Thursday, June 18, 2020

Elite Company

Writing A Century of Autopoint was a great experience.  It brought me into some really great company, including John Keeran (Charles Keeran’s grandson), author Jeffrey Meikle, who wrote American Plastic: A Cultural History, and several closet collectors of Autopoints, some of whom I knew well but never knew they collected the brand.  It was also a wonderful collaboration with the two leading collectors of Autopoints – Jim Stauffer and of course, my dad.

Dad and I live about thirty miles apart, and we both have a large number of Autopoints - to make things easier, I’d shoot images of what I had and send them over to him - he’d pick out things in his collection that weren’t represented, bring those over and we’d reshoot family photos.  Jim and the other contributors lobbed in pictures of other examples from afar.

I’ve continued to pick up variations of things covered in the book - some, like these three, were variations I would have included had I been able to lay my hands on them.  All three were in one auction lot:

The yellow ringtop is a subtle variation masquerading as something you think you’ve seen.  These were denominated Model 17XR (X for short, R for ringtop) and first appeared alongside other variations of the “Model 1925" Autopoint when introduced in 1924.  Here’s Figure 5-13 from page 59 of A Century of Autopoint:

“Ambertype,” Autopoint called the Bakelite barrels, and yellow (“Amber”) is the most commonly encountered color.  However, look closely: Autopoint’s Amber had white swirls in the yellow plastic, while this new addition is a clear yellow.  On that same page, I noted that clear yellow was not catalogued, although Dad has an example of the full length model that was included in Figure 5-12, also on page 59:

As for the other two, they were Autopoint “Streamline De Luxe” models, and in this configuration they were denominated Model 19BXG (B for slim model, X for short or vest pocket model, G to denote gold filled trim, although no “non-G” examples along these lines are known).  A previously unpublished catalog showing these appears on page 117 of A Century of Autopoint, and other examples are shown on page 119 (Figure 8-65):

Boy, I really would have enjoyed having both of these examples on hand when this picture was shot - I’d recreate it, but that will have to wait until Dad can bring his examples over for a family reunion shot sometime . . . when this stupid virus thing is over . . . 

In the meantime, “Rose” Autopoints are well represented in my collection -- all but the ringtop model 17XR pictured in the book were from my collection, so I was able to add the 19BXR to the spread for a group shot:

This was another online find which augmented the book a little bit:

This is marked Realite on the clip; the Realite Pencil Company, formed in 1921, gobbled up the failing Autopoint Pencil Company in 1924, assuming the name Autopoint Products Company in the merger.  During the late 1930s, Autopoint reintroduced the name on a budget line of pencils, including these - they came in two sizes, with this being the larger of the two.  Other examples are shown on page 129 of the book, Figure 8-95:

These usually have the Autopoint name stamped inconspicuously on the back side, near the top, but this one has a bit more:

“Property of Autopoint Company,” and on the other side, a model designation I didn’t have – No. 84PB.  We even know that this green was color 3384.  I wonder what the color number was for that green and brown barbershop pole color!

The Swanberg Manufacturing Company figured into the Autopoint story as one of Charles Keeran’s landing places after he was kicked out of Autopoint – for the second and last time, in 1924.  Keeran’s activities after Autopoint were detailed in Chapter 7 of A Century of Autopoint, “Exit Stage Left,” and Swanbergs are shown on pages 78 and 79.  The “Keeran Pencil” later became Swanberg’s more upscale line of pencils, complementing the more humble aluminum Swanberg and “Tubit” pencils the company was offering.  Here’s the shot of some of Dad’s Keeran and Swanberg pencils, Figure 7-3 on page 78:

Due to space constraints, I had to cut the image of similar pencils with nickel plated trim and crown tops.  I showed a couple of them here in 2018 (see"Cult Collection"):

In that last article, I’d turned up the closest thing we’ve found to a Swanberg catalog, a 1925 advertisement listing four models: the Tubit, the number 7 (also in aluminum), the number 5 (a checking pencil) and the number 11, “the most beautiful and perfect pencil ever offered.”  Of course, there were no pictures to accompany any of these descriptions.

This one, however, was something else:

The “Swanberg Special” – maybe not as special as a Number 11, but certainly special enough to add to the collection.

These last two recent finds are things you’ve seen in the book, but both were rites of passage for me.  Jim Stauffer pointed this one out to me in an online auction, because I had commented to him several times how much I admired the ones in his collection:

It’s a Realite “blimpie,” as Jim likes to call them, and Jim’s boxed example is shown in Figure 3-13 on page 37:

Realite used a blimp in its early advertising to emphasize how lightweight its new bakelite pencils were.  I don’t think it was the company’s first logo on its pencils – Keeran’s contract with the company is written on letterhead using a baseball-jersey style script logo, which was probably the first.  The “blimpie” imprints on Realite ferrules, however, are in my experience more rare:

And last, I finally received formal admission into the Super-Duper-Serious Autopoint Collecting Society (SDSACS, or “sad sacks” as we are better known – no, that doesn’t really exist . . . I just made that up) when I got my pin:

I learned in the course of writing A Century of Autopoint that this advertising mascot was called “Autokid” by the company - see page 184 of the book and the company’s 1939 catalog.  “Creepy little dude,” I like to call him.  As the book notes, Dad and Jim Stauffer both have one of these.  Next time we’re all together, rest assured we’ll all be wearing them as the sad sacks are called to order!

1 comment:

John Welch said...

Autokid! Ha!

Who were given Autokid pins? Employees? Customers? I've seen Parker pins that, best I remember, went to salesmen.

I still have my Reddy Kilowat pin from Potomac Electric Power Company -- PEPCO -- where my dad worked for 38 years. I don't wear the pins, but I'm glad I have it. I don't remember if Reddy Kilowatt was original to all power companies, or if GE gave it to people in plants that bought GE generating equipment.