Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The 2014 "Leadies"

It’s been a really strange year here at Leadhead’s – a short year as far as blog posts go, with an extended break for the first three quarters of it while I wrote and published two volumes of the patent book project. Great stuff was finding me even during the hiatus and there are a lot of things I know now that I didn’t know a year ago. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top ten discoveries from 2014:

Six of the top ten fit nicely into this picture.. From the top:

1. This "Standard" repeating pencil was featured here earlier this week ( It ties together nicely several of the Samuel Kanner brands, including the Presto, the Hi-Speed and the Repeeto, and also suggests that there was a connection with Eclipse.

2. This tree-trunk figural leadholder, made by Aikin Lambert & Co., made the cover of Pennant magazine for the fall 2014 issue. Tom Heath commented when he sold it to me that it should be in the top five pieces in any pencil collection, and I have to agree. I haven’t posted a blog article about it at Leadhead’s yet, because I’m still thinking about a short story about it for the Pennant.

3. This Eversharp with a tree-trunk cap was featured here at the blog almost two years ago ( At the time the article ran, it was owned by Ellen Haupt. In January of this year I asked Ellen to bring it to the Philadelphia Show for some more detailed photographs – but this time, she was ready to part with it. Although the story behind the pencil wasn’t from 2014, adding it to my collection this year was a big deal to me.

4. The word "prototype" gets thrown around a lot in our hobby, but this pair of Parker Vacumatics truly set the standard. These have everything: collector cache for the brand and the model, together with all the undeniable indicia of works in progress straight from Parker’s R&D department. They came from Steve Mandell at the Chicago Show, and the full article was posted in September (

5. This is the pencil I bought from Keith Prosser that added the term "sin pencil" to my vocabulary. It has a compass, a stanhope, a set of dice, a cigar cutter a put/take game spinner and a reversible pencil/dip pen, and the moment I first saw it, I knew it would make for a great article. It did. The post ( became one of the ten most popular articles out of all the ones I’ve posted here — within 48 hours.

6. The "Adding Pencil Company" pencil surfaced in an online auction recently ( In addition to its inherent coolness, the pencil led me to a whole category of patents in which similar pencils are found, and which I still haven’t fully explored.

And there were four others:

7. The Sheaffer golf pencil in ebonized pearl is a grail find for a pencil collector, one which Joe Nemecek and I always joked would be the only pencil over which we would go to war. Fortunately, by the time Pat Mohan found one for me, Joe already had one. (The full article can be found at

8. Carol Strain’s Webster pen and pencil set, which she showed to me at the Ohio Show in November, was accompanied by this set of instructions (the article I wrote about this can be found at I’ve long championed the Rex Manufacturing Company’s contributions, and this tangible proof that the company actually made these sets as opposed to licensing out their patents was something I’d been hunting for years.

9. The connection of the "sigma" or "lazy W" mark to J.R. Wood & Sons arrived on my doorstep completely by chance, and the find was so important to me that it was the first article I posted after my break ( Even though the person who posted the company’s 1923 catalog online permitted me to use the images in my article, when another copy of the catalog surfaced online I had to add it to my collection.

10. I haven’t posted about this last find yet, and I’m long overdue to do so. Half a dozen readers sent me emails to let me know this collection of Ruxton Multi-Vider pencils, advertising, and yes – prototypes – had surfaced in an online auction, all in one lot. The final price was significant, but it was more than worth it: Ruxtons are very rare, usually commanding more than $100 each when they surface. The original prototypes? Priceless. If I make a New Years’ resolution, it will be to get these properly photographed and documented so that I can share them with you.

Just imagine what I don’t know now that I’ll learn in 2015 . . . Happy New Year and happy hunting from Leadhead’s!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Which Part To Use?

Oversized Autopoint pencils are a lot of fun to collect. There were a wide variety of clips, caps and configurations, and the company would let you special order any combination of features you wanted – ordering from Autopoint must have been like picking a slushee flavor at Sonic.

