Thursday, August 31, 2017

Everybody and their Brother

Seems like just about everybody made pen/pencil combos that look like this one:

I’ve shown you ones like this made by Mabie Todd.  Albert Bagley and Hicks also made them, although the Bagley version usually has an elaborate finial at the top.  This one, however, is marked Rauch:

The nib is a “Ruby Point.”  

And here’s another one of these, along the same lines:

The nib this one had was an embarrassing steel nib . . . we’ll just skip that part and get to the second tanagiental relationship to Mabie Todd.  The imprint indicates Kurtz & Monaghan, in addition to the 10 karat gold content:

Kurtz & Monaghan was succeeded by Edward Todd & Co. in 1871 after Todd parted ways with John Mabie.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Blue-Legged Devil?

Before celluloid became the material of choice in the mid-1920s, if a pencil wasn’t all metal, it would generally have been sheathed in hard rubber, formulated using either Goodyear’s patent of May 6, 1851 or for a brief time, Austin G. Day’s patent of August 10, 1858 (see  Nearly always, Nineteenth-century pencils in hard rubber were black; much less common and more desirable among collectors today is red hard rubber.  “Mottled” (a mix of red and black, which had a woodgrain or swirled look) wouldn’t come until towards the end of the Nineteenth century.

What I had never seen before the Raliegh Pen Show was this:

Paul Erano had a little pile of Victorian parts, of which this blue hard rubber pencil was the star of the show.  It was missing a nozzle and is still missing the front retainer, but . . . blue?  The only other manufacturer I can think of offhand which ventured outside red, black or mottled was Eclipse, which turned out navy blue and grey hard rubber pencils . . . but not for another half a century, in the 1920s!

The all-metal pencil at the top is marked with the WL hallmark, signifying that it was made by William Ludden, the “red legged devil” of Civil War fame (see

The blue hard rubber example, though, is marked Ludden & Taylor:

Although the Luddens had a long career, their association with Taylor was extremely short-lived; in fact, the only reference I could find to the partnership was a notice of dissolution filed in 1879, when Ludden appeared to trade on his own up through 1878 (see  That dates this pencil with some precision to late 1878 or early 1879.

A blue hard rubber pencil would have stood out as much in a jeweler’s cabinet in 1878-1879 as it did on Paul’s table nearly a century and a half later.  What amazes me is that if the color was produced at all, why it wasn’t produced in greater numbers?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Few Hickses

I’ve finally gotten around to photographing and putting away a few pencils made by W.S. Hicks. For starters, there’s these three:

These are marked only with a patent date of March 21, 1871, the larger two on the extender:

and the smaller one, in tiny lettering around the nose cone:

American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910 makes short work of finding this patent.  The date refers to patent number 112,917, issued to William S. Hicks:

These four were marked with the Hicks name:

I don’t remember where the top or bottom examples came from, but the middle two came from a collection I purchased from Alan Hirsch.  He has a good eye for nice metal wrok:

Last is this one, which came from someone who approached me online with her father’s collection:

This one is marked “Hicks Pat. Dec. 24, 1867":

American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910 comes to thte rescue again, with a listing for patent number 72,684, issued to Richard H. Ryne and assigned to William S. Hicks:

Patents are important for two reasons: the March 21, 1871 patent gives us a historical connection between an otherwise unidentifiable pencil and its maker.  The December 24, 1867 patent provided me with something else: the confidence to know that I could pull on the tip of that pencil, so hard that if I didn’t know what was going on inside I’d think I was going to break it . . .

and the nose would come out to reveal a reversible dip pen nib holder.  Alas, no nib with this one.

Red hard rubber Victorians are much harder to find than the black ones.  However, both red and black are easy to find in comparison with what I’ve got to show you tomorrow . . .

