Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Different Sort of Golf Pencil

I know the title is wishful thinking here in Ohio, where snowblowers have been busier than they have been in the last three years . . . but as the traditionally dismal second month of the year winds down, it helps to pass the time to think about activities that don’t involve coats, thick socks and a stuffy nose.

Like golf.  Even though I don’t play the game.

A couple things come to mind when someone uses the term “golf pencil.”  It refers generally to any short, stubby pencil that might fit conveniently in a pair of shorts while strolling around the green – short enough to be a lady’s pencil, but fat enough to pass for a masculine accessory (at least masculine enough to keep a golfer from being harassed without mercy by the others in the foursome).  It also refers to those short wooden pencils golf courses give away with your scorecards as you set out for the day. 

Here’s a third sort:


The two shorter examples came my way in a larger lot of pencils - I can’t remember which one.  They are marked “Golf-Meter / Club Selector / Golf Meter Co.”


At the top, opposite the clip, is a chart that suggests a club depending on how far from the hole a duffer should find himself:


The C within a circle suggests a copyright, and the name “Golf Meter Co.” looked like a promising lead, which panned out.  The Golf-Meter Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan, began copyrighting their brochures and advertising materials in 1944.  Here’s an entry from the 1946 copyright register:


And, a cross-reference: to William T. Rietzke, dba Golf-Meter Company:


The Golf-Meter pencil must have enjoyed some measure of commercial success.  The earliest advertising I found for it was in the July, 1946 edition of Popular Mechanics:


Newspaper advertisements in late 1946 show our pencil exactly.  One which appeard in the November 26, 1946 Battle Creek (Michigan) Enquirer, directed customers to send orders to the P.&D. Supply Company, on East Michigan Avenue at Monument in Battle Creek:


Meanwhile, an advertisement in the December 8, 1946 St. Louis Post-Dispatch referred customers to the Famous-Barr Co. of St. Louis:


The pencils were still being advertised in 1954; here’s an ad from the Chicago Tribune on June 6, 1954:


Rietzke filed one last round of advertising materials for copyright protection, in 1955.  I haven’t found an end date for when the Golf-Meter pencil was discontinued, but production may have been continued by the manufacturer after Rietzke called it quits.  Did you notice the salesman’s sample language on the larger example in that first picture?


Under the golf meter on the back side is an imprint which confirms what the appearance of all three pencils suggests:


They were made by Ritepoint.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Finally Enough Evidence . . . And a New, Heretical Question

(Note: this is the second installment in a series.  The first installment is at https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2018/02/this-one-is-settled-now-too.html).

When I decided to reorganize the museum, I also reorganized a vast library of pictures I had taken over the last six years.  I was so certain I had written about the pencil I’m about to tell you about it that it wasn’t until I’d spent more time than I care to admit searching back through the blog for it -- when I couldn't find it, I dove into that picture archive as a last resort.  Apparently it was something I thought about so much I was convinced I'd written about it, but never did.  Here it is, posed alongside a Parker Parkette pencil from around 1937 or so:


The pencil is marked simply “The Glider Pen”:


I bought the pencil because something didn’t make sense about the name.  “Glider” is a name associated with Conklin, not with Parker – and this piece and the Conklin Gliders were made too closely together in time for the two companies to not be tripping all over each other.  Even though no trademark appeared to have been registered for “Glider” (at least none prior to 1953, the end date for American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953), we know for sure Conklin used it, and there’s absolutely no question in my mind that Parker made my “Glider Pen” pencil:


Right down to the distinctive, proprietary spare lead cartridge you’ll find on a Parker; the only real difference is that it’s painted plain red with no markings:


Now we’re ready to circle back around to that pencil I was musing about yesterday, and which I conclusively attribute to Conklin solely on the basis of the clip and the round top button:


Was I too hasty?  I don’t think so – not when I show you what’s inside it:


So we have a “Glider Pen” pencil clearly made by Parker, and we have a Conklin Minuteman pencil with some of the same characteristics.  Parker fans, you can sharpen your pitchforks and light your torches, but you have to admit that leads me to ask an obvious question:

Could Parker have had something to do with making such crappy stuff for Conklin in its dying days?

Monday, February 26, 2018

This One Is Settled Now, Too

When I brought home that blue unmarked Carter pencil from DC in yesterday’s article (see https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2018/02/settles-issue-in-my-mind.html), there was another pencil I could not wait to compare it to:


The clips reminded me so much of each other in my recollection, although they look a lot less alike when posed together:


“Mother of Toilet Seat,” I’ve heard this mousy, cream-colored celluloid derisively referred to, calling to mind toilet seats made of similar celluloid in the 1950s.  The quality is overall significantly inferior to the unmarked Carter, even less representative of the once-proud maker.

Hmmm.... whenever I utter the words “once-proud maker,” it inevitably leads me to think of Conklin.  Alfonso Mur recently published a fine book on the maker, “The Conklin Legacy,” which includes a significant discussion of the company’s increasingly cringeworthy offerings after the company was moved to Chicago and Joseph Starr milked the company’s name for all it was worth – and then continued to milk it even after it was no longer worth anything.

There, on page 251, was my answer:


Among a lineup of crappy Conklin “Minuteman” pens from the class of 1942, there’s one with this exact clip, next to one with that exact cheap round black top button. 

Now those of you who know me know that I’m a tough cookie to convince on things like this (while still others think I’m wildly speculating whenever I open my mouth, but that’s another matter).  Since the pencil is unmarked, and all I have to go on are a clip and a top button, both of which might have been acquired from other sources by a company nearing the end of its death spiral, do I really have enough to conclusively attribute this pencil to Conklin?

I’ve already moved it over to be with my other later Conklins.  Yes I do – when you combine what I know about this pencil and another that’s been sitting in my dead letter office for years . . .

(The other shoe drops at https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2018/02/finally-enough-evidence-and-new.html.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Settles the Issue In My Mind

I’ve seen a few of these pencils over the years, and they are always unmarked:


I’ve always had my suspicions about who made these . . . call it “collector’s lore” whenever you hear from more than one source “oh, that was made by X” or “everybody knows that’s a Y.”   Particularly when you hear that from more than once source, there’s probably a source out there somewhere that’s ringing a bell – but absent chapter and verse, statements like that are worth about as much as the oft-perpetuated myth that the Eversharp was devised by a Japanese inventor.

People can remember things wrong, or read something correctly that was wrong.

In this case, whenever I’ve seen these pencils, the story that I hear is that they were made by Carter . . . odd, since they are usually of such poor quality that you wouldn’t typically associate it with the once-proud manufacturer (that continued as a proud manufacturer of inks after they gave up on the writing instruments business).

This one is a little better than average, and I gladly flipped a few bills Pearce Jarvis’ way at the DC show to bring it home – this time, I had something better than my suspicions and the lore of countless collectors to support those beliefs:


I had a marked Carter pencil in that exact, distinctive celluloid.  I’d still like to see chapter and verse to support the conclusion, but in the meantime, I accept the lore as gospel.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Nice Piece of Art

Here’s another of the 17 Victorian pencils I splurged on from Ed Fingerman at the DC Show last August:


The acid-etched top portion shows a finely detailed scene of a stork among vines:


As I was prioritizing which ones I could afford to buy from Fingerman’s hoard, this one was close to being cut – there aren’t any manufacturer’s markings in any of the usual places.  Just as I was considering whether to pass on this one in favor of something else, I don’t remember whether Joe or Ed pointed it out, or whether I was scouring every millimeter with a loupe, but I saw what I needed to see to be sure I brought it home:


A. W. Faber, both on the nozzle and also on the end of the barrel.

Friday, February 23, 2018

How Many Tops?

Jerome Lobner had a Sheaffer Sharp Point up for sale recently, and I couldn’t resist for a number of reasons:


It’s one of the earliest Sheaffer pencils, with a straight sided clip mounting and an imprint which mimicks the Winchester spiky lettering:


Sheaffer later added ears to the sides of the clip mounting for greater stability, leading to the nickname “bowler clip” for the similarity to a bowler hat.  Here’s the new addition shown next to a Sheaffer Sharp Point with the bowler clip:


And a comparison of the two shows you the other reason I was interested in Jerome’s pencil:


See that top?  There’s absolutely no engraving at all on the crown of my new Sharp Point.  Of course, by the time the design patent for the Sharp Point was applied for, in April of 1919, the crown top had been replaced by the familiar Sheaffer bell top:


So how many styles of caps were there for the Sharp Point?  Well, including the new addition, there’s four that I know of . . .


Here’s my three straight clip Sharp Points.  The top example is the one that cracked that helped crack the case of David LaFrance’s involvement in the development of the Sharp Point (see the “Wahl, Sheaffer and the Race for Boston Series,” in particular the third installment at https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/12/wahl-sheaffer-and-race-for-boston-part_28.html). 

