Monday, May 31, 2021

Narrowing the Gap

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This pencil was not properly described at all in a recent online auction:

It didn’t have to be.  I knew exactly what it was from that clip:

When it arrived, however, I wanted to see that tiny little mark:

Yep.  That’s the hallmark for Edward Todd & Co., and it’s tough to find ones like this, made in the last few years of the company’s existence.  Todd’s “Everpoint Magazine Pencils” were advertised in the February 5, 1919 issue of The Jewelers’ Circular – that’s the same issue that includes historical sketches of all the New York pen and pencilmaking firms:

These are scarce enough that I would have picked this one up even if I had five just like it – but I don’t.  This one needed to be photographed alongside its gold filled brother:

“Magazine pencil” suggests that these had a space inside the pencil to store spare leads, and after this new one arrived, I took a closer look at the top end, with that little raised bump in the middle:

I fiddled around with it a little bit and learned that it twists to reveal an opening . . . and voila:

Kind of neat, and a really unique feature on an Edward Todd.

I stumbled across another later Edward Todd during a “cabin fever” escape Janet and I made to get out a little bit over the long winter of 2020.  We made our way west to the Springfield antique malls flanking Interstate 70.  The staff was shorthanded, of course, and after I had bothered one poor guy half a dozen times to open cases (I even bought something overpriced that I didn’t want out of guilt), he was getting a little weary of running back and forth – and he had noticed a pattern in the things that interested me.

“You know, there’s a guy on the back wall with a lot of pens and pencils,” he said.  “Why don’t I just take you back there now?” 

He was not wrong on both counts.  There were a lot of pens and pencils in that showcase, and yes, I would have been calling him back again to paw through them.  Most of it was ordinary stuff in not-so-great condition, but so starved I was for any live-action hunting in the wild that I pawed through everything like a man rescued from the desert on the verge of expiring from thirst.   And I did find this:

It was on a different shelf from all the other stuff, probably because it was more special than the other things on display by a blue mile - and I nearly missed it.  Again, the clip announced what it was before I picked it up . . . and without hesitation, said I’d take it.

These might have been offered by Edward Todd at the same time as the firm’s Magazine Pencil, but the only reference I’ve found to them being advertised was a couple years later.  It appeared in The Jewelers’ Circular on November 30, 1921:

I just knew how nice it would look alongside one I had at home:

Both are in flawless condition.  Note that while the sterling silver example has the very distinctive Edward Todd clip, the other has a more rounded one - more like a Hicks.

While my gold Magazine Pencil is gold filled, my Everpoint is the real deal.  I remember it was my big splurge at The Ohio Show a few years back, and it was one of the few times I knew I would have to pay gold value and was eager to do so – there’s a lot of gold in that one:

As companies like Edward Todd fizzled out, the information that’s available becomes sparse.  In an earlier series here (“From Bagley to Todd,” starting in Volume 5 at page 174), I mentioned that Edward Todd, Jr.’s obituary, which ran in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 24, 1937, is the only surviving obituary for the firm that bore his father’s name: “his business was discontinued in 1932,” it states (Volume 5, page 180).

I’ve mentioned Larry Liebman’s family connection to the Louis Tamis family here before, and Larry reports that LT & Son acquired Edward Todd & Company’s machinery and tooling.  There is some truth to that, but it did not occur in 1932 and it may not have been acquired directly from Edward Todd.

The 1933-1934 New York City Directory contains information which was likely gathered near the end of 1932, and it includes a listing for Edward Todd & Company.  The company had withdrawn to the 8th floor of the building at 100 6th Avenue, New York – without a ground floor presence, the firm must have been on its last legs:

I also wonder how the firm’s equipment would have made it up to the eighth floor – perhaps it had already been sold off, and the company existed in name only or marketed products manufactured by somebody else.  That might explain why some Edward Todd pencils are identical to those made by W.S. Hicks.

However, if Edward Todd’s equipment was sold in 1932 or earlier, Louis Tamis & Son was not the buyer, strictly speaking.  Although the firm’s account of its own history states that it was founded by Louis Tamis in 1909, that isn’t accurate.  The earliest reference I found to Tamis’ involvement in the jewelry industry was on July 26, 1910, when The New York Tribune reported that space had been leased at 38 Maiden Lane to a new partnership, Schanfein & Tamis:

The firm first appears in Trow’s Copartnership Directory for 1911, identifying the partners as Louis Tamis and Bernard Schanfein:

The 1933-1934 directory still reports Louis Tamis as being associated with Schanfein & Tamis, and there is no mention yet of the establishment of Louis Tamis & Son:

The 1940 Manhattan directory reflects that at some point between 1933 and 1940, Schanfein and Tamis had parted ways.  Schanfein is listed as a goldsmith at 64 West 48th Street:

Louis Tamis & Son and Louis Tamis are listed at 36 West 47th Street.  There’s no residence address listed for Louis, and his son isn’t listed at all:

By the 1930s, the New York City Directory had become just too cumbersome, and more manageable, separate directories emerge for each of the five boroughs.  Perhaps, Tamis and his son lived in one of those other boroughs.  Maybe, however, they lived across the river in New Jersey, like Ephraim Johnson. 

If that’s true, some things I’ve found might make a little more sense.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

What They Looked Like and Why Most Don't

This article has been included in The Leadhead's Pencil Blog Volume 7, now available here.

If you don't want the book but you enjoy the article, please consider supporting the Blog project here.

A couple of years ago, Jimmie Cockburn sold me a pencil marked “Pencil Knife” on the clip, and I puttered around without success trying to find out who made it and when (see Volume 5, page 252).  I noted that the stepped top end suggested there might have been a cap on top:

“. . . but I really don’t know why there would be, since it would really interfere with how the business upper end works”:

Yes – and yes – I have learned, since a second, more complete example turned up in an online auction:

I still haven’t found anything out about who made these, but at least this new example does answer a few questions.  First, the earlier example I found does have a correct lower barrel – since the color was a mismatch, I had some quiet reservations about whether the two halves came from different pencils, but the jade example has the same mechanism, proportions and trim:

It also has a flat gold filled cap at the top, which confirms that a little something was missing from the one I found earlier:

It also shows why it is missing from the one I found earlier.  The cap itself is what limits the extent to which the knife opens – you can see where the metal on the cap has been bent where the back edge of the blade has pressed against it.  

If you actually used this as a knife, the pressure of the back side of the blade against that cap would pop it right off.  In fact, you can also see in this picture that someone has applied a dab of glue, maybe at the factory when it was installed, but more likely to reattach it after it came off.

The blade on this one shows more signs of use than the other, and the tang markings are more poorly stamped.  They appear to be almost identical to the other example I found, with one difference that might be telling.  I had noted in my earlier article that a trademark registration had been filed for the name “Pencilnife” by the Pencilnife Corporation, for a “pencil clip and knife combination”

However, I noted, the name on both the clip and the tang read “Pencil Knife,” spelled correctly and in two words – but it does say “Trademark”:

The tang markings on this new one are very poorly stamped, but you can just make out something:

The “K” is clearly missing, putting this “Pencil Nife” one step closer to the “Pencilnife.”   I’m still not convinced this is a product of the Pencilnife Corporation – the company filed a mark for a clip and knife combination, not for a pencil with a knife built into the barrel, and if it was trying to build brand recognition you would think they would be consistent in spelling its own name.

You would think.  But then again, not much about the Pencil Knife appears to have been well though out.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Not Entirely Cricket

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Rob Bader had a bag lot of Sheaffer parts listed online, and after I spent too much time thinking about it I ended up buying them just so I would quit thinking about them.  It was like bringing home a jigsaw puzzle, spreading things out on the kitchen table for an afternoon to complete some pencils I’ve had laying around.  

I was mostly interested in some of the brightly colored barrels for the lower-priced Cadet lines.  I’ve got lots of Sheaffer mechanisms laying around, and I thought it would be fun to make something out of them.  By the time I was finished, I’d put together around ten pencils – nothing noteworthy, just fun.  I didn’t even take pictures of what came out of the exercise, although I do remember that a couple of these came out of it:

I wasn’t expecting something like this to be in there:

This is the top half of a Sheaffer “Cadet Utility,” in official Sheafferese.  If the clip were gold filled, it would be referred to as a “Sovereign Utility,” “Admiral Utility” or “Craftsman Utility,” depending on which pen was sold with it.  If the cap was fitted with a wide (1/4" or so) gold band, it would be from a “Statesman Utility.”

These exposed-eraser, striated celluloid Sheaffers are really tough to find.  A while back I went through and reshot all of my post-War Sheaffer pencils and posted a backchannel article here just for myself called “Maybe I Won’t Buy Duplicates Now” in the hopes I would quit buying pencils I already have.  Here’s the shot of the exposed-eraser pencils I’ve found:

Note that all but the Statesman Utility have bead bands.  The grey pearl example made news here back in 2014 (Volume 3, page 79), and the black one found its way to me at some point since.  But . . . carmine?   Only a roseglow example would excite me more to find!