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Few Heaths

George W. Heath & Company is one for which I’ve got a real soft spot.  The Newark, New Jersey manufacturer made really nice stuff, not the least of which was Charles Keeran’s first Ever Sharp pencils, between 1913 and October, 1915.  Here are a few things that turned up while I was reorganizing the museum:

The magic pencil at the top is a fairly conventional piece, although that silverwork is outstanding.  The Heath hallmark - an H in a square with two tabs on either side, appears on the extender:

The mark does appear in American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, but not as a federally registered mark; at the end of the book, I’ve included an appendix containing the pen-related sections of Trade-Marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades, published by the Jewelers’ Circular Publishing Company in 1896, 1904, 1915 and 1922.  Of the four editions, only the one published in 1922 is readily available (there’s a copy in the PCA’s library) – the others took quite a bit of digging to find.  Heath’s mark first appears in the 1904 edition (even though the firm had been established in 1892, the book's rudimentary 1896 edition didn't include it).  The address provided is Heath's earlier address in New York:

Heath apparently used the hallmark only on the company’s silver products.  It also appears on the cedar pencil holder at one end:

However, the two gold-filled magic pencils, are marked “G.W.H. CO.”:

All three of the magic pencils came from one source at the Chicago Show in May.  I was convinced that the silver one was also made by Heath, since that Jules Verneish profile was fairly unique to the maker.  However, the barrel was unmarked, and the extender is marked only with “Compliments of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company - 1909":

I was talking about this one to someone at the show -- probably David Nishimura, since he also appreciates Heath and he has a knack for pointing out little things that I’ve missed – and he pointed out the unusual location of the hallmark on this one:

On the nose cone.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"Just" a Few Fairchilds

I fear that I might be getting jaded.  In my pursuit for the super early, super weird and super . . .super Victorian pencils, I often find myself disappointed when I pick one up to find that it’s “only” a Fairchild.   Sure, Leroy W. Fairchild was one of the most prolific manufacturers of the Nineteenth Century, but they were popular because they were beautiful and well made, like these examples, all of which were lounging around in a drawer and weren’t given their day in the sun until I was reorganizing the whole museum a few weeks ago:

The one with the lizard motif is particularly nice.  Leroy Fairchild took out design patents on several of his figural designs, including design patent 11,415 on September 16, 1879:

And this one, design patent 11,433, the very next week, on September 23, 1879:

Neither is identical to what’s crawling around this one, but I guess a lizard is a lizard . . . is a lizard.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Oxymorons

“Nice Arnold....”  two words that you don’t normally associate with each other.  Sure, the colors are nice, but Arnold brand pencils, made by Remmie Arnold in Petersburg, Virginia, are generally otherwise . . . not nice.

These two, however, defy the norm for the brand:

The large black and pearl must be from very early on after Arnold acquired the Edison Pen Company.  The clip has a nicely detailed logo:

And the imprint is reminiscent of the elaborate Edison imprints (see

With respect to the other pencil, before you dismiss it as “just an advertiser,” have a closer look at what it advertises:

“R.L. Arnold Pen Company, Inc. / Petersburg, Virginia, USA / Manufacturers of / Fountain Pens and Mechanical Pencils.:  Not bad at all . . . a pencil advertising pens!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Which Liberty?

This addition fell in the have-to-have-that-cool-name category:

The quality is just so-so, with a cap that isn’t even quite the same color as the barrel.  But “Liberty” is such a great name for a pencil:

When I went to track this one down, I found some conflicting sources.  There was both a “Liberty Fountain & Gold Pen Company” and a “Liberty Fountain Pen Company” in New York.  In 1917, The American Stationer published a directory in which the former was listed under gold pen points (nibs) at 380 Canal Street, New York, while the latter was listed under fountain pens at 69 Cortlandt Street:

American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953 was particularly helpful with this one.

The trademark was registered on August 10, 1926 as number 216,284.  It was filed by Edward Turnberger, President of The Liberty Fountain & Gold Pen Company at the Canal Street address.  He claimed that the company, and its predecessor, G.F. Barrett, had used the name since August, 1911.

I think the two companies were one and the same, notwithstanding the separate listings in The American Stationer.  Prior to 1916, the Liberty Fountain & Gold Pen Company was located at 69 Cortlandt, as shown in thiese advertisements:

The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer reported on May 15, 1916 that the Liberty Fountain & Gold Pen Company had relocated to larger quarters at 380 Canal Street:

And then there’s this, posted by user Bordeaux146 over on The Fountain Pen Network:

The box uses the abbreviated name at the Canal Street address, while the instructions identify the longer version – at the same address.  The answer to the question “Which Liberty?” is . . . both.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Hicks Variation

Here’s another one that turned up while I was reorganizing the museum:

The pencil extends to its full length as it is drawn from the case:

I’ve written about a nearly identical pencil made by Edward Todd (see and  Here they are next to each other:

The Edward Todd version was patented by James B. Smith on August 9, 1892, as number 480,479:

The Hicks, version, however, says something else:

“Hicks Pat. July 13, 97.”  In American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910, you’ll find this date corresponds to patent number 586,495, issued to Edward D. Hicks:

The only difference between the two is where the case grips the pencil; on the Todd version, the pencils tip is seated into the gripping area.  In the Hicks variation, it’s the second stage of the pencil which is secured inside the case, so the Hicks variation does two things at once as the pencil is drawn out: at the front end, the friction advances a magic pencil.  At the other end, it telescopes the other sections into position.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Johnson's Influence

Here are a couple nice Victorian pieces with something in common:

Both have distinctive mother of pearl slabs, and usually, these are stamped “Pearl Pat. Dec. 5 ‘71,” a reference to patent number 121,627 issued to Ephraim S. Johnson:

These two examples, though, have a twist – on figuratively, one literally.  The conventional magic pencil shown at the bottom is larger than average size, measuring a hair longer than four and a half inches extended (4 3/4" if you count the ring on top).

Instead of the Pearl patent imprint you’d expect to see, though, this one is stamped only Aikin, Lambert & Co.:

This is the only Aikin Lambert I’ve seen with the pearl slab treatment.  I don’t think it was made after Johnson’s patent expired, but it might have been.  Cross-licensing of patents appears to have been the norm amongst New York manufacturers; in fact, I found this fascinating piece in the June 16, 1892 issue of The American Stationer, in which all of the major houses, including both Aikin, Lambert & Co. and E.S. Johnson, agreed to “stop the competition” and establish a secret price-fixing schedule:

That was the figurative twist.  Now for the literal one: that other pearl-slabbed item has a much larger diameter, because there’s a lot going on inside.

At one end, the extender can be pulled out and then the top end twisted to advance a Rauch-like mechanical pencil:

Then here’s the twist: by turning the entire extension tube, a dip pen nib is advanced, in much the same way as a much later safety fountain pen:

The nib is a Mabie Todd Number 5, maybe it is original, but of course it might have been a replacement.

The patent markings are on the pencil end.  On one side is Johnson’s December 5, 1871 patent:

But on the other is a patent date I had not run across before: July 3, 1866:

It’s times like these when I’m glad I wrote American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910, since it certainly hasn’t been those times when I’ve waited for it to hit the best seller list in the New York Times.  There was no fumbling around trying to find the patent . . . I just opened up the book to that date, and there it was:

The date refers to James M. Clark’s patent number 56,007.  Since the presence of Johnson’s patent date on the piece suggested more of a connection between Johnson and Clark (as we saw with the Aikin Lambert, others who merely licensed a patent wouldn’t also include the patent date), I turned to another portion of my book which excels at distilling relationships between makers, and there it was:

In the section of the book in which patents are organized by inventor, there are five patents issued to James M. Clark.  This one, number 118,434, was issued on August 29, 1871, just four months before Johnson’s pearl patent – and this patent was assigned to Ephraim S. Johnson.

For the time being, I’ve placed this example on my shelf, alphabetized under Clark rather than Johnson.  There are three other Clark patents out there, and finding examples of each might better establish whether Clark was a manufacturer in his own right, whether he sold or licensed patents to several New York makers, or whether he was merely an employee of Ephraim S. Johnson.