Here are examples of some common configurations:

Starting from the top, there’s a late 1920s example with the swirled Bakelite barrel and green gold trim that makes these very desirable to collectors. Next is a transitional example featuring the bakelite nose section to come as well as the earlier bell top and bolted clip. In the middle is an example of an Autopoint advertising utility pencil – note the slightly different clip and the Autopoint name on the top ferrule (yes, the ferrule is cracked; nearly all of these are). The bottom two examples are some typical Autopoints with straight, streamlined clips, a faceted top trim ring and a cap with triangular facets. The yellow color is pretty unusual, as is the orange color on the "executive" trimmed model at the bottom.

This article is about parts of all of these. Here’s a group of Autopoints that don’t quite fit the mold:

Don’t let the numbers fool you – these are much harder to find than any of the ones you’ll find in the first picture (especially that slim model at the top, which is the only example I’ve seen). Note how these share elements with each of the more common configurations; my favorite of these is that swirled green bakelite on the example second from the bottom.

The clips on all these are generally along the lines of the earlier pencils, but note that a couple of the chrome-plated ones have the Autopoint script logo on them:

What’s striking about these is that even though the barrels on these are faceted, the upper trim rings are not. The chrome-plated ones look like this:

And the examples with the nicer trim add the words "Gold Filled":

Here’s the kicker — matching that round trim ring on all but one of these is a rounded cap, with a little hump on the top like what you’d find on a Realpoint or some Realites. That bottom one, however, has a triangular faceted cap like you’d find on the more common straight clip versions, like the yellow and orange ones in that first picture.

Is that the right cap, or did someone stick a later cap on this one? Who knows . . . the color is a perfect match for the barrel, and since the trim rings are interchangeable there’s no sense in taking a firm position either way — unless you were there on Autopoint’s shop floor throughout the late 1930s and can assure me one was never made. Since the caps on all the others are black, I suppose if I were to replace it I’d use a black cap . . . but then again, this is also the only one along these lines that has a matching color nosepiece, as well.

And so the argument goes in my head. So far I’ve not seen fit to change anything.

I don’t feel that I have the luxury of leaving this next one alone, though. This is how it came to me from Michael McNeil of Northwest Pen Works, missing its upper trim band:

My first thought was that it was another example of my other green-swirled transitional model, but with the wrong cap on it. Michael said the pencil was as it came to him, cap and all. No worries, I thought – it’s great for parts, and I’ll find a cap for it at some point.

But then I got to thinking . . . and comparing it with some other examples:

That’s not the same clip. It’s later than the other swirled green example, and it’s the same as what’s on that utility pencil (only gold filled). Maybe, I wondered, it didn’t have a rounded trim band after all – maybe it had the faceted trim band found on the later types, like those yellow and orange ones I showed you earlier. The only problem with that theory was that all the ones I had with faceted bands had straight pressed clips, not bolted clips like the ones on this example, right?

Wrong. This one came in a box of 100 pencils I found in an online auction. It was one out of several in the bunch that I was looking at (stories to come), but it was the weird green granite color that had me interested – it wasn’t until it arrived that I was able to see that it had a different clip. Is it the same as the one on my new green swirled example? No, but it’s really, really close:

With the caps off, you can see that the green granite band is a little narrower than on the round examples. The caps interchange, but you can also see the difference between the top bushing on the green swirled examples as compared with the green granite ones. The more I look at this picture, the more I think that my new green swirl example probably had a round trim band.

However, since I have a faceted band on a broken Autopoint barrel, I decided to attempt a bandectomy:

Damn. Those things are NOT meant to come off, but the exercise taught me a couple things. First, these bands are press fit into place - too risky in my opinion for seventy or eight year old plastics, even with heat. Second, both the faceted and round trim bands were installed over a round shoulder of plastic at the top of the barrel, so either will fit. I didn’t do anything permanent to attach it, but with it temporarily in place –

Is the cap right? I’d say with that later clip, it’s even more likely right than it is on the maroon one I’ve got. Is the ring correct? I don’t think so, and I’ll replace it with a round band when I find a donor.

But does it look good? I think so.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Couple More Tumblers Click into Place

It’s been a little more than a year ( since conclusive proof surfaced that the Nupoint, Hi-Speed and Presto pencils all traced back to 1920s enterpreneur Samuel Kanner:

The plot thickens.

