Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dawn of the Dur-O-Lite?

Here’s one that narrowly escaped a one-way trip into the junk box because of one tiny detail that caught my eye:

Notice that the clip is secured with a bolt, kind of like what you’d see on a 1920s Autopoint or an Eversharp dollar pencil of the same era, but it’s a square-head bolt rather than hexagonal:

I’ve noticed three different clip styles on these early Dur-O-Lites: in addition to the bolted style, there’s one that looks a lot like Wahl’s clip and then an ordinary Z-clip.  All three were used on similar models:

I believe these bolted-on clips were the earliest Dur-O-Lite used; Dur-O-Lite was founded after several of Autopoint’s executives, disgruntled by the Bakelite Corporation’s takeover of a controlling interest in the company, split off to form their own pencil company.  The split happened in 1925, the year Bakelite muscled its way into the picture, so I had always assumed Dur-O-Lite was founded in that year.  Thanks to this Dur-O-Lite “7-11" pencil, though, I now know that the company was founded the following year, in 1926:

This commemorative pencil is dated 1972, “our 46th year”:

Now think a minute about the imprint on this bolted-clip example:

“1927 Compliments . . .”  That’s something you’d hand out before the beginning of 1927 as a New Year’s gift, not something you’d distribute once 1927 was well underway.  Could this be a first year Dur-O-Lite, made during late 1926 in preparation for the coming year?

I think it is.  Compare this one to the other examples with bolted-on clips I’ve managed to turn up:

Note that the tip is shorter than on any of the others, and at the other end there’s something else worthy of our attention:

Every other example of these that I’ve found has threading at the top end of the barrel: this is the only example of a Dur-O-Lite I’ve found on which the top end was secured only by friction (and, since this is the only one missing the top, that explains the addition of threads).

I note there are two styles of imprints found on these.  The first is a logo with flourishes at either end of the word “Dur-O-Lite” – that’s what is found on the lower four examples in that group picture:

The imprints on the remaining two drop the flourishes, but add “Chicago USA” to the end:

I can’t draw any conclusions yet about the imprints.  The flourished imprints do appear on some of the Wahl-style clip examples, particularly on the straight, exposed eraser ferrules . . . but since switching or replacing ferrules is a simple matter of unscrewing one and screwing on another, “junk box provenance” is all we have to go on.  I can tell you that the simpler imprint is what is found on some obviously later models, so I believe that imprint was introduced later . . . perhaps they had a leftover run of a few thousand ferrules with the earlier imprints, which were mixed in with the newer ones during production to use them up.

Obviously, I have no idea what imprint the missing ferrule on my 1926 Dur-O-Lite would have had, but I’ll keep a sharper eye out now for Dur-O-Lites with a friction fit ferrule to be sure!

Note:  an intact example surfaced shortly after this article was written.  The story continues at

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