February 17, 2015

Early Parker Duofold Pencils

The illustration accompanying the article in Am. Stat., Nov 19, 1921, p.26, is upside down.  Here it is right-side up.

[Posted on L&P on Jan 7, 2012.]
        You should
ve realized by now how important The American Stationer is for all its great ads and articles, but it is even greater at documenting the momentous changes in a pen company’s history.  A few of the ads and articles I have posted here already have proved that point, but the ones dealing with the Parker Pen Co. are especially important because of their scarcity.
        Various smaller companies advertised in Am. Stat. more often and more consistently than Parker did.  For instance, there isn’t a single ad for Parker between 1912 and 1920, and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, major full-page Parker ads start showing up in 1921, one every month from February till September.  Curiously, all the pens in those ads are big #24, #25, and #26-size pens that look exactly like Duofolds, except they are all-black.  And then what do we have in November?  An ad introducing the Duofold!  It appears on Nov 26, 1921, and it’s also another ad I have never seen before.  It’s as if those preceding Parker ads were preparing the stationers and the buying public by showing pens that were the same size
as and had the same appearance of the Duofold.  Some of those preceding ads also feature the button-filling system, most with nice cut-away demonstrator illustrations.  A couple more Duofold ads show up at the beginning of 1922, and then the Parker ads just simply disappear.
        And here’s another one.  There’s a great article in Am. Stat. introducing Parker’s first mechanical pencil.  It appears on
Nov 19, 1921, p.26, the same day as the first Duofold ad in the Chicago Tribune cited in the footnotes in my Pompeian Brown Duofold blog spot, and it features the “Lucky Lock” pencil, which “Parker is on the point of putting on the market”, the article says.  And this was just one week before the Duofold ad in Am. Stat.!  There’s an illustration of the pencil taken apart and all in pieces.  Jonathan A. Veley’s mechanical pencil book, The Catalogue Of American Mechanical Pencils (2011), p.111, also deals with this pencil, and lists all the relevant patents.  What’s curious this time, and Jon even calls it Parker’s “Dirty Little Secret”, is that some of the first Parker pencils were actually made using two Charles Keeran patents because Parker didn’t have any pencil patents of their own, yet.  The date for those patents appears on the Parker boxes for the pencil.  Soon after, they received the patent for the “Big Bro” pencil, and the Keeran patent date disappears from the boxes.  The patent numbers and pictures of the box can be found in Jon’s pencil book.  I don’t want to steal the book’s thunder, but the information is also available on his “Mechanical Pencil Museum” website, sections 1 and 2a.
        Marta Michnej wondered why Jon hadn’t responded to the thread, and “whether these Lucky Locks ever reached even one shop, or whether it was only marketing, to show to the market that the company was about to start making Parker pencils”.  Unfortunately Jon found out about L&P too late, so he couldn’t respond on the board, but we talked about these things in backchannel emails.  Here’s what he wrote.

You’re right about the article.  It was only marketing by Parker, to show that the company was about to start making Parker pencils.  Note that the patent application for the early Parker mechanism (used on both Lucky Locks and Duofolds) was filed on November 7, 12 days before the article was published.  The Keeran patents are totally unrelated to the design of this pencil, as far as I can tell.  I’m not sure the Am. Stat. article pushed the launch date of Dec 22 back any earlier, though.  Words like “is on the point of putting on the market”, “will be known and advertised as”, and “will go hand in hand with”, certainly suggest that the pencil wasn’t on the market when the article ran.
       I wonder why Parker bothered to get a license for the Keeran patents. I agree the pencil wasn’t on the market when the article ran, but when Jon mentioned “the launch date of Dec 22”, I didn’t know whether he meant December 1921, or December 1922.  I would agree with a December 1921 date.  December 1922 might be right for the gold-filled Duette pen & pencil set, but the Duofold Duette was introduced much later, in April 1924, and the “Big Bro” pencil wasn’t introduced until December 1924.  The article in Am. Stat. is from November 1921, so the introduction of the silver-plated “Lucky Lock” pencils probably dates from December 1921.
        After David Nishimura posted links to some issues of Office Appliances on his blog, I discovered the rest of the volumes
here, and here, in the Hathitrust Digital Library.  I toured the site, but sadly, I found only three volumes in “Full view”.  The nice thing is that those three cover the 1½-year period from the middle of 1921 to the end of 1922.  Right away I started looking for any Parker ads for their Duofold, and I really hit pay dirt.  There was a full-page Parker ad in every issue, that’s eighteen new ads all geared to the stationery and department-store trades.
        The three ads from July, August, and September 1921 are for “Lucky Curves”, and are exactly the same as the ones mentioned above from Am. Stat. for those months, but the October “Lucky Curve” ad in Off. App. is totally new.  There wasn’t a Parker ad in October in Am. Stat.  The November ad is the same in both magazines, the ad mentioned above introducing the Duofold, but then a totally new Duofold ad appears in December.  In November, the Duofold is said to be “red-brown”, but in December it is called “Pompeian brown”, and the “Patrician of Pens”.  In January and February 1922, the Duofold is advertized as “red-brown” again, but in February it is said to be “the Cadillac, the Packard, the Pierce-Arrow of fountain pens”.  In March, the pen is advertized as “Chinese Red”, and it is said that it “Resembles exquisite Chinese lacquer”.  In the April and May ads, the Duofold is not advertized at all, but instead Parker advertized their “Lucky-Lock” metal pencils.  In the June ad, the Duofold returns and is styled as “lacquer-red”, and “Rivals the beauty of the black-tipped redbird”, but the April, May, and June ads in Saturday Evening Post use the line, “Rivals the beauty of the black-tipped Tanager”.  In July and August, the “Lucky-Lock” metal pencils return, and they are marketed in various sizes of assortments for the stationery and department-store trades.  The October ad is a 2-page spread, a Christmas ad that features Santa Claus, and both a “Lucky Curve” and a Duofold pen, and the ads in September, November, and December are meta-ads, that is, ads that feature an ad-within-the-ad, or ads about the advertizing industry.  The September and December ads featured pictures of one full-page Duofold ad from the mainstream magazine Saturday Evening Post, and the November ad had 5 of the Sat. Ev. Post Duofold ads.  The September ad featured the August ad from Sat. Ev. Post, the one that first used the ad-line, “It rivals the beauty of the Scarlet Tanager”, but it only quotes the line, and doesn’t actually use the line itself.  The December ad features the ad that appeared in Sat. Ev. Post on Dec 16, 1922, also a pen and pencil set and some mechanical pencils, and lots of dealer display items that collectors and researchers today would kill and die for.  Go to
Hathitrust, if you want to see the rest of the 18 ads.

George Kovalenko.