Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Needle In A Haystack

This one probably would have been slipped right on past me, had it not been accurately listed by an online seller:


If I saw this one at a show, I probably wouldn’t have given it much of a thought.   It looks like it was made by Cross, and it’s a magic pencil:


The pencil is as pristine as you’ll find – note even that the lead inside still has its presharpened point.  It also can be removed completely from the sheath:


However, there is no familiar AXT imprint to be found.  In its place is the word “Simmons.”


Pencils such as this were made, by Cross as well as by other manufacturers, over a period of decades, through as late as the 1930s.  Given the location of the imprint, I’m thinking this might have been a jeweler’s house brand . . . but with such a generic name and more than half a century of production, I haven’t been able to narrow this one down to any specific source.

I do have one clue, but it might be nothing more than a red herring.  In American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, I did include a registration for a Simmons trademark in connection with pencils:


Registration number 138,922 was issued to the Simmons Hardware Company in 1920, on an application which alleged that this Eversharp-like logo (which is in turn Winchester-inspired) was used by the company since September 9, 1910.

It is interesting that Simmons claimed something like this before the Eversharp logo was adopted by Charles Keeran in 1913; however, I don’t think this one is much help for us.  Note the letters “E.C.” nested within the S, completely abasent from our pencil du jour – as is any other hint of this distinctive logo.  A check of E.C. Simmons advertising does turn up something interesting - the “Keen Kutter” logo that so closely resembles the Keen Point trademark Charles Keeran later adopted was for Simmons’ house brand of cutlery:


In fact, my book also includes the Simmons Hardware Company’s trademark of the Keen Kutter trademark specifically in class 37, for pencils:


One source (a history of the company compiled by Elaine and Jerry Heuring and posted at http://www.thckk.org/history/simmons-hdwe.pdf) indicated that a 1909 Simmons catalog was 5,000 pages long, so prolific was the company’s output.  Certainly the company could have had Cross make some pencils branded with its name, although these seem a little more highbrow than the company’s typical offerings.  Then again, if the Simmons Hardware Company went to the trouble to have pencils made with its name, why wouldn’t it ask that the imprint match its trademarked logo for pencils? 

According to the Heurings, E.C. Simmons went bankrupt in 1939 and was acquired by the Shapleigh Hardware Company in 1940.

I would estimate that this pencil dates to the 1930s, and there’s plenty of people out there who have Simmons Hardware catalogs from the decade . . . unfortunately, though, none have been posted online that I’ve found.   For now, while this is the best lead I’ve got, it’s an interesting possibility but not a particularly strong one.  With luck, someone with access to a later Simmons catalog will stumble across this article and verify whether pencils such as this one were offered by the company.

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