Thursday 19 December 2019

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Last night's temperature here was a rather frosty -19C (-2F) with the wind chill. What better reason than that to crank up the furnace and spend a bit of time gently cleaning the newest addition to the collection?

This tiny pencil is the nicest one to come my way in quite some time. It arrived during this week's cold snap, causing that horrid seasonal earworm to find its way into my head as I opened the very cold package that it was in, argghh.

It is a rare and special little pencil, so I'm glad that it arrived safely, and is no longer bouncing around in freezing delivery trucks ...

Edward Todd Magic Pencil
c. 1880
A figural magic pencil, it was made in the U.S. by Edward Todd & Co. The design is of a Native American papoose in a "wicker" cradleboard (from the expression on the baby's face, it appears to be still trying to get warm!). The inner barrel, and cradleboard are made from silver, while the baby's face and arms are copper. It is tiny; just 1.25" long closed, and 2.25" when fully extended.

Edward Todd & Co. was established in 1870 and the company remained in business for over half a century. The company's primary focus seems to have been gold & steel pens (nibs), along with the increasingly popular fountain pens (based upon what I could find online in terms of old advertisements, various forums, etc.). Most of the surviving pencils made by Todd seem to be of the novelty/figural type, and even those are quite rare to find in such near-perfect condition. The combination of metals used is another uncommon aspect of this particular pencil. I believe this one to be an early Todd pencil (c. 1875-1890), as the imprint is simply "Edward Todd & Co.", and it does not include the Todd company maker's mark that generally accompanied the Todd imprint on most of the later pencils.

Edward Todd & Co.

Now it's time to put on some great old classic Christmas tunes and get rid of that damn earworm...

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Other Writing Related Commemoratives

This is a followup to the June, 2019 entry - Commemorative Pencils, and shows a few of the non-pencil commemoratives/souvenirs in my collection.

While humans and souvenirs have gone hand in hand since the dawn of time, the 19th century industrial revolution allowed Victorians to begin mass producing souvenir type items. These may have had little intrinsic value, but perhaps offered their owners a significant emotional connection to a special event, person, etc. The resulting boom in souvenir collecting, and subsequent retention of these items by intervening generations, has helped provide us with a view into just what was deemed to be important, way, way back in the day...

While most of today's souvenirs & commemoratives may have a life expectancy measured in days and weeks, and are produced in factories located in far-away lands, during the Victorian period many of the souvenirs were of quite high quality for the time, and it was common for even higher end production houses in England to produce their own commemoratives.

General Gordon Ink Bottle - In the 1880's, General Charles "Chinese" Gordon was a big deal in England, and there were many different commemoratives made in recognition of his accomplishments, following his death in 1885. Gordon first established a name for himself (literally)  for his role in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion in China during the 1860's, becoming known as "Chinese Gordon". Gordon took over command of the Chinese "Ever Victorious Army" in 1862 and under his leadership they, along with the Chinese Imperial Army, finally put an end to the rebellion in 1864, after over a decade of fighting that had resulted in many tens of millions dead. Although Gordon received credit for his leadership during the conflict, in reality Gordon had also managed to alienate his troops to the point that by the end of the uprising most of his troops had mutinied and those remaining consisted primarily of Taiping rebels that had been taken prisoner and subsequently convinced to switch sides. But the folks back home considered him to be a hero - "Chinese Gordon".

It appears that Chinese Gordon may have had a wee problem understanding orders and in finding ways to work constructively with the locals, a trait that resurrected itself during the Siege of Khartoum almost 20 years later, which resulted in his being beheaded two days before a British relief force arrived.

The "relief force" itself was a disaster in the making from the very beginning. Field Marshal Sir Garnet Wolseley was assigned the task of rescuing Gordon and his troops. But he refused to go up the Nile without the aid of French-Canadian Voyageurs that he had come to admire, resulting in long delays. When the "voyageurs" finally arrived from Canada, many of them were in fact lawyers from Toronto led by a city alderman that wanted to "see the fun of war"; none with any boating skills.

