Friday, July 28, 2017

The Ledpen, the New Trademark Book, and the Patent Book

Here’s a pencil about which I wouldn’t know nearly as much without two of the books I’ve written:

It’s a screw-drive pencil from the early 1920s, with a really neat advertising imprint on the side:

“Beacon Blankets Make Warm Friends,” it says.   The only clues to the story behind the pencil are at the top end.

“LEDPEN” in a script that appears to deliberately copy the spikey, Winchester-inspired script found on the Eversharp, and “Pat. Pend.” on the other side.  Like so many metal pencils from the early 1920s, there’s no way to take it apart to see what’s going on inside . . . and what patent drawings it matches.  The best starting point, then, is to see who filed a trademark for the distinctive “LEDPEN” logo.

The first obstacle is to get past all of the LED advertising pens that flood the internet – that’s LED as in Light Emitting Diode.  Changing the search to “‘LEDPEN’ pencil” helped somewhat, and turned up a couple references, including this one from The Official Gazette on January 31, 1922, indicating that an application to trademark this logo was filed December 7, 1921 by the Mays Manufacturing Company, claiming a date of first use of September 30, 1921:

There’s only one problem.  Even though both The American Stationer and the Jewelers’ Circular both reported the filing of the application, neither provided any more information than what you see here, and the number 156,397 is a serial number, assigned to the Mays application when it was filed – for more information, you’ll need the registration number to find the registration certificate.

And how do you do that?

You don’t.  There’s no master index to associate the registration number with a serial number.

However, American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953 includes this mark, and the companion DVD includes the full registration certificate:

Trademark registration number 155,015 was filed on May 16, 1922.  The Mays Manufacturing Company, Inc. was located at 32 Clifford Street, Providence, Rhode Island, and the registration was signed by William C.S. Mays, the company’s treasurer.

It was the only trademark filed by Mays Manufacturing; however, his son, William Clarke S. Mays, Jr. registered two on behalf of Mays Associates a couple decades later: one for “The Headliner” and one for the “Top-O-Matic,” the latter of which I’ve written about here before (see and

Now to come back to that “Pat. Pend.” imprint on the back of the pencil, and for that I picked up another book in my arsenal, American Writing Instrument Patents Vol. 2: 1911-1945.  In the subject matter index portion of the book, there are nine pages of patents issued for screw-drive mechanical pencils, making a search for this pencil a needle in a haystack (especially so without disassembling and possibly destroying this example).

However, in the “patents by assignee” section, only one was assigned to the Mays Manufacturing Company:

The inventor of the pencil shown in Patent Number 1,527,368 was none other than William C. S. Mays, who applied for on November 13, 1920 and wasn’t issued until February 24, 1925.  At the time Mays claimed to begin using the “Ledpen” trademark in late 1921, the patent was, just as the imprint on the pencil states: “Pat. Pend.”  

(Note: both books will be on hand at the DC show next week, or they can be ordered online at

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