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 http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/09/that-third-interesting-holland.html).  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 http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-red-legged-devil-or-is-it-devils.html):


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 http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-long-way-around-barn.html).  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?

1 comment:

Derek-L said...

Great story.

Seems like there is more to learn as to why there is not more blue rubber. The color of this pencil is just the right blue, like the best of the Duofolds or the Conklins.

More hunting needed.