Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nailed It . . . Pretty Much

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.

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.