Saturday, December 28, 2013

Geyer's Stationer: a directory

The day will come when all of the old jewelry and stationery trade journals are available online. At present, however, availability is patchy, with gaps strategically located just where they most frustrate the researcher -- or so it seems. One such gap is in the run of the American Stationer between 1898 and 1905, but fortunately it can be at least partially filled in by Geyer's Stationer -- a very similar publication available through Google Books, with only three 6-month gaps between 1900 and 1905. A full list, with links, follows. As usual, please let us know if you find any volumes not listed.

vol. 29, Jan-Jun 1900
vol. 30 not available
vol. 31, Jan-Jun 1901
vol. 32 not available
vol. 33, Jan-Jun 1902
vol. 34, Jul-Dec 1902
vol. 35, Jan-Jun 1903
vol. 37 not available
vol. 38, Jul-Dec 1904
vol. 39, Jan-Jun 1905
vol. 40, Jul-Dec 1905
vol. 41, Jan-Jun 1906
vol. 42, Jul-Dec 1906
vol. 43, Jan-Jun 1907
vol. 44, Jul-Dec 1907
vol. 45 not available
vol. 46, Jul-Dec 1908
vol. 47, Jan-Jun 1909
vol. 48, Jul-Dec 1909

vol. 53, Jan-Jun 1912 
vol. 54, Jul-Dec 1912
vol. 55, Jan-Jun 1913
vol. 56, Jul-Dec 1913
vol. 57 not available
vol. 58, Jan-Jun 1915
vol. 59, Jul-Dec 1915
vol. 60 not available
vol. 61, Jan-Jun 1916
vol. 62, Jul-Dec 1916
vol. 63 not available
vol. 64, Jul-Dec 1917
vol. 65, Jan-Jun 1918
vol. 66, Jul-Dec 1918
vol. 67, Jan-Jun 1919
vol. 68, Jul-Dec 1919
vol. 69, Jan-Jun 1920
vol. 70, Jul-Dec 1920
vol. 71, Jan-Jun 1921
vol. 72, Jul-Dec 1921
vol. 73, Jan-Jun 1922
vol. 74, Jul-Dec 1922

More on the introduction of the Clip-Cap


I've posted on Waterman's early clips here and here, and at the time had not found any mention of the Clip-Cap prior to July 1905. Now we can push back that date to April 20, the date of the issue of Geyer's Stationer in which the above ad appears (vol. 39, 1905, p. 11). All subsequent Waterman display ads in Geyer's show the Clip-Cap, even if they do not feature it to the same degree. The only material offered was German silver (aka nickel silver or cupronickel) until gold and silver versions are mentioned in the ad below, found in the July 20 issue (vol. 40, 1905, p. 11).

The ad refers interested dealers to the July issue of Waterman's Pen Prophet. Unfortunately, I do not have access to a copy, but if anyone wants to share theirs with me, I'd be happy to add its contents to this post.

PS It has been pointed out that the depiction of the clips in these early ads is distinctive, with squared-off tops -- unlike the rounded profiles of all known Waterman clips, but similar to the form shown in the patent drawings. Are these images actually representative of the very earliest Waterman clips, or are they artists' renditions that depend more on the patent drawings than on actual production samples? So far, no flat-topped Waterman clips have turned up. The first images of round-topped clips begin to appear in ads from the beginning of August 1905, and the last images of the flat-topped clips disappear after September -- though it should be noted that for years afterwards, Waterman ads often showed clips as more angular and less rounded than real-life examples.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A special-order Heath pencil


As soon as I put up the pictures of my Heath clutch pencils, a colleague wrote to ask about the one at the bottom -- in particular, the inscription at the top of the barrel, just below the crown. It reads, "Every Pound Pulls". This was the slogan used by the Concrete Steel Company of New York City to promote its patented "Havemeyer Bar" -- one of a number of competing forms of metal reinforcing bars used in reinforced concrete construction of the era.


The ad above (Engineering News-Record, vol. 69, Jun 19, 1913, p. 90) nicely illustrates its form, which is replicated in the relief patterning of the pencil's barrel and crown band.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Who designed the Eversharp pencil?

Up until recently, the answer would have seemed straightforward: Charles R. Keeran invented the Eversharp; the design must have been his. But as Jonathan Veley has pointed out, the appearance of the pencil shown in Keeran's first pencil patent is very different from our idea of an Eversharp. Instead of a metal tip, there is a wooden core, while at the other end there is an exposed eraser. Optional eraser covers are mentioned, but the designs shown in no way resemble the classic Eversharp's distinctive crown. All in all, this proto-Eversharp is most un-Eversharp in appearance. Note that no actual example of such a pencil is known, and the patent application for it was filed October 13, 1913.


The advertisement above was published in The Insurance Press of December 1912 (p. 83). By Keeran's own account, this was shortly before he first began thinking about an improved mechanical pencil. It would have been several months before his pencil patent application, and a full year before the first Eversharps were produced -- by Heath, by all evidence.



As the ad and the examples above show, Heath's clutch pencils have the Eversharp look, with the same proportions and the same distinctive crown. I had always thought that these pencils postdated Heath's involvement with Keeran. My reasoning was based upon the assumption that the Eversharp design was Keeran's, and that after Keeran and Heath parted ways, Heath must have borrowed the design for Heath's own pencils -- albeit only for pencils with a clutch mechanism, which clamped the lead, and did not mechanically push it out. Perhaps some components were left over from Heath's manufacturing work for Keeran, and perhaps some hadn't been paid for, allowing Heath to use them with a clear conscience -- or so I speculated.

The Insurance Press ad turns this all upside-down. Keeran invented the Eversharp's internals, but its "skin" was borrowed from a preexisting Heath product. We may never know exactly how Keeran's mechanism ended up being put into the Heath clutch pencil's body.  It might have been Keeran's idea; it might have been suggested by Heath while discussing how best to put Keeran's pencil into production. In any case, the resulting hybrid ended up eclipsing its progenitor. Heath likely didn't mind much, so long as it was producing both. Once Keeran switched production to Wahl it might have been a different story, but by then it was probably too late for Heath to do anything. I have not been able to find any patent for the Heath clutch pencil, either design or utility, even though one example, shown below, is marked "PAT. APP. FOR" on the barrel. This may explain why Wahl was in turn unable to prevent competitors from offering pencils that copied the Eversharp's appearance -- their number is striking, as is the closeness of resemblance.

ADDENDUM: More on the last pencil in the group of four shown in the picture above here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Waterman pens with non-Waterman nibs

Starting with the earliest Waterman advertisements, supplying your own nib was repeatedly promoted as an customer option. As the ad above states: "contains one of the best maker's gold pens, or your favorite pen can be fitted". These nibs didn't have to be gold, either. As the Waterman's brochure of c.1892 (available through the PCA's Reference Library) states on page 4, "It [the Waterman pen] takes gold or steel pens of the ordinary straight forms, and your favorite pen (among these) can be fitted. Holders of corresponding sizes are made for gold pens from Nos. 1 to 9." There follows a discussion of the disadvantages of steel nibs in a fountain pen, as they must be swapped out at the end of each day as they are prone to rust, and on page 7 there are instructions on how to send in your own gold or steel nib to be fitted to a Waterman holder.

Not long after this, however, mention of other makers' nibs disappears. In Waterman's catalog of c. 1897 (so dated in the Reference Library, but possibly a year or so earlier) holder and nib sizes are cut down to five, from numbers 2 to 6, while emphasis is given to Waterman's ability to provide gold nibs to any taste. Exactly when this shift took place remains to be determined, though it seems likely that it coincides more or less with the introduction of the New Style (cone cap) holders in 1894; it is also plausible that it was not immediately rigidly adhered to, and that for some time afterwards, customers wishing to buy a Waterman pen would not be turned away if they insisted on bringing in their own favorite gold nib to be fitted.

All this is well known to serious Waterman collectors, but I recently came across a few references to Waterman pens with non-Waterman nibs that may be less familiar. The one below is an 1888 contest announcement printed in Stenography in the January, February, and March issues (pp. 5, 14, and 23).


"Gold mounted" would indicate the Waterman pen had gold filled barrel bands, and it is explicitly noted that it was fitted with a #5 Mabie Todd Stenographic nib. Another good example of special-purpose gold nibs taking precedence over the holders to which they were fitted is seen below.

This appears on page 7 of Benn Pitman and Jerome Bird Howard's The Reporter's Companion (Cincinnati, The Phonographic Institute, 1891). The special shorthand nibs -- from the imprints shown, probably made by John Holland or Weidlich -- are offered on their own, with a pocket dip holder, or fitted to a Waterman's fountain pen.

