Monday, March 9, 2015

Playing Close to the Lines

Let’s take a poll. Who do you think made this one?

I’ll bet you a quarter that if you ventured a guess, you said Cross – after all, a distinctive Cross feature were enameled "racing stripes" (as I like to call them), like you see on this little sterling Cross:

Send your quarter to Leadhead central, and hold onto your hats. This one is no Cross, and there’s a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye. First, let’s take a closer look at those racing stripes:

Those aren’t enameled. Those are black hard rubber inlays. See how the engine turning doesn’t quite line up? Hard rubber and metal rings must have been built up over an inner barrel to make this one. Who would have put that sort of effort into making this?

"Webster / Gold Filled / Patented Feb. 19 1924." Thanks to Carol Strain’s Webster set I wrote about last November (, we know that Webster was manufactured by the Rex Manufacturing Company:

You might wonder, then, why this example has none of the "Four Horsemen" patents typically found on Rex pencils:

Simple. This one predates even the earliest of the Four Horsemen, and that patent date, February 19, 1924, refers to Lawrence T. McNary’s nose-drive precursor – patent number 1,484,180, which was also assigned to the Rex Manufacturing Company:

And this little Webster packs one more surprise on board:

An eraser very similar to the earliest of the Sheaffer pencils? Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that Rex made pencils for Sheaffer – by this time, Sheaffer was moving away from this setup, and since the Webster is a nose drive pencil, the eraser retainer doesn’t double as a drive member. It’s just interesting to see a Rex pencil that mimics a Cross on the outside and a Sheaffer on the inside.

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