Thursday, January 1, 2015

Enough with the Musing

A year and a half ago, I posted an article here about the "Modern" (

The pencil itself was conclusively traced back to the Hoge Manufacturing Company by the patent date imprinted on the cap, as well as the cap’s distinctive look which was protected by a separate Hoge design patent. But the use of the name "Modern" had me a little confused and left me wondering whether Hoge might have made pencils for A.A. Waterman & Co., which traded under the name "Modern Pen Company" (emphatically so, after the courts ordered A.A. Waterman to add "not connected with the L.E. Waterman Company" after its name).

The time this would have been made – right around 1920 – was a fascinating time in A.A. Waterman’s history. The company was reorganized as the Chicago Safety Pen Company in 1921, and the companion pencils the new company offered were marketed as the EVRDA (that’s a play on "everyday"):

The name is different, the outward appearance is different (no Hoge design-patented cap here), and thanks to that skeleton view in the catalog, we can compare the guts of an EVRDA to a Modern:

Notice that instead of a coiled wire for the screw drive, the EVRDA has a drive tube which has a spiral cut into it – the little stuff like that is the difference between infringement and innovation. These are two different pencils. Does that rule out the possibility that Hoge also made a different pencil for A.A. Waterman? No, I don’t have any idea who made the EVRDA – in fact, I don’t have any reason to think that the Chicago Safety Pen Company didn’t make their own pencils yet.

But I DO know now that Hoge’s "Modern" had nothing to do with A.A. Waterman. Hoge had been using then name on a variety of office products long before 1920. The earliest reference I found was to their line of telephone notepads, advertised in the The American Stationer in 1911:

Hoge used the "Modern" name for other products as well: here’s an ad from the January 21, 1921 issue of Office Appliances, in which the "Modern" name is also used on the company’s lines of accommodation clips and thumb tacks:

Hoge used the name "Modern" in connection with pencils long before 1920 – this ad, from The American Stationer in January, 1915, shows a "clutch" pencil, which is what we would now call a leadholder (it can only grip or release lead, lacking any means of propelling it).

In late 1917, Hoge refined the design and announced the same in Walden’s Stationer:

These were still being marketed in 1921 as the "No. 302" and "No. 305" clutch pencils (with thick lead) or the "No. 306" for a fine lead with a sharp point.

Paw through your junk box and I’m sure you’ll find a couple of these unmarked pencils – they must have been extremely popular for as many as are out there.

The pencil pictured in this article was called the No. 500. Its introduction was announced in the July 13, 1920 issue of Geyer’s Stationer:

Geyer’s was late to the party. Here it is advertised in System: The Magazine of Business in January, 1920:

By June, Hoge took out a full page advertisement for the new pencil in System:

We are living in a truly amazing time. In the year and a half since I was left to muse about the "Modern," Google has made great strides in scanning some of the less well known stationer periodicals. What was invisible then has become obvious today, and I’m left to wonder if I should go back to the beginning and re-research everything all over again!

No comments: