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 . . .