Saturday, April 10, 2021

My Hogeless Pal

This one, also from the Krinke auction, made me chuckle when I read the online descriptions, and I had to preview it just to be sure it was what I thought it was.

Whoever was writing up the descriptions aptly read what was on the box lid and described Lot 2338 as a “Hoge Mfg. Co. Stock Broker Gold Filled Pencil.”  The notion of the Hoge Manufacturing Company making that pencil was absurd to me – from all appearances, that was a leadholder made by the Frank T. Pearce Company, like these:

I had shot this latest family portrait of Pearce leadholders only a couple weeks before the Krinke auction, in anticipation of writing an article about that top example, which has a couple interesting new wrinkles worth mentioning:

The first wrinkle was my motivation for buying it.  It’s the first time I’ve found an example with a fraternal emblem on top. 

Although it’s damaged a bit, the John Hall connection warmed my heart.  As a Mason, John was also a member of the Shriners – what he called the “drinking Masons.”  We’ll just call this a “Shriner’s Pour” of cache added to my collection.  However, when this one arrived and I examined it up close, there was a second detail I found curious:

Instead of the familiar “FTP” in an oval for Frank T. Pearce Co. (the oval is actually the letter C, with a tiny “o” nestled on the right side for “Co.), this one was marked simply “Sterling” with no trace of the typical Pearce hallmark.

Frank Pearce died tragically in 1914; more tragic was that his only male heir who would carry on the firm, Aldridge Pearce, died very shortly thereafter.  The firm was apparently absorbed by Pearce’s former employer, the A.T. Cross Company, which continued to use this snake clip and later streamlined it for use on pencils into the 1930s.

(Note: for the full story on Pearce, George T. Byers and the patent litigation over the clip, see Volume 3, page 260.  For Pearce’s snake clip on a humongous Cross stockbroker pencil, see Volume 6, page 113).  

Both the fraternal emblem and the lack of a Pearce hallmark – two features I’ve not encountered on these – suggests that this was actually turned out by Cross, very shortly after absorbing what was left of the company.  

There was something else that struck me about this recent addition.  With only one exception, all the larger models I’ve turned up have been in gold fill, with only one example coming my way in sterling:

On the other hand, without exception all the smaller ones I had found are made of sterling.

I stopped short of writing the article which would have ended right there.  An intervening Hoge connection between the Pearce years and Cross, while extremely unlikely, would be fascinating.  Since I was planning to attend the Krinke auction anyway, I couldn’t wait to examine this “Hoge Stockbroker” in person, to see what interesting twist it might add to the story.

The preview was disappointing.  The box barely squeezed into the square plastic container in which the auction house packaged individual items - so tightly that some of the lettering on the box lid might have been wearing off a bit every time it was removed.  I removed the pencil for examination as gently as I could, but a couple pieces of the fragile paper inside came apart, so I couldn’t read whatever it contained.  There would only be one more opportunity to carefully flatten it out to see what it said, although I could make out “The Hoge Mfg. Co.” at the bottom end.

And then there was the pencil, badly dented with pliers at the nose end by some nimrod who apparently thought you turned the nose to make it work (I’m sure it wasn’t Fred Krinke - just someone with whom this pencil had an unfortunate encounter in its 100-year lifespan).  At the crown, all was revealed: whoever wrote the description apparently looked no further than the box to see whether the pencil had anything to do with it:

Yep.  It’s a Pearce.  Not a shred of evidence supported any connection with Hoge – unless that fragile paperwork established some previously undocumented connection between the two companies.

Damage aside, I still thought it might be worth a roll of the dice.  I notified the auction house of what I found during the preview, but no announcement was made during the auction of the discrepancy between what the pencil was versus how it was described in the catalog.  I had to pay more than I wanted to, but my new, worse-for-wear Pearce did add a wrinkle to the story I had planned to write:

This is the first time I’ve found a smaller sized example in gold fill, so I’m able to amend my third observation from the article I was going to write earlier: most of the smaller Pearce leadholders I have found were sterling, not all of them.

Now, for a closer examination of that paperwork . . .

Friday, April 9, 2021

During the Long Opening Act

 I understood fully why the Krinke auction began the way that it did.  The first 114 lots were mostly garden-variety lots of Esterbrook stuff, most of which were individual pieces and nearly all of which were garden variety stuff you’ll see anywhere.  Even attaching Krinke provenance to a common Esterbrook pen wasn’t going to increase its value and frankly, if these had all be placed at the end of the auction rather than the beginning, I don’t think anyone would have stuck around for them.

