Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Cans of Worms

Note: this is the third installment in a series of articles.  To start from the beginning, see

One of the distinctive features common to these metal Rex pencils, be they Rexholds, E-Z Rites or Criterions, is the clip mounting.  They pierce through the barrel on either side at the tang:

This entire family of pencils was introduced in the early 1920s, just as market tastes were beginning to move away from metal pencils and towards larger pencils in flashy colored plastics.  It’s not surprising that the E-Z Rite can also be found in oversized plastic models:

Until I found the brown one with an E-Z Rite clip, I wasn’t so sure that the yellow one was another example of the brand – it’s marked only on that ringtop cap, and it’s a little unusual to see both a ringtop and a sideclip.

McNary’s patented innards have been abandoned for this series.  These are what I refer to as “Welsh style” pencils, with that large conical, press-fit screw drive mechanism most commonly associated with pencils along these lines made by the Welsh Manufacturing Company (which, like Rex, was located in Providence, Rhode Island).  However, a close examination of the clip mounting reveals that the side mounted clip design has been carried forward from the E-Z Rite’s all-metal ancestors in the most elegant way: the easiest way to adapt a metal pencil clip to a plastic pencil is to simply make a shorter metal barrel portion to which it is attached.

Pause here for a second and consider the following: if these plastic E-Z Rites were made by Rex, does that mean that so many other cheaply made pencils with that same clip assembly were also made by the company, such as the “Townsend”:

And this example of the “Ritzie”?

And think about how many other brands also use a similar mounting: Morrison, Marathon, Spors . . . that is the first can of worms this line of research opens.  Did Rex make all of these?  Did the company just supply the distinctive clip assemblies?  Did Welsh either copy or license the design?  Or, was the design widely licensed or copied by other manufacturers?  I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

There’s a second can of worms here.  It involves the Criterion:

The pen and pencil shown in yesterday’s post exhibit the usual plain, side mounted clips.  But Criterion pens are also found with another type of clip, sometimes found on the metal pens and also on large, plastic flattop pens like the one Nathaniel Cerf has pictured over at (yes, this one is for sale!):

I’m sure there’s matching pencils are out there, but I haven’t found one . . . yet.  Note that these clips, like the E-Z Rite, mount on the sides, but these have a “belt” that wraps around the clip.  Was this a logical next step in the evolution of the Rexhold clip, a more well-suited application of the same idea for use with all-plastic barrels, without the need for the supporting metal band?

And if it was, what does it say about these?

From left, these are marked “Ever Last”:



and “Thompson”:

All the pencils with this clip that I’ve found so far have all been mechanically identical, and they all have a very Rexy look, although the tips are a bit longer and they don’t come apart like a Rex pencil.  Rifling through my own patent book in the “clips” section, I’m not finding either the E-Z Rite or Criterion clips, leaving open the possibility that an unpatented innovation could have been made by anyone.

Yet there is a consistency here that’s got me pausing for thought.

Note:  The story continues at

No comments: