Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Granddaddy of Bug

I was surfing around an online auction site when I noticed this pair:

The Morton’s Salt accommodation clips are pretty cool, but about half the time you see these advertising clips, it’s going to be a Morton’s Salt clip. And there’s also something about that wood pencil that caught my attention:

"Bilt Well Wood Work." The name "Biltwell" in association with a pencil has me wondering now whether the Biltwell line of pencils weren’t the offshoot of a wood pencil company’s operations . . . that’s a research project for a rainy day, but that wasn’t what caught my attention about this pair, either.

The auction title indicated that the metal pencil shown was a Redipoint, but there was one thing about it that didn’t look quite right:

That top looked almost like what you’d expect to see in a Redipoint, but not quite . . .

That had my "antennae" up . . . I’m particularly in tune with these slight differences on the outside, because of the very different things you might find inside. First, there was the unique lead storage gizmo I nicknamed "the bug" (see

Then as I rousted through my box of Brown & Bigelow pencils, I ran across one that was an early repeating pencil, which I jokingly referred to as "son of bug" (see

As I researched "Son of Bug," I was amazed at how many different versions of the repeating pencil Brown & Bigelow experimented with in the late teens. I was wondered as I looked at the pictures: could this be one of the other ones?

When the pencil arrived, there were a couple clues that would prove helpful. First was the imprint:

"Patent pending." Even more helpful was the personalization engraved on the barrel:

"29th Annual Convention Minnesota Bankers Association / Minneapolis June 27-28, 1918." June of 1918 is significant in the Brown & Bigelow timeline: while B&B was founded in the nineteenh century, the earliest advertisements I’ve found for the company’s pencils were printed in 1920. This is an early Redipoint.

And then I took it apart . . .

That dimple on the barrel engages a slot in the cap, which is held in place by spring tension. The cap is all that retains the cartridge repeater mechanism inside:

Looking back at the patents enumerated in the "Son of Bug" article, none of them fit this pencil – none match the profile, and all are too late to be our pencil (with a patent still pending in June, 1918). To find the right one, I had to go back to the very first patent issued to Howard L. Fischer and Frank J. Kristofek, the duo who went on to co-event dozens of designs for Brown & Bigelow. That first patent, number 1,349,950, was applied for on October 30, 1917 and wasn’t issued until August 17, 1920:

There was one other Fischer/Kristofek patent which was pending in June of 1918: number 1,351,916 was applied for on May 7, 1918. The two are close enough that without tearing that cartridge apart, I can’t be positive that the improvements from this later patent weren’t incorporated into it:

Whether this was the first or the close second of B&B’s, it predates any Redipoint I’ve ever found. In fact, according to my patent book, Brown and Bigelow was only assigned one patent before this one, for a clip:

Huh. Maybe I’ll slip that Morton’s salt clip back on there after all.

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