I wasn’t paying much attention as lot after lot of ho-hum Esties sold, chatting away with Eric Magnuson.  Advance bids and online bidders were doing all of the buying at first, at prices that were generally full retail, plus a buyers premium.  When Brian Anderson finally won something about 30 or 40 lots into the game, it wasn’t anything special but it was the first lot a live bidder was taking home – I clapped a little, and we all chuckled.

I wasn’t completely asleep at the switch, and when lot number 2096 (the 97th lot) came up a couple hours into the bidding, I held up my bidder’s number for the first time after the opening bid was reduced:

These are frequently overlooked for two reasons: first, the difference between these and a “normal” Esterbrook Dollar Pencil in the same series is a subtle one.  Here it is, next to its normal cousin:

Instead of the usual marbled grey plastic, this one is flat gray, which leads me to the second reason these don’t get a lot of attention.  At some point, Esterbrook used a plain injection-molded plastic on the series, and these were plagued with shrinkage, warping and cracking.  Most of the examples look like they’ve been left in the sun too long, or were made for Salvadore Dali, and collectors pass them over due to poor condition:

These four are in reasonably good condition, although the red one has a split in the back of the barrel and none of them work very well, since the caps have shrunk to the point at which they don’t advance the lead very effectively anymore.  Still, from an archivist’s perspective, they are part of Esterbrook’s story worth telling.

But where do they fit in?  That’s the second reason my bidder’s number went up during the auction, even though I hadn’t previewed it and I was relatively sure it wouldn’t be in working condition:

The Bank of Montclair celebrated 50 years of service with this pencil in 1939.  Judging from how poorly these pencils (and the matching pens, too) have fared, I’m assuming this material was withdrawn very soon after it was introduced, so we know that Esterbrook was offering these towards the end of the plastic dollar pencil run, rather than at the beginning.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

An Indelible Mark on History

 It isn’t like me to make a cavalier remark like “sheathed pencils have been done before” without showing you where it was done before, but if I did in the course of yesterday’s article, that tiny diversion would have taken me so far down a side track that switching back would have been a challenge.

And . . . that comment gave me a nice segue to write about something that has long fascinated me, yet arguably falls outside the scope of this blog.  Were Clark’s Indelible Pencils “mechanical?”  I suppose not:

Unless, of course, you count pulling a sheathed wood pencil from a wood case as a mechanical action.  Add a wrist strap, and you have a wooden Zip:

The two examples that have come my way are not in pristine condition, but given that they were intended to be consumed and thrown away, the fact that any have survived at all with their paper labels is impressive:

It is a tribute to the large number that was made, increasing the odds that a few would still be around in reasonably good condition – they don’t come along every day, but maybe very other day or so. 

According to the better of these two labels, the Clark Indelible Pencil Company was located in Northampton, Massachusetts.  A broadside I ran across somewhere indicated that during the Civil War, Herman K. Zahm was Clark’s “sole agent for the New England states.”

Although the broadside is undated, there’s subtle details which make it clear Clark’s pencils were not being exported to the rebellious South at the time it was printed.  It says the pencils were available “through the Union” and also identifies “Clark’s Patent, 1859; Improved 1861":

The 1861 patent date here is interesting, because all the examples of these I have seen bear an 1866 patent date, after hostilities ended.  The better of my two examples has three partial dates:

In addition to patents in years from the broadside of 1859 and 1861, this label adds “???????y 3d, 1858,” “July 10, 18?6,” and “Comp. Attachmt. 1874.”   The challenge of filling in these blanks is a task at which American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910 excels.  Starting with the 1858 date, all we need do is turn to the chronological section and look for a patent issued on the 3rd of a month ending in the letter y:

Crap.  There weren’t any patents listed which match that partial description (and double crap – patent 22,938 was issued in 1859, not 1858).  All right, I’ll cheat . . . since as I mentioned these aren’t that hard to find, I trawled for an image of one in better condition, and I found that the date was May 3, 1858.