The example on the bottom, with Sheaffer’s later bell cap, came from Brian McQueen after the article ran in the Pennant.  At the time I bought it, I thought the cap was a bit of an anachronism, since the Sharp Point still had crown tops when the bowler clip was introduced.  I didn’t care, because I was just happy to find a straight clip Sharp Point – the cap might have been replaced, but even if it was, it’s an early bell cap with no Sheaffer imprint, correct for a Sharp Point.

So there’s three early Sharp Points and three different cap treatments:


The usual variety, a smooth variety, and a bell top.  Add in the more Eversharpy crown tops seen on most bowler clip models, and that makes four. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

In the Heart of Wichita

Note: this is the second installment in a series about the Seth Crocker Pen Company and its connection with the George Innes Company.  To start at the beginning, the first installment can be found at https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2018/02/with-surgical-precision.html.

What a difference seven years makes.

Seven years ago, after piddling around online for enough time that I wish I had it back, I scoured the internet trying to figure out whether the imprint on this pencil, “The Geo. Innes Co.,” was a manufacturer’s imprint or an advertising imprint:



In yesterday’s installment, David Nishimura helped me to establish conclusively that this pencil was made by the Seth Crocker Pen Company.  The question remains, though, what significance the George Innes Company bears on all this.

Seven years later, I sat back in front of a newer computer, with vastly enhanced research materials available on the internet, and I’ve found an answer that fits perfectly into a missing gap in the Seth Crocker story.

The answer at first seems highly unlikely . . . The George Innes Dry Goods Warehouse was first established in Wichita, Kansas, in 1897:


“In the Heart of Wichita,” was the company’s catchphrase:


The store included not only dry goods, but other departments as well.  Here’s a shot inside, from the 1890s, courtesy of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum:


In 1937, the Innes Department Store opened in downtown Wichita:



That’s at almost exactly the right time the Seth Crocker pens like David’s and my pencil marked “The Geo. Innes Co.” were made.

So is this an advertiser or a rebadged store brand?  Well, when Parker made pens for Sears, marked with the department store’s Diamond Medal name, it’s considered a rebadge - particularly in light of the fact that more than one company (or manufacturer) made them for the store (which was, in my lexicon, the producer).  The same can be said for Eversharp, Waterman and Sheaffer, each of which made Gold Bond pens for Montgomery Ward.

I haven’t seen any advertisements for Innes pens, but somewhere in Wichita I would bet they are out there.   I do not believe this was an advertising pencil or a “property of” pencil, but one which was manufactured on order for the Innes Department Store for resale as a house brand.

There’s more.

By the 1950s, Innes Department Store advertisements included a subtitle: “a Macy store”:


Eventually, the signage on the venerable downtown location was changed over to reflect new ownership:


What is odd is that I cannot find one shred of information to indicate when Macy’s purchased Innes.  Since Macy’s operated the store under the Innes name, the buyer clearly understood the good will value of the Innes name, so how long the store was operated under Macy’s secret ownership is, as of the writing of this article, unknown. For all we know, the Innes Department Store might have been a Macy's subsidiary when it decided to move into a very Macy's-like building in 1937.

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, I’m going to tell you the rest of the story.

One of the only things I knew about the Seth Crocker Pen Company when I last wrote about it in 2014 was this detail:

“From some discussion online, it looks like Seth Crocker may have made storebrand pens for companies including R. H. Macy.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

With Surgical Precision

Last November my good friend David Nishimura had the opportunity to have a look around the museum on the eve of the Ohio Pen Show.  I was proud to tour someone around, since I had just completed a long overdue (and months-long) project of reorganizing the entire collection:


What amazed me was how quickly David zeroed in on just one specific pencil on this big wall – one I haven’t thought about in years – and one that, given the alphabetical organization of the items on display, was nowhere near where he should have expected to see it:


This pencil is unmarked except for an imprint on the back side of the barrel: “The Geo. Innes Co.”:


The Innes, as I only knew to call it in 2011, appeared on page 91 of The Catalogue indexed under Innes – with the caveat that I wasn’t sure whether the imprint was a manufacturer’s imprint or simply an “unmarked advertising piece for a company unrelated to pencils.”

