Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waterman and Aikin Lambert

It has long been known that Waterman at some point took over Aikin Lambert. When this took place, however, has long been an open question. Over ten years ago we noted that in Sheaffer's patent infringement suit against Barrett et al, Walter A. Sheaffer made a passing comment in his testimony of late May 1915 that Aikin Lambert was already in 1914 “a subsidiary company for the L.E. Waterman Company”. But when exactly did this takeover occur?

The American Stationer on July 14, 1906 describes what appears to be the turning point:
REORGANIZATION and reincorporation of the firm of Aikin, Lambert & Co., of New York, manufacturers of the Mercantile fountain pen, followed the sale of the interests of two members of the firm. The old charter of the firm under New Jersey laws expired and re-incorporation was affected under New York laws.

With the re-incorporation of the firm, two members of the old firm sold their interests, H. A. Lambert and John B. Shea. Mr. Lambert will continue with the firm until the first of next year, and is now on one of his trips through the West. John B. Shea, who was superintendent of the factory, has retired, and is no longer connected with the firm in any way.

John B. Shea sold his interest to W. I. Ferris of the L. E. Waterman Company, and Mr. Ferris now controls the stock which Mr. Shea has owned for years. When asked to say to whom the stock owned by Mr. Lambert was sold, a representative of Aikin, Lambert & Co. said that was a private matter, which had no interest for the public.

Numerous rumors have been afloat concerning the effect of the transfer of stock upon re-organization of the company. It has been said that interests controlling the L. E. Waterman Company had secured control of Aikin, Lambert & Co., but that is denied emphatically by both companies. It is said that Mr. Ferris bought the stock as an investment and that no other motive influenced him in the purchase. James C. Aikin is president and manager of the new company and will continue so indefinitely. No further changes are contemplated by any of the members, and the business is to be run in the future exactly as it has been in the past.
A similar account appears in Walden's Stationer and Printer on Jul 25, 1906, which adds:
The title of the new company is the Aikin-Lambert Company . . .
The controlling interest is held as formerly by James C. Aikin and his brother, H. S. Aikin, the former still remaining as president and manager and the latter vice-president of the new organization.
If the Aikins indeed still retained control, there can be little doubt that Waterman, working through its agents, had secured ownership of virtually all of the rest of the firm. There is no reason to think that this move was in any way hostile, as the two companies had long cooperated in various ways. The 1906 structure appears to have lasted a few years, as both the 1908 and 1909 editions of The Trow (formerly Wilson's) Copartnership and Corporation Directory, list the Aikin-Lambert directors as James C. Aikin (President), William I. Ferris (Secretary), John E. Hayes (an Aikin Lambert veteran, whose 25th anniversary with the company was noted in 1914), and William E. Smith (a Waterman man).

In March of 1911, however, James C. Aikin died. What happened to his stake in Aikin-Lambert is not yet clear, but in the Directory of Directors in the City of New York, 1911-12 (11th ed., July 1911), the  directors are listed as follows: William I. Ferris (Secretary), John E. Hayes, William E. Smith, Frank D. Waterman, and Frederick S. Waterman. In the next edition of the same directory (12th ed., July 1913), Smith is out and the president is Walter Randall, a Waterman manager "who presides over the destinies of the rubber factory at Seymour." The list is much the same in the March 1914 edition of R. L. Polk & Co.'s . . . Trow New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory, though without Frank D. Waterman -- who perhaps preferred by this time to exert his control less publicly. And in the following year's edition of the Copartnership and Corporation Directory, Aikin-Lambert veteran Hayes is replaced as manager and director by Frederick G. Coen, "formerly associated with the office furniture and commercial stationery department of the Wanamaker stores in Philadelphia and New York." This move was also reported in the April 10, 1915 issue of The American Stationer, noting that Hayes remained with the company, presumably as a salesman and representative.

And what of the stake owned by James C. Aikin's brother, Henry S. Aikin? Henry died at the age of 80 on October 27, 1915, his last few years in ill health. Although it is possible that he retained his shares in Aikin-Lambert throughout, more likely they were sold at the same time as his brother's, or even before. Whether that took place upon James' death in 1911 or sometime within the year previous remains to be established. I have not yet been able to consult the 1910 edition of the Trow corporation directory, but it is worth noting that there is no mention of any changes in Aikin-Lambert ownership in any of the 1909 or 1910 issues of The American Stationer -- though it is possible that it was reported after James C. Aikin's death, in one of the issues from the second half of 1911 or first half of 1912 that has not yet been made available online.

While a number of details remain to be filled in, it can now be asserted with some confidence that Waterman's takeover of Aikin-Lambert began in 1906, with full control by the first half of 1911. The takeover would appear to have been friendly; the Aikins were getting old, with no children to take over the family business. That business, it should be noted, had already been split into two companies, one devoted to the manufacture of pens and pencils, and the other to jewelry and precious metalwork. The latter has not been discussed here, but it too was sold, probably at around the same time, to Ilgen & Wakefield -- names familiar from Aikin Lambert's corporate roster.

UPDATE: William I. Ferris's testimony in the Chapmans vs Waterman appeal provides further evidence of an earlier rather than a later date. "About 1907" was his answer when asked when Waterman first got control, and he also spoke of the consolidation of the two companies' nibmaking operations around 1910.


Brian Anderson said...

Very Interesting, at what point then, do you surmise the production of pens under the Mercantile, Capitol, Lady Dainty, etc., brand names ceased?

David said...

That's a completely different question. Waterman clearly valued ALC's name and its brands, and kept them alive for long after the takeover. My guess, without doing any further research, is that maintaining the ALC line became more trouble than it was worth with the beginning of WW2.

Pensee said...

Great article with some terrific links for further reading. Don't know how you do it sir! You research LEW co. hostory; must have to travel to get pens & run an on-line pen site; you have your plastics work; you find time to contribute to html boards; write blogs like this one *and* presumably still find time for friends/family. Truly amazing!

George Kovalenko said...

In case you haven't found it, yet, J. C. Aikin's obituary appears in Am. Stat., Mar 18, 1911, p.8.

David said...

Thanks, George. I hadn't mentioned the obit in the post since it didn't provide any information on the ALC-Waterman connection.