Triple crap.  May 3, 1858 fell on a Monday, not on a Tuesday when all American patents were issued.  Either the date is wrong, or that isn’t an American patent.  With a dead end there, time to look for “Clark’s Patent 1859" referred to in the broadside:

That’s more like it.  Edson P. Clark of Holyoke, Massachusetts was awarded patent number 24,195 on May 31, 1859 for a new composition of pencil lead, which contained silver nitrate as an additive.  Since the patent was for the composition rather than the pencil itself, there’s no illustration of the pencil itself:

Hmm.... May 31, 1859 is just a bit off from that May 3, 1858 date seen on many Clark’s pencils.   Was that a typo?  If so, it was a consistent and frequent typo, since it appears on nearly all of these.  Maybe it was a bit of sleight of hand, giving the appearance of being issued a year earlier than it really was?  No, nobody ever did that back in the day . . .  OK, my sarcasm is showing.

Until a foreign patent issued May 3, 1858 turns up, I’m guessing Clark wanted an extra year of seniority, and once the little white lie was out there, he wasn’t able to take it back gracefully.

That’s consistent with the “Improved 1861" notation on the braodside.  No patents from 1861 match anything Clark was up to, so the “Improved 1861" notation, which doesn’t actually say that there was a patent issued to Clark in that year, appears to be puffery.  

Next is July 10, 18?6.   Fortunately, the lesser of my two examples at least has that part clear: it was July 10, 1866:

There it is, in American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910.  I would have found it even if I didn’t have a cheat sheet from a better example:

Again, this patent covered only the composition of the lead (this time, adding both gypsum and silver nitrate to the graphite), so there aren’t any pictures of the pencils themselves:

However, note that my lesser example refers to “Case Pat. Jany 1 1867.”  Yep, it’s listed in the book – the date refers to patent number 60,885.  It was issued to William B. Hale and assigned to the “Northampton Indelible Pencil Company”:

There’s the Clark’s Indelible, in sheathed pencil form – and that is the bottom of the rabbit hole from yesterday’s article with a sign pointing at it that read “enter here to see where sheathed pencils have been done before.”   

The last date provided on the Clark label is that curious “Comp. Attachmt. 1874.”  My patent book include a pencil attachment, issued in 1874 to a guy in the area: Levi L. Tower of Boston received patent 155,272 on September 22, 1874 for an eraser attachment that doubled as a point protector:

I think the Clark Indelible Pencil could be had with this optional, Tower patented attachment.  The better of my two labels illustrates the closed pencil being used to dampen surfaces before writing with the pencil with the “square end of Composition,” suggesting the label is short for “Composition Attachment”:

Since the pencil case lacks any square-ended composition, this must have been something sold separately.  Although “Composition” might equally refer to the eraser-like substance attached to the knob at the other end of these shown earlier, the label clearly shows a closed pencil case with something on the end of it being used to rub the surface.

If there was an attachment for Clark’s Indelible Pencil, it might not have been the only product sold separately in the Clark’s Indelible family of products.  In October, 1867, The Uniform Trade List Circular published a list of “Entertaining Games” offered by D.B. Brooks & Brother in Boston:

Including “Clarks Indelible Dominoes” and “Clark’s Indelible Wood Blocks (With Pictures and Letters)”

Here kid – go play with some blocks covered in silver nitrate.  Ah, the good old days; what didn’t kill us apparently made us stronger.  

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Traces of Zippiness

 I knew I had written about this one at some point, but since I couldn’t identify it, it took forever to remember when . . . 

The article (Volume 4, page 12) was little more than a cry for help.  For six long years, it’s been lounging in the “worthy of inclusion, but I don’t know where” section at the museum.  In the time since, I repaired one of these in jade for Joe Nemecek – “fixed,” in the sense of rearranging the pieces so everything fit back together.  I also found the inside of a third example in cracked eggshell:

Thanks to the Krinke auction, I now know where this one fits in.  The opening bid of $100 for it had already been met online, so I took a “just in case” picture of it that turned out reasonably well:

There’s an old saying that it only takes two idiots to set the market, and by the end of the auction I found myself the bigger idiot of the two.  My winning bid of $110 was much more than I wanted to pay for this one . . . chalk it up as six years of pent-up frustration begging for release and a follow up article here at the blog.  Besides, now I can get some better shots:

“Zip” it reads in clever script, with the alluring “Pat. Pend.” message tucked inside the lettering:

The bar on the barrel serves a dual function, adding just enough friction to hold the pencil in place as well as securing a wrist strap – sort of a concealed carry for writers, I suppose.  

Although I’d expect that distinctive logo to appear in American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, I didn’t find a registration for it when I wrote the book.  However, now that I know a wrist strap is involved, I took a closer look at American Writing Instrument Patents Vol. 2: 1911-1945, hoping something might turn up in there.

