Wednesday 10 January 2018

Hard Times In The U.S.A.

No, I'm not referring to today's situation ...

The early 1830's was a very prosperous time for America but that all changed quickly in 1837. Rising interest rates, decreasing demand for cotton, one of America's most lucrative exports at the time, and banking policies introduced by President Andrew Jackson, were among the contributing factors to the "Panic of 1837". The ensuing recession lasted until 1844.

During this period some of the more successful businesses and organizations minted their own tokens that were the same size as the U.S. large one cent piece. Some of these were minted for advertising purposes and others were of a more political/satirical theme. When the "panic" was in full swing, the availability of real coins was greatly reduced and these "Hard Times Tokens" found their way into circulation and used interchangeably with real currency.
 One such company that produced tokens was the pencilcase maker, S. Maycock & Co. of New York city. The obverse shows an eagle with its wings spread, holding an olive branch in one claw and an arrow in the other, surrounded by thirteen stars. The reverse is stamped "S. Maycock & Co."  "Everpointed Pencilcase Manufacturers" "35 City Hall Place, N.Y." "SML Maycock, John Hague".

Samuel Maycock and John Hague were partners in the company, which was founded around 1835. According to the research done by collector Jonathan Veley, John Hague was one of the earliest American pencilcase makers. His first patent, filed in 1833, was the third mechanical pencil patent filed in the U.S., and he filed a second mechanical pencil patent in 1839.

I have yet to see an example of Hague's 1833 pencil patent, and even examples of the 1839 patent are extremely rare. However, the pencil gods smiled upon me one day several years ago and I was able to acquire both the above token, and an example of the 1839 pencil, on the same day, from two separate sellers.

Hague's design centred around the slider mechanism. Most mechanical pencils had a visible slot on the lower barrel through which a slider ring was pinned to the inner mechanism which in turn enabled the advancement or retraction of the pencil tip itself. Hague eliminated the slot by simply having an additional barrel that slides over the innermost barrel to extend the pencil tip.

This particular example of a Hague pencil is really just in fair condition as it has some flaws, but I happily overlook them all given the pencil's rarity, and the detailed imprint of the patent information on the barrel.

Monday 1 January 2018

A Champagne Toast to Ring in the New Year?

The New Year has arrived and a few of us may now be enjoying our first hangover of 2018 thanks to the after effects of over-indulging in the "bubbly"...

Champagne, in all of its various forms, has been around for several centuries. However, what has become today's champagne industry really got its footing in the mid-1800's following a few major technological advances... they finally figured out how to attain just the right sugar content so that the desired level of bubbles could be attained, and more importantly controlled, which greatly reduced the risk of exploding bottles, and new methods in bottle production provided the industry with consistently stronger bottles, able to withstand the higher pressure of champagne. Lastly, when the French rail system linked Reims to the rest of the country in 1854, the world's markets were immediately opened up to the champagne industry and they were soon producing 20 million bottles a year.

The 20th century brought a number of major setbacks to the champagne industry, including the Russian revolution, American prohibition, two world wars, and a major blight infestation. Despite all of this, the champagne industry has survived quite well. It continues to grow, and today's production exceeds 200 million bottles a year.*

As many other businesses had begun to do in the late 1800's, champagne producers branded a variety of promotional items that were given to their suppliers, distributors, and customers. Among these items were novelty pencils...

Louis Roederer, Reims - A sterling silver magic pencil made by Sampson Mordan in the late 1800's for Louis Roederer Champagne... "One of the last great independent and family-run champagne houses". Reims is located in the northern half of the "Champagne Region", to the east of Paris.

The pencil is 1 7/8" closed, and with its double inner barrel it is able to double its length when fully extended, to 3 3/4".

Veuve A. Devaux, Epernay - This is a simple twist extension pencil made for Veuve A. Devaux Champagne, Epernay. The company was named for the first of 3 Devaux widows that managed the business following the demise of their spouses. The pencil dates to the early 20th century, and at that time Veuve A. Devaux was located in Epernay (they are now located in Bar-sur-Seine, in the south-east corner of the Champagne Region).

The pencil is 2 3/4" closed and 3 1/2" when extended.

G.H. Mumm & Co., Reims - A magic pencil made for G.H. Mumm around 1900. G.H. Mumm is one of the oldest champagne producers, established in 1827, and located in the Reims area.

The pencil is 2" closed and 3 1/2" when fully extended.

Champagne Dry Monopole, Reims - Heidsieck Monopole was a major champagne producer around the time that this magic pencil was made (approx. 1900). In 1884 they sold nearly 1 million bottles of Monopole just to Great Britain.

This is the largest of the champagne bottle pencils; 2 1/2" when closed, and 4 1/2" when fully extended.

Happy New Year!

* Champagne industry info from Wikipedia - History of Champagne