’ve found. If all these bits are about this same guy, Roach had one helluva life.

According to the Texas State Bar, Jesse E. Roach was admitted to practice law in Texas on August 9, 1932. He later was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1935:

After just one term, Roach returned to private practice in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In 1947, on a whim, Roach decided to retire from the practice of law and enter the restaurant business, opening Cattlemen’s Fort Worth Steak House. The restaurant, which he ran until his death in 1988, is a Forth Worth landmark which still remains in operation today.

There’s also a book written by one Jesse E. Roach, published in 1979, titled "Things women hate most in men." If I ever find a copy, I’ll have to see if there’s a chapter in there titled, "Men do goofy things like going into the mechanical pencil business."

1 comment:

Martha said...

Fascinating series! Thank you.