Friday, October 28, 2016

And What of Mr. Maloney?

There is a problem with something I wrote in the article I posted here on Monday, “Dunn and Done.”  I concluded at the end of the article:

“3.  Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc. buys all of the assets of the discredited Dunn Pen Company.  In order to better capitalize on the market (and differentiate itself from its tarnished predecessor), the new company decides to offer a companion pencil with its pens.  The new company has no means to make one of its own and there is no evidence that it ever tried.

4.  Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc. contracts with the Wall-Stieh company to supply the new company with Selfeed pencils, made with plain caps and stamped with the Dunn name, sometime during 1924 or early 1925.”

This is mostly true.  After the article posted, though, David Nishimura posted a comment on Facebook: “There’s still the question of the assignment of the patents to Dunn, though.”

David’s page,, includes the following:

“Dunn also offered a line of metal injector pencils using the patents of inventor William T. Maloney. The design was advertised as "The Machine Gun of Propelling Pencils", emphasizing that it automatically loaded lead from its internal magazine. The Dunn pencil closely resembles contemporary pencils sold under the Selfeed name, but what connection there may be between the two brands remains to be determined. The Maloney patents are US 1742711 and US 1846604, registered also in Canada (258190), Great Britain (233261), and France (589669), with all three foreign registrations assigned to Dunn Pen and Pencil.”

I’ve known about the Maloney patents for years, but I didn’t know about the foreign registrations to Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc.  Here are the American versions of the two Maloney patents:

Both were applied for on August 5, 1925.  The first, number 1,742,711, wasn’t issued until January 7, 1930 – and was assigned 1/3 to Arthur Winter.   Winter is one of those shadowy characters in pencil history I haven’t yet fully explored: the last time he appeared here (, I noted that I’d found patent number 2,028,855 (a later Arthur Winter patent for a repeating pencil) both on an interesting Hicks repeating pencil:

As well as on a weird later pencil churned out by Conklin during the company’s waning days in Chicago:

Winter received three patents in the early 1920s, two for solid ink fountain pens (one of which, number 1,433,325,  was co-invented with Porter S. Morgan and assigned to “Samuel E. Darby, Jr., Trustee” and the other, number 1,443,515 was unassigned), and number 1,450,398 for a lever filled fountain pen, assigned to Frank H. La Pierre.

Both of the Maloney patents share a common feature not found on Selfeed pencils: a little internal ball bearing, part of what Maloney called a “floating ball clutch” or “lead locking balls,” which would be pressed against the lead and cause it to move it forward when the mechanism is advanced and then leave it in place as the mechanism retracts.

Did Maloney’s weird lead locking balls ever make it into production?  Maybe.  I wrestled apart a Selfeed and a Dunn, and the innards are decidedly different:

That’s the Dunn on the right, and what’s inside that goofy mechanism I don’t know.  What I do know is that without lead in it, I’d expect to hear some unlocked leadlockers rattling around inside, and I don’t.

So, to summarize:

I said that there’s no evidence Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc. came up with its own design for a pencil.  Given the foreign registrations of the Maloney patents and the differences internally between the Selfeed and the Dunn, I think that’s wrong.

I said that Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc. was in no position to manufacture its own new line of mechanical pencils after April, 1924, when it purchased the tarnished assets of the failed Dunn Pen Company.  I think that’s right.

I said Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc. likely acquired its pencils from Wall-Steih (later the Selfeed Pencil Company), makers of the new Selfeed pencils.  Given the external similarities but the internal differences, I think it’s more accurate to say that both were made by the same manufacturer, using the same external chassis but different internal parts; it’s just as likely that Wall-Steih and Dunn Pen and Pencil, Inc. both had their pencils made by a third party.

The minute I make that last statement, a couple of the other clues in this story click into place.  All the Dunn pencils are marked “Pat. Pending,” indicating they were made in a very short run between August 5, 1925, when the patents were applied for, and October, 1926, when they were advertised on clearance in the Philadelphia Inquirer, right across the river from Esterbrook in Camden.  Esterbrook later introduces the PS, nearly identical externally to the Selfeed and the Dunn, and made under the Ingersoll patents on which the Selfeed was based.

I think as of this writing, everything points to Esterbrook manufacturing both the Dunn and the Selfeed.

1 comment:

David Nishimura said...

We'll get this figured out yet!
I've had a Dunn pencil or two apart, and I do seem to recall that they used a locking ball mechanism. If you have a local dentist who will take x-ray photos of pencils for you, that could be very useful.
As for the issue of subcontracting, keep in mind that Dunn pens were made entirely from parts supplied by subcontractors. If they didn't make their own pens, of course they wouldn't have been making the pencils.