Finally, we have the ad above, from page 27 of the advertising supplement appended to the Gardeners' Monthly and Horticulturist, vol. 28, Jan 1886. It is in the name of Charles H. Marot, the publisher and owner of the Gardeners' Monthly, and it is safe to assume that it is entirely representative of how Waterman pens were sold at the time by authorized dealers. Regarding non-Waterman nibs, it is consistent with contemporary ads in stating: "USES gold or steel pens of the ordinary forms, and your favorite pen can be fitted" and "WE have holders for gold pens of numbers 3 to 8 inclusive, and for the common steel pen: also, an assortment fitted with gold pens ready for use." It is full of additional tidbits, however, such as the listing of holders by model numbers -- which at the time did not correspond directly with the nibs they carried -- and the provision of those holders' exact measurements. Perhaps most notable is the following statement:
"PRICES given are for well-finished 14 carat gold pens of the smallest size suited to the holder; 16 carat gold pens, or pens of the larger sizes, cost from 50 cents to $1.00 more. The 16 carat pens are of extra finish as as quality and are well worth the difference in price."
The extent to which nibs and holders were marketed as separate components is further highlighted by the very last line of the ad:
"A certificate may be had with each pen, which warrants the gold pens and holders for five (5) years, and guarantees both combined as a fountain pen, to give satisfaction on thirty days' trial or the money will be returned."
UPDATE: Waterman's Circular no. 55.26 can be dated right around 1901 from its back-cover trumpeting of the gold medal received at the 1900 Paris exposition, and from the 155/157 Broadway address (by the end of 1901, it had changed to 173 Broadway). And on page 7, we are told:
In ordering a gold pen and holder complete and ready for use, send a sample of writing and a description of the kind of pen desired . . .

In ordering a holder for a gold pen send the gold pen to be used, because the holder has to be adjusted to every gold pen, and we require these fittings to be done under our supervision.
 So as late as 1901, Waterman was still installing non-Waterman gold nibs upon customer request.

Dunlap patent stylographic pen

This stylo bears an imprint for Louis E. Dunlap's US patent of November 18, 1884, number 308,144. Dunlap had been the manager of Livermore's Stylographic Pen Company at 290 Washington Street in Boston, but appears to have struck out on his own in the midst of the what seemed to be a booming market for stylographic pens. The exterior of the pen is typical enough for stylographics of the era, but let's take a look inside.

The needle assembly is a press-fit into the point section. When pulled out, it is just as described and illustrated in the patent: a spring-loaded needle, with the spring action provided by a helically-cut section of hard rubber tube -- not vulnerable to corrosion, like a metal spring, nor likely ever to break from fatigue given the short working travel of the needle and the robust proportions of the hard rubber coil.


Advertisements and obviously-paid magazine writeups of the Dunlap pen appear in a burst in 1885. At some point in 1886 the ads stop appearing; the American Stationer for the second half of 1886 is not available online as yet, but there are several ads in the issues of the first half of the year, and none in the years following.


How long Dunlap remained in business is hard to tell. The company moved from its original address at 296 Washington Street in Boston to 280 Washington at the beginning of 1886 (American Stationer, vol. 19, Jan 28, 1886, pp. 93-4). The Boston Almanac and Business Directory for 1888 (vol. 53, p. 433; copyrighted in 1887) lists Louis E. Dunlap under "Pens" at 280 Washington, and the same entry -- just his name, in the "Pens" category -- appears in the following two years' volumes unchanged. The year after (vol. 57, p. 444, for 1892, copyrighted 1891) the address is 277 Washington, and in the two years thereafter the address changes to 7 Milk. I have not been able to find any mention of Dunlap in the American Stationer after 1886, so it seems probable that even if Dunlap continued to sell his remaining stock for some time afterwards, his company was really only a going concern for a couple of years. The pens are certainly not easy to find, though even with the imprints obscured, you can't mistake the interior construction. Dunlap later applied for a patent for an improved ink pellet, which was issued to him in 1897 (US patent 590,139)

Dunlap had assigned half of his stylographic pen patent to Herbert W. Thayer of Franklin, Massachusetts, so it is possible that Thayer was Dunlap's silent partner in the pen venture. Thayer later became involved in local and state politics, and he is described then as being a manufacturer (A Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators, 1904, p. 162). Thayer died in 1908, trampled by a runaway horse startled by the sight of an electric car (New York Times, Jan 16, 1908).