This one has been building for awhile. It started about a year or so ago, when I received an email from someone looking for information about the "Repeeto." When I asked for some pictures and he indicated that he was planning to list it for sale, it didn’t take long for us to come to terms. Here it is, on the top, shown next to a nearly identical Presto with a metal top button (most Prestos have color matched buttons):

That Presto I ran across recently, with a metal cap instead of a matching colored plastic one. The Repeeto is almost exactly a Presto, except rather than a button that fits inside the top assembly, this one had a much larger cap that slides up and down the outside of the top. It’s marked simply "Repeeto / Pat. 7/26."

And then within the last month or so, this one surfaced in an online auction:

Let’s start with the color. That color! The celluloid matches what you might find on an Eagle Magnum Pointer of the mid-1920s and . . . well, that’s about the only other place I’ve seen it. Then, there’s the mechanism – a repeater, just like the Presto and the Repeeto, with a giant cap just like the Repeeto. The only markings on this are "Standard" on the clip:

And "Standard / Pat. Pend." on the cap:

That "Standard" clip? Yeah, we’ve seen it before:

An identical "Standard" clip, the same tip, and same repeater mechanism appear on the Hi-Speed (this one’s missing the cap, but it had a button that fit down inside the top rather than over it). The "Standard" and "Hi-Speed" pencils have something else in common:

"Hi-Speed / Pat. Pend." Both these pencils predate the Repeeto and Presto lines.

We could stop here. I’m not going to.

A couple of years ago I wrote about an interesting Eclipse repeater pencil and concluded that the Eclipse was probably made pursuant to the same patent as the Kanner patent for the Presto (

I was kind of sure about that . . . the problems I had were that neither the cap nor the tip were right for a Presto. But look how it stacks up compared to the Standard and the Hi-Speed:

Same tips:

Same clip assembly:

And an oversized cap that slides down the outside of the top, just like the Standard and the Repeeto. And, like the Standard and the Hi-Speed:

The "Eclipse Self-Feeding" is also stamped "Pat. Pending."

Now I’m left with one definitive answer and several new questions. The answer, now conclusive, is that the Eclipse Self Feeding repeater pencil is an early version of the Presto, like the Standard and the Hi-Speed.

But the questions? My searches are only turning up my own articles at this point, but there has to be more out there. Were the "Standard" and "Hi-Speed" early trade names used by Samuel Kanner, or were they brand names for pencils Kanner made (or had made) for someone else?

Confirmation that the Eclipse Self-Feeding pencil belongs with these adds a whole other level to this. What was the relationship between Kanner and Eclipse? Both were from New York. Did one copy the other? I doubt it – there’s too much special tooling here for so few surviving examples, so it seems more likely that one supplied the other. Kanner held the patent rights, but did he have the manufacturing capability to make writing instruments?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Where Do These Fit In?

When I saw this one in a junk box a while ago, I had to spend a few dollars on it, even though I already had one at home:

These slim model, twist mechanism Eversharps have a clip that is a lot like what you’d find on a Skyline Press Clip pencil:

But, of course, they didn’t make Skyline press clip pencils that were chrome plated. These were an interesting diversion from the regular line of Eversharps during the time. The twist mechanism, the thin profile, the styling. . . everything about these is different from anything else the company produced. To my knowledge, about the only time these were advertised was for Christmas, 1948:

The end of 1948 was a strange time at Eversharp. The ballpoint fiasco and subsequent price wars had driven the company to the point of bankruptcy, and the company’s introduction of the flagship Symphony line was a giant leap backwards in technology. Our pencil is shown at the bottom left simply as a "propel repel pencil" for a buck, alongside the weird "Wahl Ball" ballpoint and the Lovejoy patent version of the press-clip Skyline pencil. The "Envoy" pencil shown at lower right is the Lovejoy patent pencil in all-metal.

What is oddest of all is that with all the new machining that would have been required to start production of such a radically different design, you’d think you would see a lot more of these around . . . or that someone else might have made them for Eversharp.

Thoughts for another day, when more and better proof of the thought comes to light. For the time being, when I spotted a second example of Eversharp’s slim twist pencil, I had to bite. And I couldn’t have been happier when I got it home:

These came with both ribbed and smooth lower barrels.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Couple New Details, Anyway

Nardi pencils are an interesting breed. One of the first articles I wrote about the brand here at the blog was about the brand and the later-production Nardi which indicates that the Nardi remained in production for quite a few years, probably as late as the 1940s.

