Monday, October 10, 2016

Hicks Family Oddities I

A few weeks ago, I posted a few articles on the early history of William S. Hicks.  The later history is murkier: the major contributing cause for this radio silence is our own copyright laws, which severely limit the utility of Internet research tools for documents published after 1922.

While I’d like to publish a definitive part II of Hicks’ history, which would explain the connections between Hicks, Edward Todd, Louis Tamis, Tiffany and all of the other pencils sharing similar characteristic, I just don’t know enough yet.  What I do have, which might help anyone who in the future might assemble such a history (hopefully me), are some interesting examples which provide equally interesting observations.

We’ll start with this one:

This one is “over the top” . . . literally.  Check out the cap:

“Over The Top 1927.”   I think this cap is a custom-ordered piece, probably a sales award for something, but the language is so generic that I’m unable to tell you much of anything more about it.  I bought the piece because I liked the cap and because it has an unusual faceted barrel which you don’t normally see on these (and which gives more credibility to my belief that this cap, was made for this pencil, in 1927 . . . a detail which will become important later on).  However, I received a bonus when this one arrived:

It is unusual to find a Hicks with the patent number imprinted on the nose; the last one I found like this was marked with both the Hicks hallmark and Cartier, which, along with some other evidence, led me to believe that W.S. Hicks might have been responsible for all of these different brands (see    Patent number 1,259,738 was issued to William S. Hicks, who applied for it on August 23, 1917 and received it on  March 19, 1918. It was assigned to Edward D. Hicks (Trading as William S. Hicks’ sons) of New York:

What this piece tells us is that Hicks was marking pencils with its patent number, even when making pencils on its own account, nearly a decade after the patent was issued.  I think it is a reasonable assumption, now that I’ve found both Cartier and Hicks-only marked examples with the patent date stamped, that the patent date was put on all these pencils as a matter of course during the time the patent was active, and that it remained active (as in, it was not invalidated) at least as late as 1927.

Given the very slim majority of surviving pencils which bear this stamp, I am assuming at this point that production for at least the first decade or so was limited.  However, once these took off, they remained in production essentially unchanged for decades – I wrote about one example with a 1947 commemorative engraving at  Georg Jensen and Black, Starr & Gorham (B.S.&G.) examples have also turned up, dating these to as late as 1950.

But what of the stockbroker version of these pencils?   Were they also derived from Hicks’ 1918 patent?  I bought this example from Rick Krantz at the DC show this year, exactly because it proves that very point:

Note that instead of a round ball on that upturned clip, on this example the “ball” is just the metal tip rolled over.  I don’t know whether that means this is earlier, or later, or was just another style clip offered at the same time:

I do note that the imprint lacks the patent number - if my theory is right and the number was imprinted on all pencils covered by the patent at least up through 1927, either this design was distinct enough from the patented version or it was made later.

What I liked about this one the most, believe it or not, was that it’s broken – a real rarity with these:

You can see where the solder bond that held the pencil together has given way, so the barrel slides off to show the interior.  

1 comment:

Martha said...

"Over the top" has the well-known WWI connotation, but 1927 seems out of sync with that.