Thursday, November 29, 2012

Doric photo inlays

Every so often one runs across an Eversharp Doric with a snapshot portrait set into its cap. We sold an example from our catalog a few months back; as far as I can recall, it was the first such pen we'd ever listed.
With exemplary timing, last week we were able to acquire a 1935-dated brochure promoting these photo inlays. How long they were offered is unknown; Eversharp catalogs do not mention them, and though I have a vague recollection of some other documentation having been published long ago, they remain a bit of a mystery.

A FEW FURTHER THOUGHTS: It is interesting that the brochure makes no mention of the cost of this service, nor of how one went about getting this personalized inlay. Was it available only on special order, or could it be done to a pen already made? On Dorics, it was surely done as part of the manufacturing process, for it would have been a delicate operation indeed to mill out a recess on the back of a Doric cap, inlay the photo and its clear cover, and then reshape the cover to match exactly and seamlessly the faceting of the rest of the cap. And if done in this manner, after the passage of decades the inlay would no longer match the rest of the cap so well as is observed in surviving examples. It should also be noted that Doric facets were not cut, but mold-formed under heat and pressure, making it all the more difficult to match a cap's original profile exactly by use of a cutting tool. Unfaceted pens and pencils would have been easier to retrofit with photo inlays, yet "easier" does not mean "easy". Seamless installation of an aftermarket inlay would have required considerable skilled hand labor, surely involving removal of the clip and re-turning of the cap on a lathe.

Given all this, Eversharp photo inlays must have been special-order, installed as part of the manufacturing process. Their cost was undoubtedly insufficient compensation for all the disruption they caused to a production line set up to turn out large quantities of identical components, not individual custom pens. My guess is that the photo inlays were dropped after a very short time indeed, though I'd be happy to be proved wrong by the discovery of any other advertising for them that significantly postdates the brochure shown above.


philm said...

Thank you for the documentation. I have a Good Service Fountain Pen with a similar inlay. I have always wondered if it was a memorium, tribute, or just an ownership photo.
The pen can be seen here -

Phil Munson

David said...

It's very likely the photo inlay process was a service provided by an independent company, not by Wahl directly. And if so, it's also likely that that company was located nearby, and that they pitched their services to a number of manufacturers -- and not necessarily just penmakers. It would be worth keeping an eye out for other plastic articles of the era with photo inlays. Note too the precedent from the previous decade with the hand painting of pens, done by an independent Chicago firm.

And now to undercut my argument above: your Good Service pen may very well be a Wahl product, as it is shaped very much like a Wahl-Oxford. It would help to be able to see the lever and pressure bar. Parker ancestry is also possible, however, and to complicate things further, I have reason to believe that some of these department store house-branded pens were hybrids, incorporating parts from multiple manufacturers.