Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nailed It . . . Pretty Much

This article has been edited and included in The Leadhead's Pencil Blog Volume 3; copies are available print on demand through Amazon here, and I offer an ebook version in pdf format at the Legendary Lead Company here.

If you don't want the book but you enjoy this article, please consider supporting the Blog project here.

Almost two years ago, I posted an article here (“Establishing a Connection” on August 19, 2013, 
http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/08/establishing-connection.html) in which I was looking at the early metal Eclipse “Never Dull” pencils, comparing them to a pencil marked “Rexhold” and other similar pencils, many of which bore a patent date of February 19, 1924.  That date was for Lawrence McNary’s patent, the first of a series of patents assigned to the Rex Manufacturing Company.   I theorized, based on many similarities between them, that Rex made Eclipse’s early metal pencils.

If only, I said at the time, I could conclusively establish that “Rexhold” referred to the Rex Manufacturing Comapny.  That “if only” was resolved when I stumbled across a notation in a 1922 trademark directory establishing without a doubt that in fact was true (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-definitive-answer-and-more-distinct.html, posted on May 11, 2015).

There was one last “if only”in that 2013 post: a metal pencil marked “E-Z Rite.” That pencil bore several fingerprints consistent with this theory – three out of four similarities, in fact: the clips, keyed caps, crimped tops were identical.  The only difference was a slight variation in the barrel pattern, slight enough to cause me to pull back a bit.  Wouldn’t it be nice to establish without question that the E-Z Rite was made by Rex and eliminate any lingering doubts?

Earlier this month, Daniel Kirchheimer tipped me off that this set was listed in an online auction:

The set is fairly nondescript, and it wasn’t even listed as an E-Z Rite set.  But look at what came with it!

There it is . . . the last nail in the coffin.  The E-Z Rite was made by the Rex Manufacturing Company.  Rexhold was a Rex trademark.  The Eclipse “Never Dull” is practically identical to both.  There’s no question.  Rex made Eclipse’s first pencils.

But wait . . . there’s more.  Here’s a closer look at the set:

I was hoping, given that the certificate indicates that the company made pens marked “Rex,” that the pen would bear that name somewhere, but no – the only marking is “14k Gold Filled” on the barrel:

The instructions for the pen are no more helpful:

In fact, the pencil instructions are similarly generic:

But the pencil yielded a surprise:

It isn’t an E-Z Rite.  It’s an “S&K.”  Now I was thoroughly stumped, and I started pouring through everything I could find in the hopes that I could turn up known pen companies starting with S and K . . . the closest I could find were Settles and Kritikson, both of whom were associated with the Security check protector pens, but all the evidence I could find indicated that it was first Settles and then Kritikson – no indication that the two were ever operating together in partnership.  Yet I found one curious tie between them: Settles produced the “Supremacy” line of writing instruments, and pencils I have marked Supremacy were made by Rex.  Maybe?

As of now, that remains a wild theory.  As Daniel Kirchheimer and I batted this around, he thought a more likely possibility was Skinner & Kennedy, a stationer’s house in St. Louis, Missouri which was operating during the 1920s.  I have to agree that a Skinner & Kennedy house brand seems more likely, but neither of us has found anything concrete to indicate they offered a house brand of writing instruments.

And what of the E-Z Rite paperwork that came with this set?  Even though it conclusively solves the Eclipse/Rexhold/E-Z Rite question, it’s a little anti-climactic that the pencil isn’t an E-Z Rite and the pen isn’t marked Rex.  Even so, I’m convinced that this paperwork is what came with this set from the Rex factory . . . although it was a factory goof.

How do I know this?  I’ll show you tomorrow.

Note:  this story continues at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/07/how-i-know.html.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Easy as 1-2-3? I don't think so.

This article has been edited and included in The Leadhead's Pencil Blog Volume 3; copies are available print on demand through Amazon here, and I offer an ebook version in pdf format at the Legendary Lead Company here.

If you don't want the book but you enjoy this article, please consider supporting the Blog project here.

Jon Rosenbaum passed away recently.  Many will remember his friendly, smiling face and unassuming demeanor, as he sat at his table behind a sign that said in bold letters simply, “I Buy Old Pens.”  Funny how a sign like that sticks in your mind amongst a sea of enthusiasts at a pen show, 100 percent of whom . . . buy old pens.    Most important, what I will remember about Jon is that he was a heluva nice guy.  Second, I’ll now remember him for something I didn’t know about him while he was alive.

Jon was a pencil collector.

I had admired pencils on Jon’s table before at shows and bought a few of them, but I did not know they were a passion for him until I was contacted by one of his friends, who Jon’s family asked to help liquidate his collection (name withheld until I get an OK to include it here).   Would I be interested?  Of course I would.  And along came four pictures of cases of pencils, each of which had monstrously nice things.  The problem was that I had many of them.

But there was one pencil in there . . . one that I honed in on immediately, fuzzy picture notwithstanding.  When I called him back, I told him if I only bought one of Jon’s pencils, it would be that one.  We agreed to get together at this year’s Chicago Show, and of course, I bought more than just that one – more on the other ones later.  Today I’ll tell you about the one:

Single-banded Sheaffer Balance pencils are the norm.  Double-banded examples, like the ones I’ve shown here, are an occasion for whoopin and hollerin.  These ultra-rare triple banded examples?  I’ve only seen one other pencil, in ebonized pearl.  That makes these about the most rare of the Sheaffer pencils – even more rare than the ebonized pearl golf pencil (I know where four of those are).

And yet, when I showed it proudly to a friend right after I acquired it, he wondered why Sheaffer made a one-piece band with black painted rings, just like so many of the lower-quality pencils that flooded the market during the 1940s and later.  Once piece?  No, it’s three, I said, and we went back and forth over the issue, looking as closely as we could in a dark ballroom with a loupe.   Now, under more controlled lighting and with a good lens, it’s clear that we were both right.  Yes, it’s clearly three bands – you can see the bits of red and grey in between them:

And yes, the spaces between them were once painted black.