I took these pictures years ago, waiting for the day when the pencil would surface; as I’m winding things down here, though, I think it’s time to lay out everything I know in the hopes this article will draw out more information:
These refills for the “Eagle Courier Pencil Number 346" come in a long wooden tube measuring a full 6 inches long. The tube indicates there are a dozen leads inside, and indeed there are:
And what interesting leads they are – each meticulously fastened to a wood stick with tiny teeth carved on the back side:
Fortunately, one line of text on the label offers an explanation for these: “Patented, June 1, 1897."
American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910 made short work of tracking this one down: August Kaiser applied for patent number 583,754 on March 10, 1897, and the patent was assigned to Eagle:
The lead fit into a slot in the Eagle Courier, with the teeth protruding far enough outside the outer surface of the barrel to engage a slider which could advance the stick forward – then, the user would need to whittle away the freshly exposed part of the stick to which the lead was attached.
It’s easy to understand why in all these years I haven’t been able to turn up an example of the Eagle Courier Number 346. From the patent drawings, we know they probably had ordinary wood barrels. Once refills were exhausted, the shell would have been utterly useless for anything other than maybe propping open a window. And – let’s face it – this was a terrible invention, combining all the technical complexity of a mechanical pencil and all the hassle of having to sharpen a wood pencil combined into on hugely impractical device.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t ached to find one, and I won’t give up the search!