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When this Mabie Todd showed up in an online auction, if the seller hadn’t offered a detailed description of the imprint I wouldn’t have given it a second thought:
He indicated that the patent date on it was March 16, 1875 . . . not the usual date of October 3, 1854 you’ll find so often on Mabie Todds.
Unfortunately, when I bid on this one, I had forgotten that I had two examples along these lines from the collection of David Moak, author of Mabie in America. I really, really REALLY need to get that collection photographed and cataloged. Fortunately, though, this one is a little different: it’s a little shorter, and the trim is yellow gold, rather than the rose gold found on the other two examples:
One of the ones from the Moak collection has a simple “Mabie Todd & Co. No. 4" imprint, but the other has the March 16, 1875 in addition:
But wait a minute . . . the “No. 4" part of an imprint would typically denote a nib size, and these look just like conventional magic pencils . . . time to look up that patent.
George W. Mabie applied for patent number 160,924 on February 19, 1875, less than a month before it was issued. I don’t think it was just a slow day at the patent office – I think this is just that cool, and the drawings don’t really do it justice. I breezed right past this one when I wrote my first patent book (it is included, by the way), because it just wasn’t practical to read the text of each patent – “pen and pencil case” was a sufficient description for my purposes at the time. But now that this one had my full attention, what the drawings purport to show is made more clear:
The patent is for a reversible “detachable pen-holding sleeve” which fits over the front end of the pencil. Come to think of it, the only thing unusual about these is that unusually thick nose. . .
Well isn’t that slick! Shame on me. I’ve had David Moak’s examples for what - four years now? This feature is explained in his book, and I’ve never pulled one of these apart to see what’s inside.