Saturday, July 31, 2021

A Box, a Display, and a Clue

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When this showed up in an online auction, I had to have it even though the pencil wasn’t American, wasn’t marked, and had nothing to do with the box:

It was the box that really interested me, because Hutcheon Brothers paraphernalia is really hard to come by:

Hutcheon’s products tend to slip under the radar, because the company’s logo is hard to read when it is found stamped on a pencil barrel.  It appears on the middle of the box between “Pens” and “Pencils” in distinctive, rounded letters:

Rarity aside, I wanted this example because I had the perfect place for it.  A few years ago, a glass counter display found its way to me with great acid-etched lettering for Hutcheon “Finerpointe” pencils:

Complete with a pointer, doing it’s thing:

Joe Nemecek has a boxed Hutcheon Finerpointe, complete with paperwork, sporting that same artwork:

While Joe’s box is a perfect match, I’m not going to quibble . . . the one I found adds a nice touch to my Hutcheon display of Finerpointes, Finepointers (yes, they changed the name from one to the other at some point), “Hutch Clutch” pencils, stockbroker pencils and other miscellaneous Hutcheon-marked stuff:

But . . . that’s not quite the end of today’s story.  Some time ago I picked up something that I didn’t know quite what to think about.  

No, it isn’t about the Ex-Lax advertisement.  At first, I thought this might be a Diamond Point or Eclipse, because it certainly shares similar lines.  Here it is alongside a “Marxton” (the Eclipse subbrand which borrowed its name from Marx Finstone):

Imprinted on the clip is “Winchester,” with the initials HB above it:

I’ve found Winchester-marked pencils before, but nothing that looks like this one.  The others are later - 1940s or so:

I’ve never heard the Winchester brand name used by Hutcheon Brothers, but that was the only possibility I could conjure up for that “HB.”  Note how those letters are rounded off, kind of like the lettering on my Hutcheon box?  

That same font was used on later examples of the company’s pens, too.  Here’s the imprint from a later Hutcheon fountain pen sold by Peyton Street Pens:

I think that’s our answer.

Friday, July 30, 2021

An Unusual Suspect

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The first of these two might have slipped into my collection under false pretenses:

One of them – the silver one I think – found its way to me at the Chicago show some fifteen years or so ago, while the other was in that enormous collection I bought at the Philadelphia Show back in 2015 (the “Philadelphia Hoard,” I call it).  At the top, these have an imprint I’d rate a nine or so out of ten on my coolometer:

“ReadYRite Patented,” they read, accompanied by a neat zigzag design around the crown.  When I say it joined my collection under false pretenses, I mean that I assumed the ReadYRite was patented in the United States, and I assumed that eventually I would run across that patent and write up a nice story about it.

When I did run across a patent, sometime between my encounters with these two pencils, I was a disappointed to learn that the ReadYRite might violate my frequently bent-to-the-point-of-breaking rule of collecting American pencils only.  It turned up on these:

The wonderful black background on this series isn’t quite niello; it feels and behaves almost like powdercoating.  At the top end, these read “READYRITE / Patent No. 66805 / Made in Japan.”  The patent number indicates that these were both made and patented in Japan (the number is much too low for an American patent).  

Obviously, the foreign ancestry of these didn’t deter me, since I’ve picked up three of them.  I told myself that I often make exceptions for foreign-made pencils actively marketed in the U.S., and these two types of pencils are so different that maybe the ReadYRite is American after all.  

When a boxed example of the Japanese version showed up online, it went ‘round the horn a few times as I pondered whether it was worth the investment.  When I finally took the plunge, it was in the hopes that the paperwork which accompanied it might tell a little more of the story:

I’ll admit that even if this one had absolutely nothing to do with the American pencil industry, I would eventually have caved.  The pattern is really nice, and it is in perfect condition:

The box and instructions didn’t help much, containing nothing that neatly laid out the whole story at my feet.  But there were a couple clues:

First is the name of the pencil – the “Improved” Readyrite.  Does that mean that the ReadYRite pencils were a previous incarnation?  Maybe . . . although the two pencils are so different, I can only speculate.  Then there’s another interesting word . . . “copyright.”  

In some European circles, the word “copyright” is sometimes used to mean “trademarked.” In this case, it must mean something else  . . . the box lid and instructions also include the words “Trade Mark”:

In American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, I find two nearly identical trademarks: the first doesn’t appear to have anything to do with either the ReadYRite or the “Readyrite”:

Aloysius J. Coleman, who provided a business address of 610 W. 139th Street, New York, claimed to have first used the trademark “Ready-Rite” on pencils and magazine pencils on September 1, 1920; his application for registration was filed February 17, 1921 and it was granted registration number 157,029 on July 25, 1922.

Note however that the mark is italicized and hyphenated, so this isn’t exactly the same as the ReadYRite and doesn’t share the same distinctive lettering.  I checked American Writing Instrument Patents Vol. 2: 1911-1945 looking for other clues, and Coleman did receive a patent for a mechanical pencil - number 1,440,058, applied for on March 19, 1921 and issued December 26, 1922.  However, it doesn’t look like either the ReadYRite or the Kobayashi Readyrite: 

Coleman is an enigma.  His address, 610 West 139th Street in New York, appears to have been residential apartments only, and I found no listing for any business there.  In addition, Coleman isn’t listed in the 1920 New York City Directory, even though that’s where he said he was when he signed his trademark registration application on February 12, 1921.  

The “Ready-Rite Pencil Corporation” was organized in Delaware, as announced in the Wilmington Morning News on February 21, 1921.  The incorporators were only professional front men, so the real parties in interest for the new company were not revealed:

The Ready-Rite trademark was the only one Coleman succeeded in registering, but it wasn’t the only one he applied for.  On April 27, 1921 he apparently hit on the idea of offering personalized pencils, and he filed trademark applications for a flurry of common first names for use on pencils.  None of these were granted registration, and it’s ironic that Tom, Dick, and Harry weren’t among them:

The only suggestion that Coleman’s Ready-Rite pencils made it into circulation was an account in the Weatherford (Oklahoma) News on April 27, 1922, which reported that the local Ford dealer, Bergman & Friesen had given out several hundred “Readyrite” pencils as a promotion – there’s no hyphen in the name as reported . . . maybe that was editorial oversight, or maybe these were my ReadYRite pencils:

On August 24, 1925, Commerce Reports noted that trademarks were applied for in Japan which conflicted with American trademarks in use in Japan, including Zembei Kobayashi’s Readyrite trademark, published in Japan on May 26, 1925.  Coleman apparently didn’t object, and he might have been out of the pencil business by 1925.

There was a second Readyrite trademark registered in the United States, number 268,359, was applied for on December 23, 1927 and was granted registration on March 11, 1930, to Zembei Kobayashi of Tokyo, Japan.  The mark closely resembles the one found on my boxed example, and Zembei claimed to have used it since December 5, 1923. Kobayashi notes that the mark had already been registered in Japan as number 174,470 on October 7, 1925:

Incidentally, that “Z” trademark found on the box and instructions likely refers to Zembei.  That mark is not listed in American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953: maybe Kobayashi carried more products than pens and pencils and the mark was filed under some other category, or maybe it was filed only in Japan or some other country.

Kobayashi’s Readyrite was offered in other English-speaking nations in addition to United States.  The earliest reference I found for the pencils, “of handsome design,” was in the Adelaide (Australia) Register on October 2, 1926:

The Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner advertised “Improved Readyrite Pencils” on August 19, 1928:

Readyrites were offered in “nickel or gilt” in the Edmonton (Alberta) Journal on December 2, 1927:

And an advertisement in the San Francisco Examiner on September 23, 1928 offered Readyrites with “colors inlaid with silver” for 25 cents:

I was really, really, REALLY hoping that I would find evidence that Zembei Kobayashi later went into the porcelain business. The Usual Suspects is one of my all-time favorite movies, and “Mr. Kobayashi,” Keyser Soze’s shadowy agent in the film was later revealed . . . well, I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t seen the film (do race to wherever one watches old movies and you’ll see what I mean).  

Alas . . . the only references I can find to a Kobayashi Porcelain are tribute coffee mugs inspired by the movie.  Apparently, “Kobayashi Porcelain” was a fictional company.

However, Zembei did leave me with another tantalizing bit of information that will have me actively tracking down other boxed examples of the Readyrite.

This paperwork indicates this was the “Blue Bird Pencil,” etched with “the symbol of all joy and happiness to the possessor.”  A closer look at the barrel bears out that description:

Which leads me to wonder . . . 

What were the other patterns called?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

My Earliest (pre) Mabie Todd

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I was trolling through some unmarked Victorian stuff the other day looking for a part that I needed, when I stumbled upon this tired little thing:

Sterling I suppose, and early . . . but unmarked and sporting a few little dents that relegated it to the parts bins.  The end pulls out and reverses to reveal a pen and dip pen combination, and the barrel has an extension tube for more comfortable writing:

I didn’t remember that nice little nib, which appeared to be unmarked but is in very good condition.  Since I’ve got a few combos missing their nibs, I pulled it out to see if the markings were concealed in the holder.  When I took a closer look, I knew this nib was going to stay right where it was, and this combo, warts and all, was going to be proudly displayed on the wall o’ pencils:

Bard & Brothers.  According to David Moak’s Mabie in America, Edmund H. Bard and James D. Bard formed Bard & Brother in 1848; in 1849 or 1850 they were joined by Jonathan Sprague Bard (who had been making nibs in Boston since 1846) and another brother, George J. Bard, and the firm was renamed Bard & Brothers.  In 1851, the firm was sold to William P. Smith, a clerk for Jonathan Bard during his time in Boston, and Edward Todd, one of the company’s traveling salesmen, and the firm carried on as Smith & Todd.  

Along came John Mabie, and the rest . . . is history.

My Bard & Brothers nib fits within that narrow window between 1849 and 1851, and the combo into which it is fitted is consistent with that era.  Therefore, it now sits at the very early end of the Mabie Todd wing at the museum.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Lovejoy's Legacy

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As pandemic worries were starting to ease up, Janet and I made a Saturday day trip down to Waynesville, Ohio - the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest” as it was known back in the day.  

It just isn’t the same as it was in the late 1970s, when every home and storefront on Main Street was amazing to explore. As the 1980s gave way to the 1990s and things like Longaberger baskets became hot commodities, new, made-to-be-collectible items began to displace true antiques, showcased in newly constructed buildings shrouded in a haze of pumpkin spice poupourri.  Dad used to grumble when he’d open a shop door that if it smelled good inside, there probably wouldn’t be anything worth looking at.  He had a point.

Then came the rise of eBay – a harsh yardstick for what our investment-grade nicknacks were truly worth as they were liquidated for real pennies on our imaginary dollars in online auctions.  The collapse of the antiques and collectibles market – at least from an investment perspective – inevitably followed.

Waynesville still proudly clings to its title with a death grip, although the Springfield Chamber of Commerce an hour to the north now also claims it, with its Interstate antiques megamalls and Extravaganza weekends at the fairgrounds.  I haven’t been back to Waynesville in years, and as Janet and I strolled up Main Street I noticed many of the places I remembered visiting as a kid have been converted back into private homes.  As Waynesville’s tourist prospects rose in the 1970s, residents along Main Street were forced out to make way for more shops; these days settlers are urged to move back in to fill up vacancies.

I didn’t spend much . . . a framed print for my daughter’s new apartment and lunch with a side of craft beer at the new pub in town.  We wandered into one of the shops after lunch – it smelled good, and I was done in minutes.  Janet was still milling around inside while I stepped out onto the porch – and on my phone, I opened up the Antiques Capital’s nemesis to see if there were any pencils there.

While I didn’t buy a single pencil during an entire day of shopping in Waynesville, I committed to buying one there on that porch in the final seconds of the first auction that popped up:

At first blush, this looks like W.S. Hicks pencils I’ve shown here at the blog quite a few times . . . but the close up pictures indicated this was something altogether different.  Most of these are nose-drive pencils, but the closeup pictures revealed that line near the nose is just a decorative groove rather than a joint – right beneath the words “Tiffany & Co.” and “Sterling.” There’s no Hicks, Edward Todd or Louis Tamis Hallmark:

The pencil is engraved with a very recent date for this style of pencil: September 7, 1957.

Then there’s that top – I wondered . . . could this be a Tiffany repeating pencil?

When the pencil arrived, I confirmed that yes Virginia, it is a repeater.  Even more interesting is what kind of repeater it is, as evidenced by something the auction pictures didn’t show clearly.  The jaws which grip the lead extend slightly outside the barrel.  

I was mulling this one over with Larry Liebman on the phone when it dawned on me where I had seen this before – it’s so far out of its element that I didn’t recognize it at first.  With the lead removed, the jaws contract enough that the entire mechanism slips right out.  Alongside an Eversharp Envoy, it’s clear that this is Charles Lovejoy’s patented design:

Lovejoy applied for his patent on January 22, 1944, and it was issued on September 12, 1944 as number, 2,358,091.  It was assigned to his employer at the time, the Moore Pen Company:

Originally, Lovejoy’s mechanism was put into use of Moore’s “Mastercraft” line (Volume 1, page 180), but it was later integrated into Moore’s Fingertip line (so named because Fingertip fountain pens had an inset that looked like a fingernail).  The Fingertip was Moore’s last gasp as ballpoints wreaked havoc on the fountain pen market, and according to the sources I’ve read, Moore failed in 1956.  

The following year, Eversharp’s writing instrument division was sold to Parker on December 19, 1957 (Volume 4, page 81), and Parker didn’t continue any of the pencils Eversharp had made previously.  Dur-O-Lite, however, picked up the line and continued to make Lovejoy-patent pencils into the 1960s.

That’s why this picture makes sense:

From top, there’s the new-to-me Tiffany, an Eversharp “Lovejoy Skyline” as I call them, a Moore Fingertip, and a Dur-O-Lite Ejector.

The Lovejoy patent Tiffany adds wrinkles to an already complicated story.  There’s no patent date, even though the Lovejoy patent didn’t expire until 1961.  Tiffany didn’t make any of its writing instruments; without a hallmark, I’d have to say the only remaining suspect which might have made the barrel in 1957 would have been Louis Tamis.

But who supplied the mechanism?  I’ve theorized in the past that by the time Eversharp sold what was left of its writing instruments division to Parker – just three months after the date engraved on this Lovejoy patent Tiffany – Eversharp’s entire pencil program had already been sold off.  Since the Dur-O-Lite shares both the same Lovejoy mechanism and the same clip found on the Eversharp Symphony, I’ve always believed Dur-O-Lite was Eversharp’s heir (Volume 5, page 223).

This is the first Lovejoy patent Tiffany I’ve seen, and I don’t think there were very many of them.  It was engraved in late 1957, but the mechanisms might have been sourced by Tiffany earlier . . . given the rapid succession of demises of Moore and Eversharp, it could have come from either of them.

But then there’s the possibility that Tiffany bought mechanisms from the lowly Dur-O-Lite Pencil Company, which makes me chuckle.  Lipstick on a pig, so to speak.