But once again, back home in England Gordon was still a hero, and one to be memorialized in as many forms as possible...

From the little information that I could find pertaining to this pressed glass ink bottle, the design was believed to have been done by "Thomas Kidd" around 1885/1886. At over 4" in diameter, it is quite large for an ink bottle, especially one that only holds about 2 ounces of ink. The pressed glass is actually a very deep ruby red, although it appears to be black until held up to a light.

The top of the bottle reads "'CHINESE GORDON' INK BOTTLE". There are four quadrants around the base of the ink bottle showing - a profile image of General Gordon, "BORN 23RD JAN 1833", a pair of crossed swords, and "DIED AT KHARTOUM 26TH JAN 1885".

Chicago World's Fair Inkwell - 1889 saw the Paris World's Fair (Exposition Universalle) captivate Europe, and the world, with its architecture, displays, and its most prominent feature, the Eiffel Tower. America's ego was severely bruised by all the attention that France was getting and it demanded that something bigger, grander, and simply put, just far more over the top, be done, and thus began a 3 year rush to create the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition. It was to be billed as a celebration to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus' "founding" of the New World. The timelines to create the exposition were impossible, the budget ever growing, and hints of a possible major recession were building, but nothing would quell the drive to have the biggest and best world's fair ever conceived.

And they seem to have pulled it off against all odds. It was held in an area known as Jackson Park, Chicago (along the shores of Lake Michigan). Consisting of nearly 200 buildings spread across 690 acres, with exhibits from 46 different countries, it attracted nearly 27 million visitors during the 6 months it was open. Some of the "firsts" at the fair included the first Ferris Wheel, and it was massive as a first attempt at such an engineering wonder - 264 ft. high, with 36 cars, each capable of holding 40 people. Other Columbian Exposition firsts - Shredded Wheat (how has it been able to survive this long?); the first commercial movie theatre; Juicy Fruit Gum; Pabst Blue Ribbon; Aunt Jemima pancake mix; Cracker Jack; the zipper; first ever elongated coins (squashed pennies).... and spray painting (invented by necessity as they otherwise would never have finished the buildings on time). Westinghouse won the bid to provide alternating current power; underbidding Edison's direct current company... and the result is what we all now have in our homes...

At the time, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was a major attraction around the world, and it had even been part of the Paris World's Fair in 1889. Unable to negotiate a deal that would include his show in the Exposition, Buffalo Bill cleverly secured a 15 acre property immediately adjacent to Jackson Park where he held his show during the Exposition, and reportedly netted a healthy profit of a million dollars (approx. $30M today).

There would have been no shortage of souvenirs available during the Exposition for its millions of visitors to consider as mementos of their visit,  including specially minted coins, postcards, spoons, photo books, and ink bottles...

One of these millions of visitors selected this little item, either as a personal souvenir, or perhaps as a gift for a loved one. Designed to give the appearance of a stack of gold coins, the gold coloured metal casing contains a small ink bottle (1 1/2" high and 1 3/8" in diameter). The top "coin" of the casing is imprinted  "Christopher Columbus" "1492 - Chicago, U.S.A. - 1892".

The "Queen Mary" Pen - Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Queen Mary took it upon herself to establish an organization that would raise funds to assist in finding employment for women during the war.  Many organizations found ways to contribute to her fund, and one such organization was Perry & Co. In 1914, Perry & Co. created a limited edition of just 20,000 boxes of pens, with each box containing 18 pens. Each pen is embossed "The Queen Mary Pen".

Christian IX Pens - Who? Perhaps not a recognizable name to many of us but he should be. King Christian IX ruled Denmark from 1863 until his death in 1906. His enduring legacy was not so much any of his accomplishments as Denmark's ruler, but rather his accomplishments as a parent. He and his wife, Queen Louise, had 6 children, all of whom were married into other royal families across Europe, resulting in King Christian IX becoming known as "the father-in-law of Europe". Some of the better known names among his many descendants - Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Phillipe of Belgium, King Felipe VI of Spain, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

These pens date to 1877. Each pen is embossed with a likeness of the King.

