Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Company I Misjudged

I don’t have any regrets about The Catalogue of American Mechanical Pencils. Of course I’ve learned a lot since the books was published that I wish was in there. Of course some of the things I thought at the time I wrote it have since proven not to be true. However, it was everything I knew in 2011.

One thing I thought I knew was that the Kemper Thomas Company of Cincinnati produced the Selfeed line of metal pencils. I had good reason to think that: the example I had with box and papers sure looked as if that was the case:

I did hedge my bet a little on this one – although I listed the Selfeed under Kemper Thomas at page 92, I indicated that "Kemper Thomas seems an unlikely source for an original pencil design." Why? Because Kemper Thomas was in the calendar and advertising business, not the pencil business.

With help from half a dozen or so people, I finally did learn that the "Selfeed Pencil Company" was a separate concern established to make pencils for the Wall-Stieh Company, and that Kemper Thomas had specially packaged pencils supplied to it for resale (the article was posted here a couple years ago at

Even though the Selfeed wasn’t a Kemper Thomas original, it does distinguish the calendar company as one of the earliest of the general advertising companies to offer pencils under its own name.

Later Kemper Thomas pencils resemble contemporaneous Ritepoints, with their bullet shaped caps:

In this next grouping, the top example has the same ball clip, but note that the top has more of a Quickpoint look to it . . . and the other two are clearly Quickpoint productions, with that distinctive spoon clip. Note that two of these are sales samples for Kemper Thomas:

In fact, the only difference between a Quickpoint clip and the ones found on a Kemper Thomas is the tiny lettering, tough to see with the naked eye (particularly when these have the typical corrosion that plagues both models):

That goofy top shown in the preceding picture is from one of three of these really bizarre Kemper Thomas examples:

The perpetual calendar is a nice touch, isn’t it? And then there are some metal-cap examples, which are clearly made by Ritepoint. I can’t find my Ritepoint-marked example for comparison, but I did picture identical Shaw-Barton marked pencils like these in "Shaw Barton Gets its Due" (

In this last pair, the blue ringtop is tough to pinpoint without a clip, but it most closely resembles the earlier Ritepoints with ball clips:

The upper example, however, has all the hallmarks of a Lipic: a low joint between upper and lower sections, wide band, long tip and Lipic-style clip. The more I examine different advertising pencils, the more I think Ritepoint, once the offspring of Lipic, was later reabsorbed.

Most of these the examples shown in today’s article are salesman’s samples, all of which came from one junk box at an antique show a couple years ago. Unfortunately, they didn’t come in the original case, but fortunately I’ve got another one of those Ritepoint sample cases in which they fit perfectly:

And by perfectly, I mean . . .


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