Friday, June 18, 2021

Tying in Tamis

We know more about Edward Todd and William S. Hicks during their decline than I ever thought we would know just a few years ago.   You would think after the article I posted on June 4 (https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2021/06/the-end-of-ws-hicks-revealed-at-last.html), it would be easy to explain how Louis Tamis wound up with all of Edward Todd’s equipment.  Maybe Hicks was making Edward Todd’s stuff, Larter & Sons bought Hicks, then Larter and Sons sold to Louis Tamis & Son, perhaps when Larter discontinued the Hicks name between 1943 and 1947.

Nope.  There’s a problem.  Two, actually.  We don’t know exactly what Larter & Sons bought, and we don’t know exactly what Louis Tamis & Son bought, either.

Let’s back up and start with what we know.  

1. Larter & Sons acquired William Hicks’ Sons between 1925, when the Hicks boys were still running the show, and 1929-1931, when Halsey Monroe Larter’s patents were being used inside Hicks-marked pencils (and other of Larter’s patents were assigned to Hicks).  If that seems to thin to accept as definitive, we know it must have happened by the time the Larters were named as Hicks’ partners in the 1933-1934 New York directory.

2.  The business of Edward Todd & Co. “Was discontinued in 1932,” according to Edward Todd, Jr.’s obituary five years later.  That’s equally thin evidence for a definitive date, but reliable for the fact that Edward Todd, Jr. was out of the business for a time before he died.   The firm is still listed in the 1933-1934 city directory, with Edward Todd, Jr. at the helm; maybe the information was collected during 1932 and Edward Todd Jr. closed up or sold out at the end of 1932 – but maybe not.

3.  In the 1933-1934 directory, Louis Tamis is still affiliated as a partner in Schanfein & Tamis, in which he had been involved since 1910 or so – as a jeweler, with no known involvement in the writing instruments industry.  

4.  Larter & Sons changed Hicks’ address to 10 Austin Street, Newark, New Jersey in 1937. That’s the house next door to Larter & Sons’ four-story factory, which Larter had occupied to manufacture its products since 1909. 

4.  Edward Todd, Jr. died in December, 1937.

5.  Sometime between publication of the 1933-34 and 1940 directories, Louis Tamis leaves Schanfein & Tamis and forms Louis Tamis & Son.

6.  The last mention of Hicks is in the 1943 Newark directory; when the next published edition came out in 1947, Hick is gone. 

Something else we know, but we don’t know when it happened, is that someone made identical pencils marked with Hicks and Edward Todd hallmarks, pursuant to William M. Hicks’ 1918 patent.  See Volume 6, page 40 for a pair of identical perpetual calendar pencils (the article is still online at  https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2020/04/that-thing-i-hate-to-do.html).

Now, let’s supplement this story with what Larry Liebman and David Nishimura learned when they visited the Louis Tamis & Son factory a couple years ago.  The Tamis archives include pencils and documents which do not fit neatly into our timeline, the earliest of which is this advertisement, which Larry indicates was pencil-dated 1937 (the same year Hicks’ offices were relocated to Newark):


The clips on the side clip model shown are Hicks-style, and the advertisement states these pencils were “manufactured” by Tamis – although the watch movement was not, and the pencil mechanism likewise might not have been.  The “newly patented” language is consistent with the patent references:  Jack Tamis’ design patent number 101,073 for the pencil/knife/watch combination was applied for on June 30, 1936 and was issued September 1, 1936: 


Note that the model 232 ringtop and 233 side clip watch pencils are both “patent applied for.”  Jack Tamis was working on more than just the outward appearance of writing instruments – the patent covering these pencils was a utility patent for the mechanism.  Tamis applied for patent number 2,107,879 on December 12, 1936, and it was issued on February 8, 1938.  It was designed so that the top pulled out of its rectangular housing a bit, then twisted like an ordinary screw drive pencil:


Right as my recent article on the end of William S. Hicks was publishing, Eric Magnuson pointed out an example of one of Tamis’ watch pencils in an online auction.  It sold for exactly the exorbitant price I predicted, and although I hate paying gold value, I couldn’t resist:


The advertisement for this pencil proves two things: first, by 1936 Louis Tamis & Son was in the writing instruments business.  Second, the firm was developing mechanical expertise (suggesting also some manufacturing capability) to make much more than just the outer shells. 

Tamis’ archives also includes a notebook containing details of the firm’s product offerings, and David Nishimura snapped a few pictures with his phone and agreed to share them here.  One page is titled “L. Tamis & Son Report July 31, 1938" and another page states “L. Tamis & Son Report April 30, 1939.”  