Sources : Wikipedia

Monday 7 October 2019

Made In One Maiden

Maiden Lane is a short street (barely half a mile long) located in Manhattan's Financial District. The street has a very interesting & colourful history dating back to the late 17th century, but from the beginning of the 19th century to the early 20th century it was also the centre of New York's jewellery district. During this period, Maiden Lane, along with a couple of adjoining streets, was home to many of America's major pen and pencil case makers. 

According to Jonathan Veley's extensive research, summarized in the blog series - "From Bagley Through Todd", one particular address on Maiden Lane was home to a revolving door of pencil case makers over a relatively brief period of about 15 years starting in the mid-1850's ... One Maiden Lane.

The first of the pencil case makers at One Maiden was likely Bagley, Houghton, & Co. Albert G. Bagley had partnered with Henry H. Houghton sometime around 1849 and their company was listed down the street at #12 Maiden Lane in 1853. Bagley's tenure at #1 Maiden Lane would have to have been quite short as he retired in 1856. The only Albert Bagley pencil I have may pre-date his time at One Maiden Lane. It has his January 1, 1850 patent date imprinted on the inner barrel ...

Albert Bagley Combo Pencil / Pen
Albert Bagley Patent Jan. 1, 1850

Coinciding with Bagley's retirement, Henry Houghton established a partnership with Charles Newton beginning in 1856. A little over a year later, Houghton died, and Newton carried on the business on his own, eventually establishing a partnership with James Byrne and Joseph Monaghan in 1861. This partnership was joined by Keller Kurtz in 1864.

Newton, Kurtz Pencil
As Veley explains in part two of his "From Bagley Through Todd" blog series, Byrne left the company shortly thereafter and on January 1, 1865 a new partnership was formed, named Newton, Kurtz & Co..

Newton, Kurtz c. 1865
This Newton, Kurtz & Co. pencil is imprinted with the company name, as well as the imprint for Charles Goodyear's May 6, 1851 vulcanized rubber patent...

Kurtz, Monaghan c. 1867
Kurtz, Monaghan
Constant change was the norm at One Maiden Lane, and just over a year later Charles Newton retired, and in May, 1867 the company name became Kurtz, Monaghan & Co.. This example of a Kurtz, Monaghan is one of my favourite ebonite (hard rubber) pencils as it is the much rarer "red" colour. It is imprinted with the company name, "Kurtz & Monaghan N.Y.", as well as the Goodyear 1851 patent date.

In March, 1870 Kurtz retired, but Monaghan would not be alone for long. In September, 1870 Edward Todd (who had retired in 1868 from another pen & pencil case maker of note that was located just down the street - Mabie Todd & Co.) established a partnership with Monaghan under the name Edward Todd & Co.. This company name stayed associated with the business through a number of succeeding partnerships, extending into the 20th century, although the company appears to have departed from Maiden Lane prior to 1895. The inner barrel of this tiny magic pencil is imprinted "Sterling", along with the Edward Todd logo.

Edward Todd Magic Pencil
Edward Todd c. 1900

The above pencils are examples that represent several, but not all, of the makers resident at One Maiden Lane over that brief period between 1856 and 1870. There may be named pens & pencils out there from some of the other partnerships (e.g. Bagley, Houghton & Co., or H. H. Houghton & Co.), but I've yet to come across any. In some cases the maker may have simply continued to produce items bearing the name of a predecessor. For example, Veley's blog series includes a newspaper advertisement from December, 1859 which states "Bagley's Celebrated Gold Pens and Pencil Cases, Manufactured by C.F. Newton". This was 3 years after Bagley's retirement and 2 years after Houghton's demise so Newton may well have simply continued producing "Bagley" pencils and pens right up until his partnership with Kurtz began, and never produced any imprinted with just his own company name.