As it turns out, it isn’t quite either one.  And David knew exactly who made it, because he happened to have the matching pen in tow:


The pen is a Seth Crocker, about which I last wrote in 2014 (see “The Patent Book Passes a Harsh Test” at https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-patent-book-passes-harsh-test.html).  From what I’ve been able to gather, The Seth Crocker Pen Company was organized by Seth Chilton Crocker, the son of Seth Sears Crocker, founder of the Crocker Pen Company.  After Seth Chilton Crocker orchestrated the buyout of Crocker Pen’s assets after his father’s death, he gave the company a new name – Chilton – which operated in Boston but then moved to Long Island before Seth’s investors ousted him from the company that bore his middle name.  Seth went on to form the Seth Crocker Pen Company sometime around 1932, and there is a passing reference that it was still around in 1938.

The last time I wrote about the Seth Crocker, it was about an example featuring a truly bizarre repeating pencil design.  In my defense, there wouldn’t have been any reason to associate these two pencils with the same company, since they share nothing:


The tip, the clip, the mechanism (the Innes has a conventional nose drive) . . . nothing here suggests that these two might be related.  But there was one clue in that previous article that might have tipped me off – I ran down all the patents associated with Seth Crocker, and one of them, design patent number 94,118, might have triggered me to make the connection:


However, I’ve got pencils made by other companies in that sort of pattern, most notably Carter, which threw me off the trail.  Now that I see it, though, I can’t unsee it.  Without question, my pencil marked “The Geo. Innes Co.” is made by the Seth Crocker Pen Company.

But another question remains: if there were a second edition of The Catalogue, would the entry for Innes be deleted and this pencil moved to an entry for Seth Crocker? 

No.  Well ok, I’ll probably put it in both places.  The George Innes Co. deserves its own mention, because it fits perfectly into, and fills in a small gap, that has been missing from the Seth Crocker story.

More on that tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

My Lunchbox Special

Life in a small town means that at lunchtime, with my office and home separated by just four minutes from doorstep to doorstep, I take a break from the rigors of practice to go home and let out the dog.  It may sound mundane, but when I’m talking to lawyers in large firms and in big cities, I think they envy my life.  I never fail to appreciate it.

The other day, while Zoey the black lab was moseying around and patrolling the perimeter of the backyard, I pulled out my phone to check the online auctions... just checking items ending soon to see what was up.  There, with less than fifteen minutes to go, was a junk lot of 22 items.

OK, 21.

There was one pencil in that lot that had me throwing in a crazy bid, waiting eagerly to see if anyone else noticed what was lurking in those terrible photographs, poorly described and surrounded by junkers . . . and nobody did.


It’s an Eversharp in arguably the rarest and most desirable color Eversharp used – “flamingo.”  Better still is that this is an unusual model, the short full-girth stubby model with the military clip:


The series was unusual in that there are manufacturer’s imprints both on the cap as well as on the barrel, as you can see in the above picture.  Both ringtop and military clip models were offered, although the ringtops are harder to find – harder still intact, since the rings weren’t very well secured.  Here’s the ones I’ve found:


Note that the trim bands are slightly different on my new flamingo example, both in width and positioning; and that great mottled hard rubber example at the top lacks any bands at all.  For some reason, Eversharp appeared to play more with band placement on the hard rubber models than other ones - it’s the only color in the Tempoint-style series that comes with or without lower bands.

These appear in Wahl Eversharp’s 1928 catalog, and there’s a copy at the Pen Collectors of America’s library.  They were shown in both ringtop and military clip models in rosewood (mottled hard rubber with more of a woodgrain pattern than the more burled appearance shown above), red hard rubber and black hard rubber . . . but not in flamingo.  Here’s the page showing the rosewood pencils in this series:


There’s another variation on these, fitted with a top bushing which has the second manufacturer’s imprint on it.  I’ve found two of them:


The company’s 1929 catalog doesn’t include any gold-filled trim models, relegating this size to a utility line with nickel-plated trim.  The 1926 catalog at the PCA library shows pencils with the longer metal tip ends rather than the two bands shown here, so I think that’s too early.  I haven’t been able to find a full 1927 catalog, so I’d say it’s a good bet that 1927 is when these were made.

The flamingo example is a welcome, uncataloged addition to an unusual series – not quite luxury line, but not quite utility model, either.  But where it really takes a nice place in the museum is in the flamingo club:


And I never noticed until I took this picture that the earlier models were made with a slightly darker flamingo than the Equipoised models!