Saturday, April 7, 2018

Dur-0-Lite Advertiser

This advertising pencil caught my eye--not only with the Waterman name, but Minneapolis, too, where the vast majority of my dad's large Waterman family was and is based.  There must be a family connection somewhere.


The Melrose Park, Illinois, Dur-O-Lite pencil is Bakelite, celluloid marble, and chrome-trimmed metal.  Twist the black end to advance the 1.1mm lead.  Pull off the cap for the eraser, which has a clever notch for assisting in the removal of the old eraser in its metal holder, and inserting a new one.  It is one of the reasons Dur-O-Lites are interesting--many models have some clever design and engineering features.  The pencil has a streamlined 30s feel to it, combined with the materials of the 1930s and the pre-1938 lead size.  It is 5 & 3/8 inches.




The tip pulls away to show the Dur-O-Lite trademark and the sturdy screw-mechanism with paddle end that advances the lead.  The top of the trade-marked nose that the tip fits over cleverly becomes a decorative bead on the barrel of the pencil.  Someone thought that through effectively!


The Waterman-Waterbury Company was a maker of patented "heating systems" for school houses all over the Midwest and beyond.  Here is one of the early "systems," a cast iron wood or coal burning stove encased in a decorated housing that drew cold air from an outside air intake, heated it in the housing around the stove, and allowed it to rise from the top of the housing as warm air by natural convection.  Their claim was that this provided better ventilation and cleaner warm air.


Here is the heating system as it looked in a 1919 school room.


Besides their location in Minneapolis, the Waterman Waterbury Company also had a presence in Canada, where the company expanded its work to include contracting and building.  On the right, under LTD.,  you can see the remains of a painted representation of the patented heating system.


In 1946, Minneapolis was hit hard by more than 5,600 cases of polio.  That year's state fair (the State Fair that the musical was based on) was unthinkably cancelled so the disease would not spread through the crowds.  The Waterman Waterbury company hurried to help create a prototype iron lung.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

Safford's Woolworth and Fifth Ave.

Who (of my generation, that is) doesn't remember the F. W. Woolworth's of their childhood?  Allowances all over the USA were spent there on Saturday mornings. 


Woolworth's had their own line of mechanical pencils and matching fountain pens made by the Safford Pen Company, a division of the Parker Pen Company, Janesville, Wisconsin.  Parker Pen Company was the life-work of George Safford Parker, and although he died in 1937, lamented by his wife, Martha, his family, and his friend, Frank Lloyd Wright, the company continued on successfully.

The Safford Company made a pencil for themselves much like the Woolworth model called the Fifth Ave.  Not the Fifth Avenue, just the Fifth Ave. That still sounds a bit ritzy, but they are modest pencils, if you want to be tactful about it.  The family desk drawer had two of these, a red Fifth Ave., and a green unmarked Woolworth version.  They are tube-twist operated, with 1.1 mm lead.  They have nose-drive grip on the points, but are middle twist.  The red Fifth Ave. is 4 & 1/2 inches, the green Woolworth is 4 & 3/4 inches. Both have black flat tops, ball clips, and gold-ish trim.


They are mechanically the same as the Parker "Parkette," but do not carry the Parker name.  Inside, they have a replaceable "lead cartridge." On both models, this is marked Woolworth.  It doesn't actually do anything except store the leads and hold the eraser.


One of Parker Pens' interesting ideas was a pen which held ink pellets in a red cap on top of the pen.
The pellets became ink when dropped into the pen's water-filled barrel.  These were hugely popular with soldiers during WWI.  Maybe that's why the Safford pencils have a black top--they had gotten used to the general idea of a different colored top when making pens with pellets.


There's where the spare lead goes--in the slot.  On the other side is printed, "When empty, throw away and replace with a. . .


Woolworth Lead Cartridge."


Fortunately, my family did not follow instructions well, so the empty cartridges are still there.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Big Man

Did you ever see the dramatizations of Rex Stout's detective novels featuring Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin?  In "Death of a Doxy," Kari Matchett, playing a hipster nightclub chanteuse,


sees Nero Wolfe, played by that genius, Maury Chaykin, for the first time and breaks into a beatnik riff on the theme "Big Man."  Later, they bond over food, orchids, and imagination.


I couldn't help but think of that riff when I saw this Wahl Eversharp pencil.  Big Man!


It's a hard rubber case with orange and black wood-grain pattern, called "mottled," by the company.  It was also available in plain red or black.  It has a gold-filled cap, clip, and point, with nickel tip.  The lead is big, too, really big.  The case is thick and hefty. Cost was $3.



The lead size gave this pencil its model name, the "75," for the .075 inch diameter lead.  It was offered by the Eversharp company between 1924 and probably 1928.  Before this their pencils had been all metal.  "Big Man" has the same cap and clip design as those earlier metal pencils.



But the hard rubber was new and bold.  The size of the pencil made it all the more impressive.
I bet folks seeing it for the first time said whatever was the 1924 equivalent of "Wow."

1925 ad for the "75" with Big Man in the margin







Thursday, March 1, 2018

From Minneapolis

Rarely do mechanical pencils hail from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  My dad, from whom I apparently got my pencil gene, was from there, too.  I was interested to own one, just for that reason, but also I like these small metal ring tops.

This a lady's pencil, gold-filled, delicately chased, and elegantly shaped with six sides.  It was made by The Henber Company.  It is 4 & 1/4 inches long, uses 1.1mm lead, and has a unique rear-drive screw mechanism.  It is marked HENBER, Gold Filled, Pat. Pend.  There is an engraver's space, but no name or initials.  The Henber Company was headquartered in a brick multi-story building near the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis.  They appear to have been in business from about 1920 to 1925, but there is very little information about them available.  As far as I have been able to discover, they only made metal mechanical pencils, not pens.




Henber's gimmick was to run contests and give away prizes, for example, in this 1922 ad, $1,000 or a 1923 Buick.  A drawing was printed above the ad, and the contest was to find all objects in the picture whose name began with S.


Henber shows their sterling silver pencils in this ad, a ring top and a larger pencil with clip, with swag design tooled in the metal. In the ad they also mention their gold-filled pencils.  You could buy the sterling pencils two for $3, or a gold-filled pencil for $3.  The ad seems to imply that a gent's gold-filled pencil was also available.



As the ad says, you'll never win unless you try, but to qualify, you have to buy a pencil first.
No problem!







Sunday, February 18, 2018

His and Hers Thorobreds

Happily married people want all their friends and family to have the same good fortune, and I suppose that also applies to our collections--we want pleasant companions for our esteemed objects.  It's a delight when you can make a pair, and I'm not just talking card games.  So I was pleased to unite two Waterman Thorobred pencils recently.  One is a full-size man's pencil while the other is the more petite ladies' version.  Some say that the ladies version is rightly called a 92V, possibly for vest pocket size.  But we know Waterman's catered to women, and, indeed, were inspired by them.  (See blog Inspired By Women ) I prefer to call it a lady's Thorobred.


Here is the full-size Thorobred.  A nose-drive mechanism advances the 1.1 mm lead.  The cap hides an eraser and holds the ball-end clip, which says Watermans. On the opposite side from the clip is the incised mark, "Waterman's, Reg US Pat Off, Made in USA." The golden brown celluloid is shot through with red veins, and at the tip is a plain black.  It measures 5 & 3/8 inches.



This beautiful color, called Gold in the catalogs of the time, is a first for my group of Watermans.
So is the gorgeous blue/bronze color of the lady's pencil.  It has the same nose-drive mechanism.  It also has gold trim. The distinctive clip marks it as a Thorobred, and it also has an eraser under the cap.  It is 4 & 1/4 inches, and uses 1.1 mm lead. The cap carries the same inscription, Waterman's, Reg US Pat Off, Made in USA.  Just like the Patrician pencil and the smaller Lady Patricia, they are similar, but not exactly alike. They date from the mid-1930s to 1939, the year Waterman's introduced the 100 Year models.




Don't they make a lovely couple?




Thursday, January 18, 2018

Waterman Ringtop


Ladies' metal ringtops are a favorite of mine, I like their petite size and attractive designs.  This is the first Waterman's ladies' ringtop I have had.  It was produced early in Waterman's history, about 1922 or so, and is 3 & 3/4 inches, an average size for a ladies' ringtop.  The tip is black celluloid while the barrel and cap are (probably) plated gold over brass.


Most have a bell-top or column-capital shape, but this Waterman's has a perfectly straight top as its cap--quite modern-looking.  The pencil holds a fairly short lead of 1.1mm, in the nose-drive mechanism. There's no eraser inside, but there is room for spare leads.


WATERMAN'S is marked on the band below the cap, while MADE IN USA is on the lower band above the black tip.


The checked design alternates with plain vertical bands.   It has an engraver's space, and is engraved "MARY" in caps with shadow lettering.

In about 1922, Mary was the most popular name for a girl or woman in the USA.  Dorothy, Helen, and Edith were 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.  Would you take a guess about the popular men's/boys' names?
1. Robert, 2. John, 3. James, and 4. William. How times have changed!  In the 2010s to be cutting edge, you should be named Sophia, Isabella, Olivia, and Emma; Aiden, Jacob, Jackson, and Ethan.

To place the Waterman's in context with other ringtops, here it is with more or less contemporary pencils, all meant to be worn on a ribbon, sautoir, or fob.  

Above:  Waterman, Ingersoll, Superite, Wahl Eversharp, Wahl Eversharp, Sheaffer, Artpoint.

I have searched in vain for a photo of a woman wearing her ringtop pencil.  Brooches, watches, lockets--yes.  Pencils--no.  Maybe it simply was not the done thing to wear a pencil, or even a fountain pen, while having your photo taken.

Mabel McGovern Ablett, my grandmother
Grandmother's sautoir