The pencils are an elegant multi-color pencil. To advance one of the colors, the entire upper half is pushed forward and locks into place. That button in between the screws on the clip is the release, which allows the upper barrel to move back; to change colors, rotate the upper barrel and compress – there’s no way to know which color you are going to get, since there’s no indicator.

Romolo Nardi of Camden, New Jersey patented three different versions. The first, applied for on June 6, 1923, was issued on July 29, 1924 as patent number 1,503,244:

The second, applied for on December 9, 1924, was issued on March 16, 1926 as patent number 1,576,988:

The third and final Nardi patent, applied for on February 11, 1926, was issued on July 20, 1926 as number 1,593,347.

So far, this appears to have been the only one of Nardi’s invention that actually made it into production – although the cumulative nature of the three versions means that each of the first two live on somewhat in the third. All I’ve found in the three years since I last visited the Nardi have been variations on this same thing – a different color here, a different top material there – so I haven’t had anything else to add.

Except for the following, courtesy of Michael Quitt:

The official name for these pencils was the "Tri-Kolor," at least at some point during their production. There’s a 1929 date stamped on the bottom of the box, but that could mean anything. At best, it might have been the date the pencil was shipped by Nardi or received by the customer. . . although that date seems about right, I’m not giving it much weight because it could just as easily have been someone playing around with a rubber stamp years after the fact.

In addition, Michael’s example provided something else:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Of Course

I suppose I could shine this one up a bit so that you can see just how clean it is:

But that tarnish is a badge of honor, showing just how little this pencil has been used over the course of nearly a century. The clip is a dead giveaway as to who made this one:

This is a DeWitt-LaFrance pencil, which always gets me going – these guys seemed to have their hands in just about everything. The faint "Patd" imprint on the tang of the clip, an indication that the pencil was made after 1920:

Patent number 1,350,412 was issued to David A. LaFrance and William P. DeWitt on August 24, 1920. The pencil barrel itself will also be marked either "Pat. Pend." or "Pat." depending on when it was made – LaFrance and DeWitt received two patents for the pencil itself, both applied for on October 2, 1919. Number 1,423,603 was issued on July 25, 1922:

And number 1,434,684 was issued on November 7, 1922:

This example is stamped "Pat" on the barrel as well as the clip, indicating it was manufactured after July, 1922. It also indicates something else:

"Welty’s / Chicago / 1/20 Gold Filled Pat." I’ve only run across one other pencil with a Welty’s stamp on it (; that other example was also made during William A. Welty’s second foray into the industry, which began when he established William A. Welty & Co. in Chicago around 1920.

Welty’s started his first company, William A. Welty Company, around 1905. His fountain pens were advertised in the September, 1907 edition of Typewriter Topics:

As was typical at the time, those who advertised were also permitted to place laudatory articles in the publication. This one boasted on page 28 that Welty made the only fountain pen west of the Mississippi:

By 1910, Welty had a national presence and was trading under "Welty Pen Specialty Company."

The company wasn’t formally incorporated until 1913 in Waterloo, Iowa: the incorporation of the company was announced in Geyer’s Stationer in July of that year:

Just two years later, Welty left the company, which was renamed the Evans Dollar Pen Company. Now here’s what’s really interesting. Michael Fultz reported the establishment of a new company, William A. Welty & Company, in Chicago around 1920. There isn’t nearly as much known about Welty’s second foray into the industry, but this pencil, made by DeWitt-LaFrance and dating to after 1922, neatly ties a few clues together.

According to the 1926 McGraw-Hill Radio Trade Catalog, Welty was by that time involved in a second line of business: it lists William A. Welty & Co. at 36 South State Street in Chicago.

Of course DeWitt-LaFrance made this pencil. After Carter’s Ink Company took over DeWitt-LaFrance’s operations in the mid-1920s, DeWitt LaFrance got into the radio business (using the tradename "Superadio," reminiscent of the company’s line of pens and pencils called the "Superite"). And guess who was the Chicago representative for DeWitt-LaFrance, the radio company: