Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thanks for Playing!

Several of my friends and I had some fun with this Eversharp pencil on Facebook:

I’d posted the online seller’s fuzzy pictures and asked if anyone else saw what I saw.  A spirited guessing game ensued during which David Nishimura guessed what interested me, but now that I have the pencil and some better pictures in hand, a more detailed explanation is in order.

What caused me to first zero in more closely on this one was the position of the clip.  Millions of these were manufactured, and without exception the clips were mounted higher up on the barrels.  Here’s the new addition shown next to a typical Eversharp

This side-by-side comparison shows you what had my curiosity thoroughly piqued after that first look, causing me to pause and really think about this one . . . note that extra layer of metal around the clip:

There’s no evidence of another clip which has broken off and been replaced, just an early Ever Sharp (two words) imprint, with no mention of Wahl.  This indicates production prior to 1918, after which Wahl contracted Eversharp to one word and added the Wahl name in front of it:

Also important in the analysis is that the pencil is marked sterling, a good indication that this was a valued keepsake rather than a utilitarian and disposable tool:

So what is up with that different clip?  The answer is that the clip isn’t different at all . . . what’s different is the way in which it is mounted to the barrel.

Some time ago, I posted an article concerning the anatomy of early Eversharps (see, including this photo showing the Wahl patented clip removed from the pencil:

Note that the clip has a tang which is secured by sandwiching it between the outer barrel and inner barrel.  Clips which were broken or bent so far out of shape as to become unrepairable were a common problem with early Wahl-clip Eversharps, leading the company to redesign the clips in 1924 to include a medial rib for increased stability.  I have an Eversharp repair kit from the 1917-1924 era:

It includes a detailed instruction sheet and price list for parts

Included among the kit’s supplies are a tin of “Nokorode” soldering paste and a little box with “clips” handwritten on it:

The little box includes a repairman’s notes regarding pricing of the different variations:

Inside are several different styles of the Wahl first generation clips:

. . . and a comparison to our mystery pencil confirms that someone has taken a clipless Eversharp and soldered an early Wahl clip to the outside of the barrel:

Now the question that is fun to speculate about is who would have done this, and why. Pocket clips were a major selling point for the Eversharp during the teens.  To my knowledge, no clipless models were ever cataloged (other than the shorter ringtop models, of course).  The fact that this one is sterling silver suggests that if the customer wanted a clip, he or she would more likely have bought a readily available one with the clip already installed, rather than make (or having made) such a crude alteration as this.

Of course it's possible that a customer changed his or her mind after buying a clipless model to have one added, or that someone received a gift (it does have a name engraved) that was almost exactly what he or she wanted -- which was one with a clip.  If that happened, any repairman with a Wahl repair kit would have had the necessary tools to make this modification.

But . . .

Clipless Eversharps are a rare sight, and that’s good reason to consider whether this is the sort of modification that might have been factory or factory authorized.  Consider the following:

We know that early Eversharps came in three clip configurations: the first was the Heath clip, which was held in place by a combination of soldering and tabs inserted through slots in the barrel.  Next came the spade clip, which like today’s subject had the clip soldered to the outside of the barrel.

The spade clip was a temporary solution, concocted by Charles Keeran after he hired Wahl to begin making his pencils.  George Heath & Co., which had been making the pencils prior to October, 1915, apparently would not consent to Wahl use of Heath’s patent pending clip.

The spade clip was more time-consuming to install than the Wahl clip, which needed only to be inserted through the tombstone-shaped cutout in the barrel; however, the spade clip was in turn simpler to install than a Heath clip, which required both soldering and securing them with metal tabs inserted through slots cut in the barrel.

If this is a factory modification of a clipless Eversharp, I believe it would be one which was made very shortly after the Wahl clip went into production, using up the remainder of the assembled Ever Sharps which had their inner barrels already soldered in place, waiting only for spade clips to be installed.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Flock of Falcons

Here’s a couple that I just like, even though there’s not much in the way of quality going on here:

The one has a wartime, plastic nose – the kind that never seems to work very well – and both are fairly plain, nose drive pencils . . . with two things going for them.  First, they have a really cool name on the clip:

“Falcon.”  Additionally, both have the same message printed on the barrels.  I’ve seen a few other examples, and every one I see has this same lettering:

“Let US Not Forget Pearl Harbor.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

Maybe Not Entirely Correct

Recently, The Pennant asked me to rework my series of articles concerning the history of the Faber houses of A.W. Faber and Eberhard Faber (I added some information concerning the third firm, Johann Faber, while I was at it).

Both here and in The Pennant arttcle, I addressed claims by the German A.W. Faber firm that Eberhard Faber was merely an American agent for its products, and specifically that Eberhard Faber sold nothing other than A.W. Faber products prior to 1894, when the German house terminated the American agency.

The evidence tends to support A.W. Faber’s claim: although Eberhard Faber was a prolific registrant of trademarks, the Eberhard Faber name was not registered for trademark protection until 1920, suggesting that Eberhard was not using his own name in commerce, but that of his German relatives instead.

I do, however, have a bit of evidence to suggest that the name “E. Faber” was in use much earlier than the trademark history suggests:

I’m pretty sure this one came from an online auction, because as plain as it looks, I’m not sure I would have taken the time to read the imprint otherwise:

“E. Faber.NY / Pat. Jan.25,1881."   A patent issued in 1881 would have been good for a period of 17 years, or until 1898 – that doesn’t quite get us back to before 1894, the date before which A.W. Faber claimed Eberhard sold only products marked with the German house’s name . . . but it’s very close.

Patent number 237,005 was issued to Bradley A. Fiske of Napierville, Illinois:

It was his second patent.  His first, number 226,607, was also for a pencil, issued on April 20, 1880:

The year after Fiske’s second patent was issued, in 1882, he relocated to New York, where his next patent, for a penholder (number 255,272), was assigned to Eberhard Faber.  In 1883, another Fiske patent, number 272,948, also for a mechanical pencil, was assigned not to Faber, but to a man named Bernard Hecht, and the patent indicates that Fiske had moved on to Newport, Rhode Island.

Based on Fiske’s history, it appears that his association with Faber was fleeting, and in 1882.  Would Eberhard Faber sit on a newly acquired patent for more than twelve years before putting it into production?  I don’t think that’s likely.

What I do think is likely is that Eberhard Faber was quietly bilding up its own reputation apart from (but derived from) A.W. Faber, and the omission of a trademark filing appears to be an attempt to fly under the radar rather than a historical testament to the accuracy of A.W. Faber’s claim.   By  the name “E.Faber” was finally registered as a trademark, on an application not filed until September 27, 1946, the coast was clear, and Eberhard Faber claimed to have been using the name on lead pencils since 1861:

. . . and on mechanical pencils since 1919.  Now we know that isn’t correct.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Knowledge Converts the Leftovers to the Prize

I don’t remember how or when this one came my way.  I only remember that it wasn’t what interested me when I rolled the dice online:

I also remember being disappointed in whatever the other item was that came with it, and how quickly I put the other one aside to look at this one more closely, hoping to find something that would make the investment worthwhile.  The nose is a little different from the usual fare:

But the eureka moment arrived when, loupe in hand, I could make out something on the barrel:

“Patented  Jan. 1, 1850."  The date is one that sticks in your mind after you’ve researched patents for awhile, since so few were issued prior to the Civil War.  This date refers to patent number 6,981 issued to Albert G. Bagley:

What’s the most interesting to me is that all the examples I’ve seen with Bagley’s patent date stamped on them have been combination dip pen/pencil writing instruments – not pencils only.  However, the title of Bagley’s patent is “Pen or pencil case,” not “and” – so I suppose it makes sense that one might turn up with a pencil only.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Three Interesting Rex Patent Pencils

One of my top priorities when I reorganized things around the museum was to round up all of the pencils made by the Rex Manufacturing Company and display them all together, so that I could better track who Rex was making things for, and when.  In the course of doing so, I (re)discovered three that I’ve been meaning to write about here.

For starters:

This one is marked “Conjeco” on the clip:

And it has the August 4, 1925 patent date on the upper section:

This one slipped into the dead letter office because I could make neither heads nor tails of the name . . . until I was researching the “Manjeco” the other day, which was a contraction of the Manufacturing Jewelers Company (see, and I wondered whether this might be something along the lines of “Consolidated Jewelers’ Company.”  The only reference I could find to the company comes in what google calls a snippet view from The Jewelers’ Circular in 1924 – but the index listing shows more than the view itself:

The next Rex pencil I've got to show you is the larger of the two in this next picture:

Both are marked “Edison,” and I’m only counting the larger one as one of my three interesting pencils today, since I’ve already written about the ringtop (see

The larger has the “four horsemen” patents on the top, indicating later production:

But what makes it noteworthy to me is the great imprint on the clip:

Unlike the block type found on the imprint, the full-sized version has Edison’s trademarked logo, which is included in American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953:

From this we know that at least in 1920, when the trademark application was filed, the president of the Edison Pen Company was George S. Bernard, and the company was already located in Petersburg, Virginia.  It was also the only trademark Bernard ever filed.

My third interesting Rex (for now) is this one:

It’s marked on the barrel: “Laughlin / Detroit, Mich.”

It’s a bit earlier than the other two I’ve shown you today, stamped with McNary’s original patent of February 19, 1924:

As with the Edison, I’ve written about the Laughlin before – in fact, I’ve written about a pencil nearly identical to this one (see  However, what interested me about this one was a unique bit of stamping I haven’t run across before:

“Pat. Pend.” conspicuously stamped on the top side of the clip.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Filling In More of the Ajax Story

The Ajax appears on page 18 of The Catalogue, and at the time I wrote the book, all I knew of the brand made it appear to be a one-trick pony:

Each is marked only on the cap with the AJAX logo, so I’ve never put much stock in what colors they come in (for example, the Weidlich Pen Co. of Cincinnati is along the same lines; mixing and matching caps could give you nearly any color you want).

I noted in the book that pens had turned up with an imprint indicating these originated in Philadelphia - and thanks to American Writing Instrument Trademarks 1870-1953, I can tell you exactly where in Philadelphia:

John Lehn, doing business as the Ajax Pen Company, claimed that the mark was first used on March 4, 1924.  The address of the company as of the filing of the trademark that year was 1951 North Eighth Street, Philadelphia.

I’ve also learned since the book was written that there were more to the company’s pencil offerings than the ones I’d pictured:

Only one of these is marked, and it’s the one that has a really cool clip:

The marking is on the cap, and since the pencils are I believe earlier than 1924, it’s not surprising that the trademarked logo is absent:

Although the other one is unmarked, I keep it alongside this one because (1) the Ajax-marked one isn’t working, (2) the unmarked one is identical and (3) not only is it working, when I took it apart, it is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else:

There’s no markings on either to indicate this variation was patented, and there’s no patent issued to Lehn or assigned to Ajax listed in American Writing Instrument Patents Vol. 2: 1911-1945; perhaps one was never filed, or perhaps Lehn licensed someone else’s design.

Not perhaps . . . probably, I suppose, since the pencils pictured in the book were stock pencils sold under several names, and so was this one, which came after the ones shown in the book:

The color, the shape of that rounded top and the clip all point towards this one being made by Conklin.  So many of these are unmarked that it wasn’t until I took a closer look before throwing it in the junk box that I noticed the imprint:

I’ve had this one for awhile, but since I’d already noted in The Catalogue that Ajax was from Philadelphia, at the time I didn’t really have much new to say.  Fortunately, the new trademark book gave me a good reason to circle back around!

Monday, August 14, 2017

And Now, For Some Overdue Respect

I take a little flak from the peanut gallery whenever I post about pencils like these . . .

The objection, to paraphrase, is that they are beneath the dignity of this blog – as if we pencil guys have standards!  Actually I do, but mine isn’t a standard of financial value or brandname recognition.  The mighty threshhold any pencil must meet before it finds its way to this blog is this:

It has to be something I find interesting.

Fortunately, when it comes to these, I’ve found something which might raise these pencils to other, more objective standards of historical significance and desirability.  

For the last few years, I’ve indexed these under the Brown and Bigelow tab, since that top example is marked with a B&B logo and I tracked down the design patent issued in the United States for these in 1937 (applied for in 1935 – see

The others, though, are unmarked and are clearly not American – all clues concerning their origins point to either German or Japanese.  I’ve hoped for a long time to find one that had some more definitive markings to identify it, so I was pleased to find this:

The seller already had me at “sterling” and the fact that this one’s a ringtop, which are more difficult to find.  The manufacturer’s imprint stamped on top was a bonus, and I was doubly pleased that the name would finally command some long overdue respect for these:

“Sarastro-Unitas D.G.R.M.”  Sarastro was a German manufacturer best known for making sterling overlays for Mont Blanc (that’s what the capital letter “S” stamped on some Mont Blancs means).

This isn’t something I’ve discovered, only something I’ve learned.  Once I had a name to associate with these, other examples were easy to find:

From a 2015 eBay auction by eBay seller "flikmywick" -- the photos have been deleted from eBay but were preserved in internet search results.

This was in another eBay auction, but the original auction has apparently been deleted - all that remains is the image preserved in an internet search.

Was Sarastro responsible for all the German-made examples along these lines?  It certainly seems reasonable to attribute the 1936 Olympics example to the firm.  The “Peace” pencils?  I have found some indication that the Japanese firm Kanoe made some of them, but it would make sense for pencils marked “Peace” to be made in both Germany and Japan during both countries’ rebuilding in the wake of World War II.