Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jaxon and Conklin

Uncommon but not rare, Jaxon self-filling pens have left collectors more than a little confused. The Jaxon's side-mounted stud filling system with a metal lock ring is clearly a close relative of Conklin's crescent-filler, while the barrel imprint referencing Conklin's US patent 685258 of October 29, 1901 indicates that this was no infringement. Some authorities have claimed that Jaxon made pens under license from Conklin, some further stating that Jaxon was based in Philadelphia. Others, noting that the same pen was also sold as the Conklinette -- a truly rare pen -- have averred that Conklin supplied unmarked pens to Jaxon to be imprinted and sold under their name.

Though presented as fact, all of this is wrong. The truth is far simpler: Jaxon was a Conklin sub-brand. Conklinette was too, but given the rarity of Conklinettes vs Jaxons, Conklin must have decided very quickly to use a name less closely connected to their main brand.

I have yet to find any advertisements or catalog listings for the Conklinette. Mentions of the Jaxon, however, are fairly plentiful. The ad above is from page 12 of the morning edition of The Daily Missoulian of December 21, 1911. Similar ads appeared on November 28 and 29, and on December 22 and 23. Another series of ads by a local drug store ran in the Willmar (Minnesota) Tribune in December of 1914 and again in 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918, listing Moore, Conklin, Houston, and Jaxon as fountain pen brands stocked and available. A similar series for another retailer ran in the Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin in December 1915, this time listing Waterman, Crocker, Conklin, Boston Safety, Swan, Jaxon, "and others".

The ad above ran on page 5 of the Perrysburg Journal of December 16, 1915. Inasmuch as Perrysburg is a suburb of Toledo, it is no surprise that the list of pen brands sold is bracketed by Conklin and Jaxon.

Most Jaxon ads provide little information beyond the pen's price -- $1 -- but some explicitly note that the pen is a Conklin product. The ad above ran in the University Missourian on Jan 28, 1916, on page 4. It should be noted that misspellings of brand names in ads placed by local merchants was rather common in this publication, with "Jackson" for "Jaxon" a relatively minor offense compared to "Conkling" and "Schaefer". The illustration is also a bodge, not showing a self-filling pen at all, but instead a generic eyedropper-filler. Jaxon/Jackson pens are also mentioned by the same merchant in several unillustrated ads in the same paper in October 1915 and January 1916.

The Seattle Star of June 11, 1919 is the source for the image above, which is a detail from a full-page ad for the Fraser-Patterson department store. Once again, Conklin is identified as the maker. Another such identification appears in an ad in the Decatur, Illinois Daily Review of September 10, 1918, page 13. And if further corroboration were required, Conklin is named yet again as the maker of the Jaxon self-filling pen in the question and answer section of The American Stationer on both May 22, 1915 (p. 21) and May 13, 1916 (p. 16). This was a trade publication, and in context there can be no doubt that "maker" was also intended to be read as seller and distributor. If this had been a case of contract manufacture for another firm, that other firm's name and address would have been supplied, not Conklin's.

As the ads indicate, Jaxon pens were distributed across the United States. They were offered as a sub-brand, often marketed to students, and not as any one retailer's private house brand. When the ads mention pen brands other than Jaxon, Conklin is there -- just as one would expect if Conklin sales representatives were distributing both lines. I cannot find any hint why collectors ever associated Jaxon with the city of Philadelphia. The name surely derives from Conklin's location in Toledo, at the intersection of Jackson and Huron Streets. The ads suggest that Jaxons were mostly made and sold between 1911 and 1919, the earlier date consistent with the statement in the ad above, which ran in the Meriden (Connecticut) Morning Record on September 26, 1916.

Lest we fall into the trap of relying too strongly on advertisements, however, let us consider the pen above. It too is a Jaxon -- but a screw-cap eyedropper-filler! Eyedropper Jaxons are much less common than self-fillers, and are not mentioned in any ads found to date. Are they earlier than the Jaxon self-fillers? Probably not, given that no eyedropper-filling Conklinettes are known. Yet another pen history mystery.

ADDENDUM: The #3-size Jaxon eyedropper-filler shown below provides us one more data point. The box top is marked in pencil, recording that the pen was a present given on December 29, 1912.

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