Friday, January 2, 2015

One Heckuva Clip

Usually when you see these, they are found in black plastic. I’m glad one finally turned up with a little more pizzazz:

It’s one in the endless parade of those cheaply made middle-joint, nose drive pencils, but I’ve always liked that clip. Until recently, I had always read the clip to say "Waterbury Pen Company," and all of my leads were pointing to a ballpoint pen manufacturer trading in Waterbury, Connecticut around the 1950s – and no indication that concern ever made pencils or used a clip like this.

This time, however, I looked just a bit closer at this clip, and I noticed something else:

Up in the "ears" of that clip are the letters "L" and "T." Are these random or part of the name, I wondered – so I changed my search slightly to "L.T. Waterbury Pen" and hit paydirt:

The Brookfield (N.Y.) Courier ran this advertisement for the L.T. Waterbury Pen Company of Chicago exactly three years before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, for blowout pricing on "Factory Surplus" L.T. Waterbury pens and pencils. Note that according to the ad, the set comes with a package of 18 "Genuine Ti-Con-Der-Oga Leads," but I don’t think that’s enough to suggest Dixon had much of anything to do with this. By the way, Dixon did use the hyphens in its trade name for mechanical pencil leads..

The timing of this clearance sale advertisement at the end of 1938 says a lot about L.T. Waterbury’s short life. The company’s incorporation was reported earlier that same year in The Economist.  Excuse the blurry snippet view; fortunately, Google provided the text in the search results:

The incorporators, Julius A. Siegel, T. Siegel and F.L. Grielsheim, set up shop at 7819 Exchange Drive, Chicago, right next door to the address of 7917 Exchange Drive in the advertisement. The building is still standing, in an interesting neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago (there’s quite a bit of activity going on at the convenient store across the street on Google maps).

The advertisement and notice of incorporation are the only two things I found concerning the company, and by 1941 it appears to have vanished, with the space it previously occupied having been converted to one of Chicago’s larger draft board offices.

The looks of this one and the Chicago connection are suggestive that this might be one of the Starr Pen Company’s shell operations, but it looks like L.T. Waterbury was gone before Starr’s monkey business began. Besides, I’m not able to connect any of the names associated with L.T. Waterbury to Starr.

For that matter, I’m not sure where the name "L.T. Waterbury" comes from – the only person I’m finding by that name is an author who in 1907 wrote a short book titled, "Reminiscences of an Invalid." There’s no indication that Waterbury’s book remained in print by 1938, so it’s not like the guy was a rock star after whom you’d name a pen company.

If you need a rock star.

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