Jonathan Veley provides a fascinating (and vastly more thorough) history of the parade of partnerships at One Maiden Lane in his blog and I highly recommend taking some time to read all four parts of the story.

Sources :

Jonathan Veley - The Leadhead's Pencil Blog - blog series "From Bagley Through Todd"

Wikipedia - Maiden Lane 

Thursday 18 July 2019

Forget-Me-Not, Until You Do

Ever since we humans first clued in to the fact that we are not immortal, many of us have quite naturally pondered our own mortality and what the world might be like in the days and years that follow our demise. For 99.99% of us the world will simply carry on as if nothing of any import has just taken place. But within the orbits of our own little worlds, most of us hope that there are friends and loved ones that will remember us, and that they will share some of those memories with others... our secret desire for at least a smidge of immortality.

Others are less passive in their efforts to be remembered. Wealthy philanthropists may leave a legacy of buildings or have streets named after them; some of the more noteworthy will have monuments raised in recognition of their accomplishments; the artists among us will create stunning works that outlast their creators by generations; but for most of us... well, some may have little to offer other than to bequeath precious heirlooms to their loved ones ... and for some Victorians pondering this question, perhaps a few came to the conclusion that what could possibly be a better reminder of dear old what's-his-name than a "Forget-Me-Not" pencil...

Here are a few "Forget-Me-Not" pencils from my collection. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the stories of their original owners and recipients are now long forgotten. The images of the barrel engravings of "Forget-Me-Not" are not as clear as I'd like, due partly to wear, and partly to some rather poor photography skills on my part.

Wilmot & Co. - This one likely dates to the latter half of the 19th century, and was made by Wilmot & Co. in Birmingham, England.

Thomas Addison - Addison was one of America's earliest pencil case makers and held one of the earliest patents for an American made pencil. Patent # 736  was issued in May, 1838. Addison had already been in business as a pencil case maker long before that, having first been listed as a pencil case maker in New York in 1823/1824, according to research done by David Nishimura1. The example below likely pre-dates Addison's 1838 patent as it is identical in design to one made by Woodward & Hale, that was advertised in the Long Island Star in 18332, suggesting that Addison may have been making his pencil cases under license from another early pencil case maker. A series of blog entries on the Leadhead's Pencil Blog, by Jonathan Veley3 describes these early American makers in much greater detail.

Unknown Maker - This one is a calendar pencil. The ring showing the days of the month is present, although it is missing the tiny ring at the top that would have had the letters representing the days of the week. It is likely American made, and has a couple of traits that suggest it may have been made by either Thomas Addison, or Woodwards & Hale, in the first half of the 19th century. The general design style fits with both those makers, and in addition, the steel tip closely matches those present on both Addison and W&H pencils from the 1830's.

Sources :

Vintage Pen News - David Nishimura - Thomas Addison, pioneer pencil maker
Leadhead's Pencil Blog - Jonathan Veley - Woodward's Patent
Leadhead's Pencil Blog - Jonathan Veley - The Brothers Woodward

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Commemorative Pencils

Commemorative "souvenirs" have been a big deal for collectors for centuries. At one time or another almost all of us have fallen prey to the schlocky "mementos" offered up by tacky souvenir stands everywhere. We may purchase something "for the kids" as a family vacation keepsake, or treat ourselves to a souvenir t-shirt while attending a major concert or sporting event, or we may simply be buying grandma yet another "Royal" teacup for her already overflowing teacup shelf. No matter the reason, we humans tend to buy a lot of this stuff.

Most of these trinkets eventually break, wear out, or simply end up in a garage sale or a landfill site. But on occasion these little gems survive for generations, far beyond their expected life span. More often than not, the motives of the original purchaser, and the stories that might explain the item's longevity, have been lost with the passage of time, but the fact that these items are still with us today is at the very least, proof of their value to their past custodians.

Within my collection there is a variety of commemorative type pieces, some could safely be labelled as belonging to the "schlocky memento" category, and a few are of a somewhat higher classification, although still being mementos that held special meaning to someone at a special time and place in the past.