The products shown appear to be Edward Todd pencils.  Note the alternating vertical/horizontal ribbed pattern typical of Edward Todd, and models 391-55 and 391-17 appear identical to those Edward Todd pencils I recently showed on May 31 (see https://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2021/05/narrowing-gap.html):



There is also an illustration of one of Edward Todd’s square, extending ruler pencils, sporting the more conical nose I’ve observed on pencils marked Cartier and Pen-N-Pencil, and consistent with Edward Todd Jr’s 1925 design patent (see Volume 6, page 10):


The notebook also includes handwritten price sheets for fountain pens and combination pen/pencils (referred to as “Duplexes”), which itemize four product lines: “plain,” “E.T.,” “B.C.-17" and “S-55.”



“B.C” and “S” are a mystery, but “Plain” suggests without any branding, and “E.T.” must mean that Tamis was offering writing instruments branded Edward Todd in 1938 and 1939.  This is consistent with Larry Liebman’s oral history, which states that Louis Tamis & Son acquired whatever remained of Edward Todd, whenever Edward Todd, Jr. gave up making writing instruments.

Larry and David observed that Louis Tamis & Son also has pen and pencil-making equipment, which was acquired (according to the company) from Edward Todd – however, all of the remaining equipment on hand pertains to manufacturing the barrels, not the mechanisms inside.

If we knew who was making the insides of the pencils Edward Todd and Hicks were selling, before Todd sold to Tamis and Hicks sold to Larter & Sons, the complete story behind all of these firms would be much easier to put together.  

I have always thought Hicks had taken over the manufacturing for Edward Todd, based on identical Todd and Hicks pencils made under Hicks’ patent. I thought Edward Todd’s listing in the 1933-1934 directory, showing that the firm occupied rooms on the eighth floor of a 6th Avenue address, further supported that – not so fast, says David Nishimura, who points to the fact that many jewelry firms (including Tamis) have actual manufacturing going on upstairs, rather than at street level.

Jack Tamis’ utility patent for the watch pencil also suggest that along with the name, Tamis & Son also acquired wherewithal – at least to invent mechanisms, but perhaps also to make them.

On the other hand, Larter’s decision to move Hicks to the house next door to Larter & Sons’ manufacturing facility suggest Hicks was was making mechanisms as well as the shells that surrounded them, because there wouldn’t be any reason to park Hicks’ offices next door to Larter’s factory if Hicks existed in name only. As long as Larter’s offices were at 15 Maiden Lane and separated from Larter’s manufacturing, it would make more sense to keep Todd’s offices at the same location. 

We just don’t have any evidence yet to tell us whether either Todd or Hicks was making pencils for the other, whether each was making its own using shared equipment and technology, or whether both firms were sourcing the insides of their writing instruments from some unknown third-party supplier.

It’s still a dead end, but it isn’t as dead as it used to be.  The truth has a habit of floating to the surface as additional pieces of the story come together, and we know more than we did just a few weeks ago.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Harder Than It Should Be

 Most of the time, later Parker pencils don’t grab my attention . . . other than minor stylistic flourishes and barrels in different injection-molded colors, they’re all the same thing.   It’s like Derek Zoolander’s calendar, if you’ve seen the movie.

This one, however, is different . . . the “blue steel” of later Parkers. The company's desk pencils can be particularly thorny to identify, since they lack clips, caps and other “tells” that might point definitively towards any particular Parker model line:


The imprint on this one reads simply “Parker,” with “Made in USA” on the opposite side– there’s no date code, and neither is there any “halo” logo (the oval with an arrow running through it), which Loyal Knight Mike Kirk indicates was introduced in early 1958.  There’s a groove on the upper barrel - I don’t believe it was ever fitted with a metal band:


At the top end, the taper ends in a slight cone:


The tip unscrews to reveal what appears to be a Cross-built mechanism, typical for Parker, but with a little rib in the center:


The tip and mechanism are identical to some of the Parker 21 pencils in my collection:



Does that mean this is a Parker 21 desk pencil?  That would be too easy.  Parker didn’t care too much what went inside of the company’s pencils, as long as they were wrapped in chunks of plastic and metal that looked like their fountain pens (and in later years, their ballpoints).  Replacement mechanisms were pictured in a 1960 Parker parts catalog residing in the Pen Collectors of America’s reference library, and this mechanism was listed . . . not exclusively for the Parker 21, but also on the 51 as well as the V.I.P.:


However, the mechanism illustrated as a universal donor for all these models is not an exact fit for all these models.  The hexagonal section which engages a recess inside the barrel is significantly longer as pictured; I’ve got parts bins full of different variations with slightly different sizes, and I assure you that one size most certainly did not fit all.  I’m fond of saying that if you have two later Parkers, they probably have three different mechanisms inside them.

I asked the peanut gallery for help with the identification, and Loyal Knights Mike Kirk and Harry Shubin came to my aid.  Harry suggested it might be either a Parker Jotter or Parker 45 desk pencil; it has the girth of a Jotter, but Jotter desk tapers were more pointed than this.  Mike Kirk noted that the taper matches the profile of some Parker 45 desk ballpoints, but also indicated the barrels on Parker 45s were fatter.  He reports that his ballpoint is “buried I-don't-know-where,” but he found where Rob Bader has one listed in an online auction:


Note that Rob’s pen has a gold ring, but note that it steps down towards the writing end; that’s the same clutch ring carried over from the Parker 45 fountain pen line.  

According to Tony Fischier’s site, Parkerpens.net, the Parker 45 was introduced in 1957 and was based on the Eversharp 10,000 (Parker acquired Eversharp’s writing instrument division that year). That might square with an early production Parker 45.  National newspaper advertising for the Parker 45 was heavy in 1960, and after looking at a couple hundred of them, I gave up trying to find one that illustrated a desk pen.   There are other problems with a Parker 45 diagnosis:  Parker’s catalogs in the PCA library don’t show this variation, either those Parker replacement parts catalogs omit any reference to this model, and . . . unless it was made in 1957, it should have a halo logo.

Then Mike Kirk found another lead - an identical desk pencil at Parker51.com, in the desk pens section (http://parker51.com/index.php/51s/desks/).  The author identifies it as a Parker 51 desk pencil and further states that it has a 1953 date code.

Identification as a Parker 51 desk pencil would fit; if that’s what it is (and if Parker was consistent, an enormous “IF”), we can pinpoint exactly when it was made.  Mike Kirk reports that his latest date-coded Parker is marked 1955; if Parker discontinued date codes after that year, this suggests production in 1956 or later.  

As mentioned earlier, the absence of a Parker halo logo suggests pre-1958 production, but we can narrow things down even more.  The 1957 Parker catalog in the PCA’s library illustrates desk pens, and even with the terrible quality of the copy, tapers on these pens clearly show bright metal tips:


There’s our contingent answer: IF this is a Parker 51 desk pencil, and IF Parker discontinued date codes after 1955, and IF Parker universally abandoned the stubbier desk tapers by 1957, this is a Parker 51 desk pencil from 1956.

Oh, and there’s one other thing . . . IF Parker universally used chrome plated tips on the Parker 51 “Special” line, it’s a 1956 Parker 51 Special desk pencil.

If, of course, someone over the last 60 years didn’t simply replace the tip . . .


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

All For the Paper

This was advertised as a “set” in an online auction.  


The pencils are run-of-the-mill Eversharp Skylines, and both went straight to the sale bins for the next pen show.  The box is also Skyline era . . . nothing special there:


The paperwork, however, grabbed my attention.  I’ve arranged them as they were shown in the auction pictures, and I could see something that didn’t fit in at all with the pencils or the box.  In fact, they didn’t fit in with any Eversharp paperwork I’ve been able to study:


Eversharp didn’t refer to Skylines as “Gold Seal Repeaters,” because instead of a seal the double-check mark was incorporated into the clip.  This paperwork therefore likely pre-dates the introduction of the Skyline in 1941, and the combination of those two terms – “Gold Seal” and “Repeater” – places that paperwork within a very narrow, fascinating time period in Eversharp’s history.

When the item arrived, there were papers for both Gold Seal Repeaters and Gold Seal pens:


With one extra little twist:


“Eversharp, Inc.”  We’ll come back to that in a minute, because there was one other piece of paper folded up in this group . . . with stars on it . . .


For the Eversharp White Star Repeater.  Printed on the back are generic Eversharp repeating pencil instructions, which apply to all Eversharp models of this time period:


Step 2 of the instructions, regarding removal of the “Magic-Button,” illustrates a Coronet clip:


The Coronet, however, didn’t have any seals or white stars . . . and there’s something else to notice on the front side:


The White Star paperwork was printed by The Wahl Company, not Eversharp, Inc., in March, 1940.  

I’ve also written about Wahl’s garage sale of pens and pencils cobbled together from leftover parts – most notably, in connection with the X-seal pens and pencils (see Volume 6, page 110-112).  The general consensus has been that these weird variants were part of a financial reorganization of the company in 1939.

While Wahl might have been making use of leftover parts in 1939, the reorganization didn’t happen until 1940.  An account published in The Chicago Tribune on June 12, 1940, after the dust settled, stated that The Wahl Company showed a net loss for the year ending February 29, 1940, as well as in 1938 (no information was reported for 1939).  

The company’s largest and most formidable group of creditors was its own shareholders: dividends had been declared over the years, but Wahl had not paid accrued dividends on preferred shares of the company’s stock since 1930, and holders of common shares had not been paid since 1924.

On March 13, 1940, The Wilmington, Delaware News Journal reported that a new corporation, Eversharp, Inc., had been incorporated.   


On April 13, The News Journal published notice of a special meeting of the shareholders in The Wahl Company: on May 7, 1940, the shareholders would be considering a merger.  Holders of 7% preferred shares of Wahl Company stock, which had accrued dividends of $80.50 per share, would receive six shares of preferred stock and five shares of common stock in the new company.  Common stockholders would receive one share of common stock in Eversharp, Inc. for every 2 ½ shares of Wahl Company common stock:


The Associated Press reported that the deal was approved at the May 7 meeting, by a vote of 120,907 to 3,701.  

All of this happened just as the White Star line was being introduced.  I’ve written about “White Star” Eversharps before (see Volume 3, page 238 and most recently in Volume 5, page 224), and I’ve always dated them to 1940 or so because at some point I’ve seen another piece of paperwork, also dated March, 1940.  The typical White Star pencil is an aluminum-barrel affair, sporting Eversharp’s prettiest clip of all time:


The domed, gold-filled caps are correct on this series; the top example has a Skyline button for a replacement, and one has an eraser simply wedged in where the button should be.  The example second from top isn’t clipless – I’ve turned it around to show the location of the imprint.

Advertising for these pencils is consistent with the paperwork I’ve turned up.  The earliest advertisement I found for them appeared in The Indianapolis News on March 27, 1940, describing them as the “World’s First Thin Lead Eversharp Repeater Pencil”:


That’s pretty awkward wording.  Official national advertising described them as the “World’s First Thin Lead Repeating Pencil,” like this one published in The Spokane Chronicle on May 10, 1940:


The other series of pencils Eversharp made with White Stars are much harder to come by:


These featured in Volume 5, page 224, and the second one from bottom, with two equally thick gold bands at the top and a double check seal rather than the White Star, was discussed in Volume 3, page 238:


Could this be the “Gold Seal Repeater” from the paperwork at the beginning of this article?  Maybe . . . after all, these have been identified as the Eversharp “Victory,” advertised in 1941 (see Volume 4, page 174):


If . . . Eversharp was consistent in how the company referred to its products – recall that the Four Square from around the same time was referred to at different times as the Forty Niner or the Red Spot (see Volume 5, page 130).  Could “Gold Seal” Repeater have referred to things which didn’t have Gold Seals, like the Skyline?

The earliest advertisements I found reveal that the Skyline moniker was used from the model’s introduction.  Here’s an advertisement published in The Town Talk in Alexandria, Louisiana on October 4, 1940:


However, on January 21, 1941, The Indianapolis News ran an advertisement for “The New Eversharp Gold Seal Pen”:


Granted, both of these are jewelers’ advertisements rather than official Eversharp ads . . . but The Town Talk didn’t pull the word “Skyline” out of thin air, and I doubt that The Indianapolis News plucked “Gold Seal Pen” out of the blue, either.  

Then there’s this advertisement, which ran in several newspapers in February, 1941.  This one ran in The Bloomington Pantagraph on February 13:


These advertisements specifically mention Henry Dreyfuss as the designer, but the name “Skyline” isn’t used.  The pen is described only as having a “Magic Feed,” although the picture of the airplane and the reference to writing at altitudes above 12,000 feet tie in well with the Skyline name.

There’s one other thing to notice: the placement of the trim band on the pencil.  In the January, 1941 advertisement, the band falls on the boundary between the striped upper section and solid color lower section, but in the February advertisements, the band is moved up into the striated section, to better match the bands on the pen. 

Was this artistic license?  After all, the trim band on pencils always falls on the boundary between the two materials, right?


Almost always.  Out of all my Skylines, this is the only example like this that I’ve been able to find.  Apparently the modification was extremely short-lived, very early in production.  

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Rounding Up the Victorians

The collecting universe seems to have a cyclical rhythm.  When I piddle through online auctions, my search is usually for “pencils” rather than for any particular breed or vintage – yet from unrelated sellers, like pencils of similar feathers will flock together to my doorstep.

The image at the beginning of yesterday’s article grouped together a cluster of Victorians that landed here within a fairly short time, from random sources.


For starters, here are three interesting John Hollands:


Represented here from top are a dip pen, a combination dip pen and pencil (based, incidentally, on John Mabie’s October 3, 1854 patent discussed yesterday), and a magic pencil.  


Still, the holder is marked Holland, and as a proud Ohioan, it’s nice to see the Cincinnati maker’s mark:


And then there’s that nib . . . a big, gorgeous, and tougher-to-find Number 6 “horseshoe” nib


The combo is a tiny little thing, with a much smaller Holland Number 2 nib that needs a little bit of work:


What really attracted me to this one is the barrel composition: sterling and rose gold on the barrel, with yellow gold ends and slider ring – two-tone Victorians you’ll find from time to time . . . but tri-tone?  


That third Holland looks like an ordinary magic pencil, but there’s something special about it:


The extender reads “Jno. Holland” on one side, and “Pat. Jul 11 - 76" on the other – and I didn’t have a writing instrument with that patent date in my collection.  It’s listed in American Writing Instrument Patents 1799-1910: patent number 179,743 was applied for by Edward Tyrell of Cincinnati, Ohio on June 8, 1876.  It was issued with lightning speed in just over a month, and assigned to John Holland:


Next to find its way to me is this large slider pencil, sporting handsome engraving reading “Sophia S. Brown 1853";


Lettering on the other side of the barrel is much smaller but speaks louder, at least to me:


I described it as a “large” slider pencil, and you might not think it is until I tell you it’s a Rauch & Co.  By Rauch standards, it’s a behemoth:


Next up is one of those large “convertible” pencils – you can either extract the pencil leaving the case hooked to a watch chain or use it in the case:


It resembles other pencils I’ve written about here before:


Those other three are a Simmons, a Cross (AXT, for A.T. Cross), and a Mabie Todd:


This one, however, is marked U.S. Fountain Pen Company, predecessor firm to the U.S. Victor Pen Company:


I’m not sure where to file this next one away in my collection.  It has two interesting tells: that distinctive rose gold, and the odd placement of the joint for the twist mechanism, farther towards the end rather than right in the middle:


The seller described it as a Bailey, Banks & Biddle, which was true . . . but it also bears a patent date of June 27, 1865:


I recently wrote about the history of the Philadelphia jewelry firm of Bailey, Banks & Biddle (see Volume 6, page 119).  I’ve also written about the man who received that 1865 patent, a little-known inventor named Frederick W. Cox (Volume 4, page 175).   My only other example of the Cox patent is in black hard rubber, and may have been made by Mabie Todd:


After much agonizing, I decided the two Cox pencils go together . . . and I’m noting that here mostly to remind myself where on earth I put that other Bailey, Banks & Biddle!

Finally, this last one was described in an online auction, as not in working order.  I was feeling a little frisky, so I threw in a nominal bid thinking it might be fun seeing if I could do anything with it. 


I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived to find that the pencil was operating just fine – that was half the battle, anyway . . . 


The nib slider, however, wouldn’t budge at all.  I used the old lighter fluid trick to see if that might loosen things up a bit, and it did – I got it to move forward just far enough that the tip of a nib emerged from the end, and I was able to pull it out: a cheap steel fountain pen nib that had nothing to do with a Victorian (the Holland nib with the horseshoe cutout earlier was an exception -- Victorian dip pen nibs typically don't have breather holes).  

With the nib out, I tried the slider again – no more progress, so I hit it with more lighter fluid, then a little dab of oil in the slit, and the tip of another cheap steel nib peeked out.  


Good Lord . . . how many clowns were going to pop out of this car?  With the second nib extracted, I got my answer as the slider freed up at last.  There were three nibs in this one, and the third was a whopper:


Miraculously, the original F.T. Pearce & Co. nib was undamaged by all the junk that had been shoved on top of it.  Best of all, I didn’t have a Pearce nib in my collection – the closest thing I have is an interesting Pearce & Hoagland from Frank T. Pearce’s earlier partnership (Volume 3, page 3).