Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pre(ish) Rex

Now that I’m on the subject of Rex, and in particular the early history of the company’s involvement in writing instruments, this one proved to be an important find:

The pen has a Webster logo which matches later Webster products made during the middle to late 1920s; the pencil, however, has a more understated imprint:

What had me excited about this set when I first saw it online was the Certificate of Guarantee carefully tucked behind the sash in the lid.  Certificates like these have helped me fill in important pieces of the Rex story: on two occasions, they have been counterstamped with the Rex name, such as this one:

See http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/11/help-with-cheese.html and http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/03/set-number-4555.html.  But these certificates were from hard rubber and celluloid sets.  I was excited at the prospect of finding an earlier metal set with a Certificate of Guarantee - would it have the Rex name on it, too?

No. It had something even better:

This certificate indicates this is set number 611 – significantly earlier than the earliest certificate I had seen before this – and printed at the bottom: “B. & G. Mfg. Co.,”

The name baffled me.  Obviously there was some connection with Rex here, but who B and G might be eluded me.  On facebook I posted a picture of the set and had a lengthy conversation with myself, musing over who made up B & G, when David Nishimura finally came to my rescue with a bit of what he described as “google-fu,” turning up a reference to the company from the February 26, 1919 issue of The Jewelers’ Circular:

Wow.  Harry M. Burt and Harry Garabedian, operating at 14 Blount Street - that’s the address of the Rex Manufacturing Company.  Of course, I thought.  Harry M. Burt was one of the original incorporators of Rex in 1911:

Burt surfaced later as Vice President of Tri-Pen Manufacturing Company, makers of the Triad (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/03/rex-manufacturing-company-father-of.html), which was the first bit of evidence I found to confirm that Tri-Pen was the successor to the Rex Manufacturing Company.

But the real prize in finding the B & G Manufacturing Company is establishing Burt’s association with Harry Garabedian in 1919, because Garabedian later plays the most important role of all in Tri-Pen:

He was the inventor of the Triad fountain pen.

And there’s more.  According to the announcement in the The Jewelers’ Circular, the B & G Manufacturing Company was established in 1919, which coincides with the earliest reference I found to the “Never-Dull” pencil, in this August, 1919 issue of Advertising & Selling:

And one final interesting point.  The last time I explored the connection between Rex and Webster, I shared this interesting excerpt from the 1922 edition of Trade-marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades:

In this excerpt, the entry for Rex has been inserted, out of alphabetical order, just before Webster.  Note that beneath the Webster name is the legend “no recent record.”   In the course of researching American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, I located earlier editions of the book, including the one published in 1915 (the 1896, 1904, 1915 and 1922 editions are all reproduced in the Appendix at the end of the book).  Here’s what the listing for Webster looked like in 1904 and 1915:

The Webster Pen Company was located at 37-39 Maiden Lane in New York, and there’s no mention of the Rex Manufacturing Company, which had been incorporated in 1911.

These new discoveries have opened up quite a few details in the history of the Rex Manufacturing Company.  Based on what I know now, here is what I think:

1.  The Webster Pen Company was an independent pen concern as late as 1915.

2.  Harry M. Burt and others form the B. & G. Manufacturing Company as a writing instruments subsidiary to the Rex Manufacturing Company.

3.  At some point between 1919 and 1922, B. & G. may have begun manufacturing pens and pencils, either for the Webster Pen Company.  The company also manufactures and markets “Never-Dull” pencils under the Rex (and Rex-Hold), Eclipse and Albert Howard names.

4.  My best guess is that B. & G. or Rex either acquired the Webster Pen Company or started using the Webster name after the Webster Pen Company closed.  This might well have happened in 1921, when an economic downturn forced many companies out of business or into the hands of others.

5.  At some point between 1919 and 1922, by the time the updated edition of Trade-Marks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades is published, B. & G. has been absorbed by Rex.

No comments: