Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Sleeper

When things wind down on Sundays at the shows, there comes a point at which John Hall and I look around the room, and the atmosphere has changed from pen show to social hour.  At that point, we’d rather have our stuff all packed up in the car so we can take our time going around the room and saying goodbye to all our friends.  It takes a while, since we know just about everyone in the room.

On our last run around the room at Raleigh this year, John got to chatting with someone and I happened to look down at the table next door.  Force of habit, really . . .  I wasn’t expecting to see anything I hadn’t already seen after three days in the same room together.

And yet, there was something there that I’d seen, but hadn’t really noticed: . . and I”d venture to say no one else had, either, because this one should have been snapped up:

This one sports a disproportionately large clip marked “Pat. Sept. 26 05":

The reference is to patent number 800,141 issued to William I. Ferris, on an application he filed on April 7, 1905:

The patent was assigned to the L.E. Waterman Company, and the clip is best known as a Waterman clip.  However, when you see one without that ball on the end, that’s a dead giveaway that on the back side of the barrel, you’re likely to find . . . .

“ALCo,” for Aikin Lambert Company.  Aikin Lambert, which was originally a supplier of gold nibs to Waterman, gradually grew closer and closer to its best customer until it was finally absorbed by Waterman in 1907 (David Nishimura posted an excellent article on the transition of Waterman control over at his blog a few years ago – see

This is one of Aikin Lambert’s line of leadholders – a turn of the crown simply releases the lead, which must then be pushed in or dropped out to the desired length.  I’ve got several, including some with plain gold-filled barrels like this one, but what struck me about this example was how disproportionately large that Ferris clip is.  Well actually . . .

The clip is the same size as what you’d find on any of these.  It’s the rest of the pencil that’s so much smaller than I’m used to seeing!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A One-Hit Wonder

Every year there’s an auction at the Raleigh Pen Show (also known as the Triangle Pen Show), and this year’s affair featured a few lots of pencils that I found interesting during the preview.  One lot featured a dozen or so early metal pencils from the first couple decades of the last century, and Joe Nemecek said he was going to bid on that bunch because there was a Hutcheon in there he was interested in.

I sat back and let Joe have at it – but as the bidding heated up, he dropped out at what I considered still a low price for what was in that bunch.  So I jumped in . . . not for the Hutcheon so much, but for this one:

Since I’m a member of Newark Lodge Number 391 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), whenever I find a nice early piece of memorabilia from one of my furry animal clubs I’m a happy camper.  I couldn’t really tell what that pink paper rolled around the barrel was, but I was hoping it was an instruction sheet for the pencil. . .

When I flattened it out, though, it turned out to be a blank Elks membership card, complete with instructions regarding the proper use of “Royal Glue,” snapping rubber bands and slipping brass collars down to the center

I think I’m missing something here.  These just look like random words to me.  However, with the card slipped off the barrel of the pencil, it made it easier to notice something a little odd about the end of that pencil:

That extra long tip twists to advance and retract the lead, which made me wonder what happens if you unscrew the crown . . . and now for something completely different:

Now that’s really unusual.  It’s essentially a leadholder with a little screw drive mechanism replacing what would ordinarily be a stick of lead.  That had me looking more closely at the barrel to see if there were any more clues, and there was one, imprinted above the Elks emblem:

“Pat. Dec. 31, 12.”   That was a date I wasn’t familiar with, but it didn’t take long to find a pencil patent issued on that date in American Writing Instrument Patents Vol. 2: 1911-1945 (brief commercial announcement . . . copies are still available at

George V. Orban and Bogumil Silberstein of New York, New York applied for patent number 1,049,137 on January 24, 1912, but when I looked at the Orban/Silberstein patent, there’s something wrong here . . .

The drawings and the description show a plunger backed by a spring which scoots the lead forward when the entire mechanism is pushed inward ... and my pencil has a screw drive mechanism.  This isn’t my pencil.

But I do have one other patent listed in my book and filed on December 31, 1912 . . . and it isn’t for a pencil:

Alonzo Bunt Scott of Fairmont, West Virginia applied for a patent for his “card-case attachment for pencils” on April 9, 1912, and it was issued December 31, 1912 as patent number 1,049,275.

And then the lights came on.   Remember those curious instructions?  Look what’s at the end:

Whaddaya know.  That also explains that loose metal ring at the top of the mechanism, which I thought was broken.  It’s actually a retaining ring (the "brass collar" referred to in the instructions) so that when your card is rolled up, it holds it tightly wound so that the barrel slips easily slips over it.  I wound it tightly, but as I’m fresh out of “Royal Glue,” I didn’t attach it:

The patent drawings don’t show that retaining ring - instead, it shows a “card clamping ring” detailed at figure 4.  Note also that the barrel is secured to the inner workings by threading at the top end, rather than by a threaded bushing closer to the nose.  These differences were explained when I turned to the “patents by inventor” section of my book, where I’ve listed a second patent issued to Alonzo for an improved version of his pencil as number 1,297,017, applied for on October 18, 1918 and issued March 11, 1919:

Scott’s “Patent Card-Case Pencil” must have enjoyed some measure of commercial success.  I’ve found three advertisements for his invention.  The earliest, attributed to 1918, was posted in a silver forum ( by “dognose.”  I haven’t been able to find the original:

In August, 1922, Scott advertised his pencil in Golfers Magazine as a scoring attachment; I’m not sure how this would work; at least with my example, the pencil is attached to the card, so when the card is extracted, you’d need a second pencil to write on it . . .

In late 1922, they were also advertised in The Jewelers’ Circular:

Note that in all these advertisements, the pencil doesn’t appear to come out with the attachment - that must especially be true with the golf scoring card attachment.  For that reason, I tend to think my example is a transitional model, made sometime between the 1912 and 1919 patents.

Alonzo Bunt Scott was an interesting character.  In addition to his jewelry business, optometry practice (including service on West Virginia’s Board of Optometry) and pencil patents, he received patents for an attachment for suspenders (number 1,245,043) in 1917, for a “golf putting device” (number 1,546,260) in 1925, and two for golf putting boxes (numbers 1,473,051 and 1,614.399) in 1923 and 1927.  By 1936, Rotarian magazine announced that members interested in gardening should contact Alonzo as an authority on prize dahlias.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

World's Ugliest Conklin

My friend Jerome Lobner had this one in an online auction:

Jerome is frequently listing really odd things.  He says there was a museum somewhere out in Kansas that had a significant pencil display he’s been liquidating, and over the years many of the more unusual pieces I’ve picked up from him have found therir way here.  If this one weren’t marked Conklin, I’d never believe it was one, either:

I’ve written about this line before . . . I lump it in with the All-American series, which covers a wide range of variants in Conklin’s budget line.  Last summer I did a clip transplant on one of these (see “The One that Bugged Me” on August 24, 2016 at and one turned up in Conklin’s ultra rare “flame” color (

This one is fundamentally different, though – and not just because that color combination is just . . . just . . . I don’t know what to say about that.  No, this one’s different because examples from the All-American series I’ve found up until now have been rear drive pencils with a one piece barrel.  Here’s the shot of one disassembled during the clip transplant article, and note that extracting the mechanism necessitated the destruction of the barrel:

This one, however, is a middle joint, nose drive pencil:

The construction is indicative of later and lower quality Conklins made after the company was purchased and relocated to Chicago.  The lower barrel is odd, too.  That isn’t a black and white plastic barrel – it’s a black barrel with white squares screen printed on it:

Literally.  It looks like someone put a screen over it and rolled paint on.

I’ll admit that the odd mismatch of colors had me wondering whether this was something Conlin actually did or whether someone else might have had some fun making something so ugly you’ve got to love it.  I come down on the side of a late Toledo or early Chicago made Conklin.  First, I consider the source – the seller has sold me a bunch of undisputably legitimate pieces, and this is credited as coming from that same source.  Although the color of the upper barrel isn’t one you’d expect to find in a Conklin, the imprint is a clincher and besides – in this series, the only color common to other Conklins was the lime green borrowed from the Endura line.

Next, consider what it would take to modify an All-American into something like this – there would be more to it than sawing a barrel in half and threading one end to accept a different lower barrel.  Remember that I had to destroy the barrel to get a mechanism out of one of these, because the clips were stapled in after the mechanisms were pressed into the barrel.  Even if I had cut the barrel in half, there wouldn’t be any way to extract the mechanism from the front end, either.  I don’t see any way to modify an assembled All-American and turn it into something like this.

Was there a matching lower barrel that has been replaced somewhere along the line with this ugly thing?  Maybe, but from what I don’t know - the diameter of this one is a little wider than most of the later middle-joint pencils you’ll see, and that screen-printed design is something I haven’t encountered before.

If this was a desperation piece hacked together from parts on hand while Conklin was in its death throes, either in Toledo in the hands of its old owners or in Chicago after 1938 at the hands of the syndicate, there likely wouldn’t be a catalog or other documentaiton that something like this rolled off an assembly line.  Maybe that’s a good thing, since an official announcement that Conklin thought something like this was a good idea might have further hastened the company’s demise.

On the other hand, given the depths to which Conklin sank before finally succumbing, maybe it would have been best for the company to be put out of its misery.  Nothing better illustrates the deterioration of the company better than a shot of this one alongside its older siblings made in happier times:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Both Shoes

There are times when I see something and I know right off the bat what the title of the article is going to be.  The title of this one was going to be “The Other Shoe,” because I was so sure I had written about it before:

The pencil is made by the Eagle Pencil Company, and this one has one of those great names I love to see on an early Eagle: this one is the “Eagle Rocket”:

So as I sat down to start this article, title already firmly planted in my head, the first thing I did was open up the blog and scroll down to the Eagle Rocket.  Eagle Prestige, Eagle Ritaway . . . Eagle Russett . . . wait, where did I put that article?  I went back to the general Eagle category, in which non-model specific Eagle articles are filed . . . nothing there, either.

Huh.  Where did I put that article?  I went back through the picture archive for the blog, and it wasn’t there, either, so as a last resort, I opened a vast file folder on my laptop titled “pencil pictures,” a nearly bottomless pit of images into which I dip a digital bucket from time to time, drawing inspiration and material for the articles I write here.  Fortunately, since last winter I invested a week or so to go through and renamed all the images by brand, it isn’t as much the wilderness it used to be. Within a few minutes I’d found the pictures I took – and never used – of the Eagle Rocket.  They were pretty bad, taken in the days before friends had introduced me to the wonders of aperture priority and spot metering, so I had to reshoot them.  

I digress.  The point is that I abandoned the article and my unfinished research.  How in the world could I not post about something as cool as the “Rocket,” made in the days of Jules Verne or Orson Wells?  It has to do with that odd-looking accommodation clip:

“Pat. Nov. 9th 1920,” the imprint reads:

Turning to that outstanding resource on the subject (shameless plug), American Writing Instrument Patents Vol. 2 1911-1945, within two shakes I found a patent on that date by Eagle’s prolific inventor-in-residence, Claes Boman, number 1,358,511, and . . .

That isn’t it.  Not even close.


Fortunately, according to that most excellent resource, I know there were two patents issued for clips on November 9, 1920.  The other one, number 1,358,338, is a dead ringer for this one . . .

Ok, maybe half a dead ringer.  The drawings show a two-piece clip featuring an outer cover, from which the ball of the clip is pressed, wrapped around an accommodation clip with that same goofy shape and a hole in it:

The patent was applied for by William M. Saunders of Waterbury, Connecticut on January 15, 1920, and it was assigned to his company, the Hoge Manufacturing Company, makers of the ubiquitous “Pal” pencils as well as an interesting pencil called the “Modern” (not to be confused with A.A. Waterman’s “Modern Pen Company” – see

That’s when I remembered why and how the uber-cool Eagle Rocket slipped quietly into the dead letter office.  I thought it was a bit lame to write about half an accommodation clip, and I figured maybe someday the other shoe would drop.

Yesterday the mailman arrived, and there it was . .  thump.

