Monday, November 5, 2018

The Oldest Confirmed Ever Sharp

I spent a boatload of money at the Raleigh Pen Show auction last June.  Those two Esterbrook metal repeaters came in one lot; the Artcraft metal Rex pencil came in another lot.  The Artcraft, however, was not the real target of my affections in that bunch.  What had me holding my card up from the first bid until the gavel fell was this one:


Yes, this is an early Heath-clip example of the Ever Sharp, made between December, 1913 and 1915:


I’ve written several articles concerning what the first Ever Sharps looked like – those very first pencils Charles Keeran took with him to set up shop in a corner of Wanamaker’s in New York in December, 1913.  I first wrote about them in Volume 2, page 50 and thanks to help from an English reader, we’ve found a 1913 advertisement providing more information (see Volume 4, page 29).   I may or may not have found one of these first Eversharps, depending on whether I have interpreted the evidence correctly (Volume 4, page 130), which would make that the earliest Eversharp in existence.


However, there is a certain amount of guesswork involved in my analysis, since parts of that last example were missing.  This pencil from the Raleigh auction, however, is completely intact – and it has a few subtle features which confirm that while it isn’t the oldest Eversharp in existence (with a “fibrous plug” and no metal tip, as shown in that 1913 advertisement), it is the earliest Eversharp in existence that I can confirm.

Here it is, between the Ever Sharp I believe may be one of the first from 1913 (bottom), and a typical intact Heath-clip Ever Sharp (top):


Let’s begin by comparing the top ends:


There are three subtle things to notice . . . and remember from that last article, my possible 1913 example came to me without a mechanism – the mechanism and cap came from something later.  First and most obvious is that the cap is shorter than the other two.  Second, note that the engraving around the cap is different – on every other Ever Sharp in my collection (including all the other Heath clip examples), the engraving on the cap winds into little eyes, like knots in wood, as shown.  This new example has sort of a floral pattern, but without those eyes.

Although I do not have that engraving on any other Ever Sharp, I did find it on one of my examples of a Heath leadholder – and Heath made the first Ever Sharps for Charles Keeran.

Third, note that like my possible 1913 example, the Ever Sharp imprint is located higher than it is on most Heath clip Eversharps, nearly overlapping the top of the barrel.

Next, look what you see when you compare the mechanisms:


On every other early Ever Sharp I’ve found, the internal workings are silver metal.  On this one, however, they are brass.  Furthermore, imprinted on the mechanism is something I’ve sought for a long, long time:


“Keeran & Co., Bloomington, Ill.”  The closest I’ve come to finding one of these was the mechanism only, which was discovered and reported by John Coleman:


Note that the cap on John’s example also appears to be a bit stubbier, and the engraving similarly does not seem to wind into circles.

The clincher, however, is at the other end.  Recall that Charles Keeran applied for his first patent for the Ever Sharp (patent 1,130,741) on October 10, 1913, sans tip.  On October 28, 1914, Keeran applied for a patent for his “rifled tip” (patent 1,151,016).  After that initial 1913 advertisement showing a pencil with no tip, there’s an advertisement from the Bloomington Pantagraph on July 18, 1914, which also appears to show a pencil with no metal tip.  If Keeran applied for a patent for the rifled tip in October, it must have existed before then – and possible before July of 1914, since the advertising art was in an advertisement for W.B. Read, a Bloomington stationer.

Compare the tip on the new addition to all my other Ever Sharps.  The tip on the new addition is significantly shorter:


And it isn’t rifled.

Mechanisms, including the caps, can be swapped out, and you might be able to explain away that higher-than usual imprint as a simple manufacturing error.  The tip, though, is conclusive.  This pencil was made before October of 1914 - within 10 months after Keeran’s first pencils were made, and perhaps earlier.  It is the second oldest Ever Sharp in existence . . . and the oldest that has been 100% confirmed.

1 comment:

Kiwi-d said...

Awesome find, and great work ageing it.