Nope . . . but I’ll bet all of the other examples of the Zip also read “Pat. Pend.,” because I did list a patent which would have prevented a zippy, pending patent application for the Zip from being granted:

Halsey Monroe Larter filed a design patent application for a wrist mounted, sheathed pencil on August 29, 1930, and his application was granted on June 9, 1931 as Design Patent 84,352 (assigned, by the way, to William S. Hick’s Sons).  Larter, by the way, has appeared here at the blog before: he also patented that massive, multicolor Cartier pencil I wrote about some time ago (Volume 4, page 208).

The fact that Larter was awarded a design patent to protect the appearance, rather than a utility patent for his pencil’s function, is instructive.  Wrist straps securing writing instruments had been the subject of numerous utility patents in the 19th Century and were in the prior art, as were sheathed pencils.

I don’t think a utility patent application for the Zip was ever granted.  An examiner who pointed out that straps and sheathed pencils were both in the prior art, and the answer “but mine is turned sideways” likely wouldn’t differentiate it enough from what had already been done.

I did some poking around in my post-1945 patent database, and I found something even closer to the Zip:

On May 24, 1955, Anthony Laudani was awarded a design patent 174,821 (protecting the appearance, as opposed to a utility patent for the function) for something very similar to the Zip – but note that the pencil telescopes to full length as it is drawn from the sheath, something that was patented by utility patents issued to both Edward Todd and William S. Hicks in the late 19th century (see “The Hicks Variation” in Volume 5, page 96).  

Nevertheless, the issuance of a design patent in 1955 for a pencil that looks almost exactly like the Zip when sheathed is a pretty good indication that the Zip patent application was a utility patent application, rather than a design patent.  Otherwise, Laudani wouldn’t have been able to secure his design patent in 1955 either.

Even with a brand name in hand, I haven’t been able to find anything to indicate the who, when, or where behind these pencils.  I’m just one step closer, so here’s to hoping someone will read this second, more targeted cry for help and fill in more details in what I am sure will be a great story.

While I remain unable to answer the question of who was behind the Zip, I did find the answer to another question: why only this example is imprinted with that cool Zip logo.  As I was thinking about that, I wondered whether they actually were imprinted . . . just very poorly.  After all, I probably would have been looking for plain text, and if this imprint were faint, it might be mistaken for random scratches on the barrel.  I looked more closely at my other example and sure enough:

There it is – and I’ll bet Joe’s jade example has traces of zippiness, too! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Impulse Buys

 The main reason I drove all the way to Chicago for the Fred Krinke auction was for the all-stainless Eversharp Skyline.   There was one other item in that auction I was really hoping to bring home, although it was in distant second place:

In another article, widely read mostly because of the harsh criticism it generated (Volume 3, page 29), I suggested that perhaps the lack of cutouts in these bands had something to do with the pens they were meant to accompany.  Eversharp-made Gold Bond pencils had cutouts in the band if they accompanied piston-filled Gold Bond pens and lacked them if they accompanied less advanced lever-fillers, so I suggested Eversharp may have done the same thing on its regular line.

The illuminati descended, with several people saying they had cutout-band caps on many a lever-filler.  I don’t recall anyone saying they had plain-band pens with piston fillers, but someone might have.

Never mind it’s easy to switch caps.  Never mind that in the late 30s, Eversharp wasn’t particularly consistent - maybe they intended that at some point then abandoned the idea.  And of course, never mind that there is no known documentation to say either way whether I was right or wrong.  Meh . . . you know what opinions are like, and I have one, too.  Some might say I am one.

My purpose in chasing this one, though, wasn’t to rehash old arguments . . . even though I know I just did (maybe I’m nudging the illuminati a bit to see if anything’s turned up in the years since to prove me right or wrong).  I wanted this one because I’ve never seen one in black before - all the other examples I have seen are green or burgundy:

And that, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I’m going to say about that.