I bid on this lot for the pen case that came with it.  The auction listing indicated that it was for a collection of pencils “with case,” but since the case wasn’t shown in the first picture, I guess nobody noticed.  I got everything for $15.50 . . . with free shipping.  I didn’t even care about the pencils.

Still, there were a couple interesting things in there.  The one that really caught my attention was that grey and red one with the weird silver cap – now that I have it in hand, I know it’s just a dumb ol’ Cavalier with something stuck in place of the right cap that happens to fit really well.  That gold one I’ll probably write about, so I’m going to keep it under wraps for the time being.  In the top row, there’s a Parker Challenger with a broken lower barrel badly superglued back together, and a crappy Essex.

And then there was that last one . . . I recognized it as probably being a Biltwell with the clip broken off and replaced with some random accommodation clip, which is exactly what it proved to be . . .

But what a clip!

It took a lot of wrestling to get that clip off the Biltwell, but fortunately the half a clip on the Rocket slipped off easily:

And the Rocket “rocketed” from uber-cool to . . . whatever you want to call something a few steps above that:

I have no evidence that the Hoge clip is correct on the Eagle Rocket, but I find it an extraordinary coincidence that Saunder’s patent was issued the same day as a clip patented by Eagle, and the first of only two I’ve seen turned up on an Eagle . . . when Eagle had a 1915 patented accommodation clip that might have been used just was well.

Who knows . . . maybe someday, something will turn up proving that Hoge supplied Eagle with clips and this pairing is the real deal.

That will be the third shoe.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My (Latest) Favorite Weird Eversharp

One of the things I love about collecting Eversharp pencils is the huge variety of uncataloged variants that are still out there – and how easily it is to sail right past one without noticing.  Take this one for example:

I remember that this one was in a lot of three or four things I saw in an online auction, and also that this was not the target of my affection.  However, after a modest winning bid brought the bunch home, after I took a closer look at this one I’ve long since forgotten what it was that I was after.

The closest relative I can find to this one are those thick, stubby Eversharps which came in either a military clip or ringtop.  That’s the only other series from the era which had that oddly placed upper trim band:

Note that the new addition, in addition to being a full-sized model, is slimmer.  However, when I compare it to the closest full-sized versions:

The diameter of the new example falls in between the crown-top models like the top example, which were made from 1924 or so to 1927, and the “Tempoint style” pencils like the lower one, which were introduced in 1927.  This picture also illustrates another difference between these models: the clips.  Note that the top one and the new example have the same clip, but the upper one is set into a gold band press fit onto the barrel, while the new example has one inset into the barrel itself:

Until I found this one, the only other crown-top Eversharps I’ve found with non-metallic barrels and clips like those were made in England:

This one, however, is marked Made in U.S.A.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Zoss List News

UPDATE 6/22/2017:  The new Zoss List is now up and running, thanks to a dedicated crew of volunteers - current subscribers have been automatically added (you can unsubscribe if you'd like).

I'm getting the digest version (I've received 9 so far), and they originate from; on behalf of;

I'm told we're having trouble convincing the good folks at Google that we aren't spammers, so if you aren't getting messages, here's what you can do:

Send Zosslist mailing list submissions to

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to

You can reach the person managing the list at



Original post:

Many of us are learning with great sadness that Tom Zoss, who has run the Zoss List for longer than I've been collecting, has decided not to continue running the list.

I was even more sad to learn that the PCA, which originally planned to take over and start running the list when Tom stepped down, decided not to continue the list.  According to Ron Zorn, the board's decision was due to the large number of online forums and facebook groups that are available, and the comparativcly light traffic seen on the old listserv Zoss List.

The List, for those of you who haven't heard of it, is a list you can subscribe to that will periodically send you emails with postings from other members of the group.  Some call it antiquated ... I call it comforting, and I've got a number of friends who get the Zoss emails who don't mess with facebook or the internet in general.   It's still, in my book (yet another antiquated form of communication), a valid and useful means for us to stay connected.

There's a group of us who don't want the Zoss list to stop, and we're going to try to do something about it.  I don't know yet what form this will take, whether we will continue the old list with Tom's blessing, or whether we'll start a new one.  So far there's 7 or 8 of us standing up to divide the labor, and I'm sure there's room for more.

For now, on this last day the list is active, I sent a message to it directing Zossers who don't want to lose touch here, as a place where you can find the latest news and updates concerning the List.  I'll post news here as I know it ...

I Finally Get To Write About These

I’ve had these pictures taken since January, 2015:

What’s had me just itching to tell you more about them was what’s on the top of the bottom one in that first picture:

That Indian Motorcycle logo is the real deal, from the late teens or early twenties.  As an original piece of motorcycle history, it cost me more than I care to admit – but there was no hesitation when the opportunity arose, since Indian bikes are a passion of mine and I’ve got a pair in the garage.  This first one is actually a 2001 Kawasaki Drifter, which I’ve modified so heavily that when I took it into a dealership for brake work, they told me at first that they didn’t work on vintage Indians:

My other Indian is a 2013 Chieftain, the first one sold in Columbus, Ohio.  I heard that the new dealership in town was receiving a shipment and took off time from work to go over on the day they were scheduled to arrive, to buy the first one straight off the truck:

If you’ve been to any cold weather pen shows east of the Mississippi, you’ve probably seen me walking around in a leather riding jacket with “Indian” emblazoned across the shoulders – not because I’m trying to look like a tough guy, but because it’s the warmest jacket I own, perfect for those bracing evening cigar-smoking gatherings.

Yeah.  A pencil with an Indian logo is going to be mine.   The other two pencils along these lines have the word “Bamby” on top.

The most likely explanation I have for the word “Bamby” is that this too is an advertising piece, for Bamby bread:

What’s held me back from telling you about these pencils is the part I wasn’t able to explain.  On the side of each is a manufacturer’s imprint:

“WHCo.”  All my efforts to learn what this meant failed, and so these pictures slipped into the dead letter office awaiting the day when I would be illuminated.

That day came this week, and from an unlikely source: an eBay seller going by Qweeds Collectibles, who had for sale this later plastic pencil, marked “W&H Co.” on the clip:

Often I’m chuckling rather than marveling at the descriptions online sellers use to describe the pencils I’m finding online.  In this case, however, while the pencil itself doesn’t provide any intrinsic clues to indicate what “W&H Co.” means, this seller had the knowledge to fill in the gap.  He (or she) titled the listing “Whitehead & Hoag Mechanical Pencil,” describing the company as a Newark, New Jersey firm which was “the king of the advertising novelty business in the tri-state region early in the 20th Century.”

While all my searching for this brand by initials was turning up nothing of value, once I had the full name in hand, it didn’t take much poking around to verify the accuracy of Qweed’s attribution.  Whitehead & Hoag was founded by Benjamin S. Whitehead and Chester R. Hoag in 1892, and is best remembered for making political and advertising buttons, pins and medals to order.  The company remained in business until 1959.

I wondered whether “W&H Co.” was the same outfit as “WHCo.,” but I’m satisfied that it is.  To verify that the company was engaged in something writing instrument related, I checked American Writing Instrument Patents Volume 2: 1911-1945 to see if any pen or pencil patents were assigned to Whitehead & Hoag –  and I found one:

I remember thinking to myself as I was writing the book, “Huh.  Another Conklin,” but since there was obviously no relation between the Toledo pen and pencil manufacturer and Edward D. Conklin, who invented and patented an accommodation clip with a built-in button for advertising, the rest of that thought had long since escaped me (as did the likelihood that W and H might stand for Whitehead & Hoag).

Yeah, I know.  Read your own damned books, Jon.

Conklin’s patent was applied for patent number 1,183,436 on November 6, 1915 and it was issued on May 16, 1916 – assigned to The Whitehead & Hoag Company of Newark, New Jersey.  That’s perfect for establishing that Whitehead & Hoag was involved in the writing instruments when my metal pencils were made, and it isn’t surprising that pencils wouldn’t sport both a button on an accommodation clip and an advertisement inset into the top.

Of course, now I’m going to have to find an Indian Motorcycle accommodation clip to go with these!