Here are a few of the pencils, and in a future entry I'll focus on some of my other writing related commemorative pieces...

Duke of Wellington - Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) - While he is remembered primarily for his defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the Duke of Wellington had established himself among the elite of the British military well before the Battle of Waterloo, and his influence, both militarily and politically, carried on long afterward. He was commissioned as an ensign into the British Army in 1787 and by 1803 Wellesley had become a Major-General, with his first major victory being against the Maratha Confederacy at the Battle of Assaye. Including his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, during his military career Wellington fought in over 60 battles, and his tactics and battle plans are still studied at military academies around the world. He remained Commander in Chief of the British Army until his death in 1852, and he twice served as Britain's Prime Minister.

 The design patent for this commemorative pencil was filed the same year that Wellington died (1852), by Alfred Taylor of Birmingham (design patent # 87148). The finial is a bust of Wellington and the slide is styled with the Wellington Coat of Arms, along with his year of birth, year of death, and references to his two greatest battles - Assaye, and Waterloo.

General Charles Gordon (1833-1885) - General Gordon saw action in the mid-1850's during the Crimean War, and he went on to become known as "Chinese Gordon" for his efforts in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion in China during the early 1860's. Gordon spent much of the 1870's as Governor-General of the Sudan. In 1884 he was sent back to the Sudan with orders to evacuate Khartoum due to an uprising in the area. Instead, he apparently thought that trying to convert the leader of the uprising was a better idea, and that did not work out so well for him. Gordon was killed two days before a British relief force arrived.

In 1898, Field Marshal Kitchener arrived on the scene, ordered to exact revenge for Gordon's untimely death by the Mahdist forces. The Battle of Omdurman followed, and the British ultimately re-conquered the Sudan. Only after the battle did Kitchener find out from the British Prime Minister that the real purpose of his expedition had been to keep the French out of the Sudan. By getting there before France's army, he was able to ensure that France could not take possession of Sudan and that way force the British out of Egypt.

Known at the time (1899) as "The Khartoum Pencil", these pencils were made from battlefield relics (.303 shell casings), and converted into pencils by a quality pencilcase maker such as Sampson Mordan. The casing is engraved with "Omdurman" and "Remember Gordon".

Mappin Brothers of London had the exclusive rights to make and sell these pencils, with 10% of sales going to the "Funds of the Gordon Memorial College of Khartoum".

The "Royals" - In January, 1936, George V died and his eldest son Edward VIII succeeded him. That is, until December, 1936, when Edward decided to abdicate so that he could marry Wallis Simpson. Edward's brother George was next in line and his coronation was set for May 12, 1937 (the same date that Edward's coronation had originally been planned for). Edward's short-lived reign likely explains why I've not found any commemorative pencils for him, but the next two monarchies each offered up a pencil to those that desired such a memento. The first commemorated the inauguration of George VI and it was distributed by the Burgh of Coatbridge in Scotland. The cap of the pencil even included a tiny portrait of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Not to be outdone in the tacky department, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 also provided a commemorative pencil, complete with a "jewel-studded crown" finial.

At the time of their original purchase, the human emotional connection with these commemorative pencils almost certainly surpassed the functional appeal of a regular propelling pencil, and it is that emotional connection that in turn has attracted me to these commemorative pieces when I find them, but they just don't pop up all that often. I suspect that when our kids or grandkids clean out our home one day they will find similar trinkets that only hold memories for their current owners, but hopefully they will decide hang onto one or two and take care of them as a favour to some future collector in the coming generations!

With regards to these specific pieces... for the most part, my writing equipment collecting tastes are literally "all over the map", but perhaps something more subliminal was guiding my subconscious as I acquired these pieces... I live in the city of Waterloo, which is next to the city of Kitchener, and the town of Wellesley. We are also next door to the County of Wellington, and the "Royal City" of Guelph, both only a few miles down the road... and we're not even in England...



U.K. National Archives - British Design Patents