But with travel expenses and a day out of the office, I planned to buy more than just these two items if they were going cheap, for resale to offset some of the cost of attending.  The auction included many lots of Eversharp pencils, and many did in fact go very cheap - most of my bids were for friends, and they did very well, but there were three lots I took home for myself. The first was this group:

There was only one pencil in this group that interested me at the time - I knew I didn’t have an Eversharp Four Square in that weird grayish/bluish marble with red pinstripes on the corners:

I have scads of these in different colors (see Volume 5, page 130 for the full story - the article also appeared in The Pennant), and I’m always keen to find another color.  This example is from the height of Eversharp’s gimmickry in the series, with the supposedly more ergonomic tip and the reversible eraser cap that neatly conceals the eraser when not in use.  It also sports the viewing window on the back side, with the red spot indicator to show how much lead is left inside:

As well as a curious imprint - perhaps a shop model number – 43438 B:

Something I neglected to mention in my last article on these was that Eversharp also had a thin model of this pencil, without the indicator window and with hexagonal barrels:

I’ve got a few of these, and the one I found with an orange cap tells me there may be other variations out there to explore:

These smaller versions also sport the patent number for Eversharp’s reversible eraser cap:

As I pawed through the other items that came with that lot, I noticed there were two variations of the brown pencil – one with ribbing only halfway up the barrel, and the other ribbed all the way to the top:

I ended up adding both to the collection:

I’d noted the fully-ribbed variant here before when that black one found its way to me (Volume 3, page 89), imprinted with the name of Edd Dawson, the legendary pioneer of pencil collecting.  Time will tell whether the red and blue ones also exist with fully ribbed barrels!

Another lot which was going cheap during the auction included these two Doric repeating pencils, which I bought for resale:

I knew - or thought I knew - that these were duplicates after checking the rudimentary pictures in my “World’s Largest Eversharp Collection” post (Volume 5, page 32).  Here’s a better shot of the Type IV band examples:

Eversharp must have had trouble with the brown celluloid - note that one has a brass replacement sleeve, likely added to replace deteriorated material, and the other one is starting to go, too . . . even though it’s as NOS as they get, complete with a price sticker.  Incidentally, Eversharp Doric repeaters also come with Type III bands:

Note the rudimentary brass button on the green example?  All the green ones I have found like this have been advertisers, and all have sported that button.   Maybe the green ones were reserved as lower-cost advertisers  . . . maybe I just haven’t had the luck to find a regular issue example with matching button.  

Even though the examples from the Krinke auction appeared to be duplicates, I always make it a habit to compare anything that comes my way to what is already in the collection.  Dang it, I guess these aren’t inventory after all . . . this is something I’ve noticed before, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here at the blog.  There’s two types of imprints on these, and both of the ones from the Krinke auction have the other one from what is represented in my collection:

Some sport the simple Eversharp imprint found on all twist-model Dorics, but others feature a more elaborate imprint reading “Genuine Eversharp Patented / The Wahl Co. Made in USA.”  Judging from all of the Type III and Type IV repeaters in my collection, neither imprint is more rare than the other, and I don’t know which came first or whether both were offered at the same time.  

Perhaps it’s silly to keep these just because of that little difference, since all they will do is invite me to start chasing alternate imprints on all the other ones . . . but for now, given how little they cost me, here they stay for the time being.

One other lot I wasn’t planning to bid on was a sleeper:

These Skyline-based repeating pencils didn’t have a matching fountain pen to my knowledge, so they haven’t enjoyed the same attention as Dorics and other Eversharp lines that did.  On page 75 of The Catalogue, I lump them in with the “Press Clip II” family - that’s the group with a stapled-on clip and one narrow band mid-barrel.

Mechanically, these built every bit as well as all the other repeaters Eversharp made, and that pearl top – “mother of toilet seat” as it is derisively referred to in some circles – gives it a bit of extra interest.  However, Eversharp skimped a bit on the aesthetics: the trim on these is usually badly corroded, and the gold plating is so thin that it’s often tough to tell whether one of these has chrome or gold trim.  Many of these were advertisers, and while the screen printing is usually partly worn away, at least what’s left is easily removed to make them look nicer.  Grading these new ones on a bell curve, I’d rate their condition near the top of their class:

I haven’t delved into this series since The Catalogue was written, so I’m long overdue to post a current family photo:

The burgundy example from the Krinke auction is a new one for me, and note that there’s both chrome trim and gold wash (I can’t even bear to call it “plated”) trim examples.  I separated two examples from the rest of the herd to address separately:

Some of these have a much darker, yellow top.  I think the color is too even to be age discoloration . . . perhaps it’s just a different dye lot, and perhaps some late 40's/early 50's catalog will establish that customers could choose either white or yellow pearl.

Three lots bought on a whim, anticipating 12 pencils for resale . . . and I’m keeping 7 of the 12.  This investing thing is going in the wrong direction!