Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Not Just To Show Off

I was pretty excited to find one of these a couple months ago:

Yet when I shared the news that I’d picked this up in an online auction with one of my collecting buddies, he didn’t share my enthusiasm. "You just want to show off that you have one, too," he said.

It’s true that I’ve written about John Wahl’s "120" repeating pencils here before (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2012/08/unique.html ), and that the boxed example I’d shown in that article wasn’t mine. It’s also true that I would have liked to have owned it, and that the only reason I didn’t buy it was the price he was asking.

But there wasn’t anything particularly newsworthy about finding this – after all, the only thing I was really buying was the box. The pencil, when I received it, proved almost identical to all the others examples I’ve seen.

But I do have two good reasons to circle back around to the John C. Wahl today. First, note that I said it’s "almost identical." The top "jewel" in all the other ones I’ve seen have been a caramel-colored celluloid, but the top button on this one is red – much more than I think could be attributed to celluloid degradation:

So for anyone out there that has a John C. Wahl, I’d like to hear what color the top button is to see whether there are other variations.

The second reason is because I’ve got a little more information to share with you about John C. Wahl. Wahl, the founder of the Wahl Adding Machine Company and the man who impressed Charles Keeran so much that Keeran allowed him to start making the Ever Sharp for him, became one of the most influential figures in mechanical pencil history by virtue of that chance meeting. Yet, for all of his influence, I’ve always thought it odd that we don’t have any idea what the man looked like.

That changed when a friend tipped me off that a 1924 press photograph of John C. Wahl had just turned up in an online auction. Quicker than a jackrabbit on a date I bought it so that I could share it with you:

1 comment:

Syd Saperstein said...

I was gonna post a picture of John Conradus Wahl from the 1910s, but I don't think this blog permits that. I have a caricature of him from a testimonial event when he was a part of a Chicago business leaders too. Of course he left the WAHL company in the '20's and he himself used the word "putter" in a court transcript of proceeding brought against him to fund his alimony payments that were a bout 5 years or so in arrears at the time. When the judge asked him how he managed to live his lifestyle while pleading poverty where the alimony payments were concerned he said "I putter about".

Interesting to me is that as far as I can tell, he was never the president of his own company. What was his title at Shur Rite He was always listed as VP and Chief Engineer at Wahl

Theres a lot more to that part of his life story of course.