Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Set Number 4,555

While I visited David Silber’s table at the Baltimore Show last weekend, I noticed this little set lurking casually at the far end, towards the back:

The box identifies the set as Webster. Neither the pen nor the pencil bears that name, and the nib in the pen is a generic Warranted 14k nib:

Yeah, the hard rubber is pretty badly oxidized on this one. However, I’ll buy that the set is in fact a Webster, due to one clue found on the pencil:

"Patented Feb. 19, 1924." That’s the same McNary patent found on yesterday’s example:

As I mentioned yesterday, later Webster sets with the "Four Horsemen" patent dates on them were proven to have been manufactured by the Rex Manufacturing Company, with some help from Carol Strain. So what about these earlier examples?

You might have noticed some paperwork tucked behind the sash in the box lid:

There it is: "Rex Mfg. Co." at the bottom, and this set even bears a serial number of 4,555. Yes, Virginia, it looks like Rex was making all of these early sets, and in some pretty significant quantities, too!

There was one other piece of paper behind the guarantee certificate, which I’ll post here solely for the purposes of documenting everything:

"Combination Fountain Pen and Automatic Pencil" . . . hmmm. That could mean a pen and pencil set, and the instructions are generic enough to fit the context, but when I think "combo," I think of one writing instrument with a pen at one end and a pencil at the other. Has our usage of this phrase changed over time, or does this suggest that Rex also manufactured combination writing instruments?

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