Since I had bought the entire parts lot to put things together anyway, I thought I would have no trouble building an entire pencil around this cap – after all, the exposed eraser is the tough part, I reasoned.  However, I immediately ran into problems:

I found two possible donors, but neither is quite what I have in mind.  Both have gold trim, for starters - and that beadband is an integral part of the lower barrel, so there’s no swapping over a chrome-plated bead band.  Then there’s the lower barrels themselves:

The Cadet Utility has a lower barrel that is longer than any of Sheaffer’s regular line pencils . . . and it is ribbed (at least on the Cadet series; on the Statesmans, some are and some are not).  

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I used the one without the bead band as a temporary cap-holder.  At least that way, it just looks a little shorter, and only the wrong colored tip looks out of place.

I didn’t swap out the tip for now, because I’m telling myself this is just a temporary fix, so I can display a carmine Cadet Utility in my collection.  When the correct lower half of one of these surfaces, I tell myself, I’ll return the original cap to the pencil and all will be completely cricket.

Like that will ever happen.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Right Under My Nose

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The fascinating thing about collecting Eversharps is how many variations there are, many of which are so subtle than even when you are fully alert and on your toes, things can slip right by unnoticed.  Matt McColm tipped me off about this one in an online auction:

I’ve got one of those, I said.  “Ring Colonial,” Wahl called the pattern . . . I hadn’t checked my stash before I made that assessment, though, so I didn’t know at the time that the only other example I had in this pattern was the side clip model:

However, that wasn’t what changed my mind – it was Matt’s incredulous response:  "With that cap?” he asked:

Now that was something I knew I didn’t have – I had already done a full inventory specifically looking for different caps just a few months ago, when I was looking for other examples of that deco cap that turned up on a Grecian Border example (Volume 6, page 25):

Well, heck – you’d think Eversharp would use the cap with a grecian border on the Grecian Border pattern, not the Ring Colonial!  Matt went on to explain that this variation is illustrated in Wahl’s catalogs, so I went to the PCA library to check.  There it was, in the 1928 catalog:

Shown on both the side clip and ringtop versions of the Ring Colonial . . . and not any other pattern:

Two Eversharps in Don Jacoby’s collection also had subtle little differences that nearly got past me.  The first was in a drawer full of metal pencils;

An Eversharp in a common pattern like this, and with a name engraved on it, wouldn’t make headlines in a sea of other pencils . . . but when I picked it up for a closer look, what makes it unusual stands out:

This is a full length model with no clip.  I’ve only found one other like it:

These two both have the same imprint: “Ever Sharp,” two words, with no mention of The Wahl Company; that dates the pencils to a period between the pencil’s introduction in 1913 and shortly after Wahl took over production of the pencils and began making them on Wahl’s own account in 1917.  

To my knowledge they have never been found mentioned in any Wahl catalogs, and I’ve never seen them pictured in any advertisements, either.  

It could be that these were made very shortly after Wahl started making pencils for Charles Keeran in October, 1915.  Earlier Ever Sharp pencils were made by the George W. Heath Company, and they sported Heath’s patented clips – if the Heath relationship ended badly, perhaps Keeran and Wahl were left without any clip to use until Keeran took out his design patent for the “trowel clip,” which was soldered to the side of the barrel.  Both the Heath clip and later Wahl clip models required punching holes in the barrel before the inner liner was inserted; only the trowel clip model of 1916 would have had a barrel free of punches.

It’s just a theory.  I wasn’t there.

The other one from Don’s collection is an eye-roller for Eversharp collectors:

We know we are supposed to like and appreciate these, but they just aren’t all that attractive . . . they were made after Parker acquired parts of Eversharp in 1957, we know because they sport the “Big E” on the clip and the later script Eversharp logo near the top:

As was the case with the other pencils I’ve seen along these lines, it has a “Made in England” imprint:

I grudgingly opened the drawer containing my other examples, just to see if it was different from what I’ve found so far:

It is.  The other examples are even uglier, with triangular lower barrel sections that are larger than the tops.  The barrel on Don’s pencil is round, but that’s not what’s really different here.  Two of these awkward-looking pencils are cap-actuated repeating pencils, which advance the lead by pushing down on the cap.  The third is a rear-drive twist pencil:

Don’s pencil, however, is a nose-drive twist pencil: