Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Fairchild figural pencil: Winchester 1890

This figural magic pencil I hadn't seen before. It's a Fairchild in the shape of a rimfire round, gold filled with a silver "bullet".

Between its proportions and the prominent "WINCHESTER" visible once the pencil is extended, it is clear that the round represented is a .22 Winchester Rim Fire (WRF). This pencil was likely made as a promotional item at the time the round was introduced in 1890. Its dimensions are about half again as large as an actual round, however, with the "bullet" around 0.3 inches in diameter.

Opposite the "WINCHESTER" imprint is the Fairchild mark, along with a patent date of September 23, 1879. Several Fairchild patents were issued on that date, all design patents for different novelty pencils, but none for a pencil like this. Perhaps premarked components originally made for different figural pencils were utilized for this special-order design. Another possibility is that the date refers to  a Winchester patent for a method of manufacturing hollow-point bullets, US219840, though this seems less likely.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Unbranded pens: a French case study

The number of companies that made pens was considerably smaller than the number of companies that sold them. Many pen retailers did no manufacturing at all, relying instead upon contract manufacture. This is neatly illustrated by the group of French safety pens from the 1920s shown above, all but four unimprinted. The imprints all differ, though the pens themselves are otherwise identical.

Only one pen in the lot retains its original warranted 18K nib. It is an unmarked pen, shown below. Who was the actual maker? I don't know -- but I do know that it will be interesting to see what pen history sleuths will be able to find out in the years ahead about all the behind-the-scenes arrangements between makers and sellers.