January 07, 2016

Waterman’s F. P. Seymour

  , another Waterman’s war in 1918.

[Posted on L&P on May 17, 2013.]
        Here’s another possible internal struggle, or mini-war within Waterman’s, and it’s all played out as a tempest in the American-Stationer teapot.
        Frederick P. Seymour was with the Waterman’s company from July 1907 to August 1918, but he started off and ended up elsewhere.  He was born in Baltimore, Md., and was with Dennison Mfg. Co. from about 1894 to February 1907.  Shortly after, in April 1907, he was vice-president of the Vechtin Waring Co., and in July 1907, he became the advertising and sales manager for L. E. Waterman Co.  He also became a member of the Stationers’ Board of Trade of New York in 1907, and one of the incorporating directors of the Boost Club of New York in September 1907.  As an advertising director, he wrote many advertizing articles and letters to the editors in various trade journals on behalf of Waterman’s.  He was also the editor of The Pen Prophet between 1907 and 1918, and wrote many editorials and articles for the house organ.  And between 1908 and 1918, he prepared and gave many slide lectures*, and lectures accompanied by moving pictures about the process of making Waterman’s pens.  On June 8, 1914, he married Ivy Louise Horder of the Horder’s Stationery family, and bought a house in Westfield, N. J.
        But then he resigned abruptly and severed his connection with the company.  An article in The American Stationer, “Seymour Resigns From L. E. Waterman Co.”, July 27, 1918, p.13, states simply, but also quite cryptically, that “Frederick P. Seymour, advertising manager of the L. E. Waterman Company of New York, has tendered his resignation and is severing his connection with the company on August 1”.  Those are strong terms, and it comes quite suddenly.  It goes on to say, “Mr. Seymour plans to take a short rest at his home in Westfield, N. J., during which time he expects to decide on his future business activities”.  It’s not as revealing and forthright as the magazine’s articles were in the past, but I guess the magazine was deferring to one of its major clients, the L. E. Waterman Co., which, after all, was also one of their most lucrative advertising accounts.  This time, however, you have to be able to read between the lines.
        Edward T. Howard was the publicist for the Waterman’s company from 1884 till 1918.  But before that, E. T. Howard was a jeweler in the 1870s.  Later, E. T. Howard was an advertising solicitor for Century magazine, when he convinced Lewis E. Waterman to place an ad in Century in the November 1884 issue.  That single ad grew into an ad campaign that was so successful that
E. T. Howard was rewarded by being promoted to the board of directors, and by being made the L. E. Waterman Co.’s advertising department manager from 1885 to 1918.  The L. E. Waterman Co. placed an ad in Century every month throughout those decades, and all the while E. T. Howard continued to receive his commissions for the ads.  E. T. Howard also advised L. E. Waterman to form a stock company, and became a share holder and director.
        Mark Twain knew E. T. Howard, and wrote “glowingly” about him in a letter from 1870,
“I don’t think an enormous deal of Howard”.  He said that they talked when they met, but he wouldn’t dream of embracing him.  He added, “I would as soon think of embracing a fish, or an icicle, or any other particularly cold and unemotional thing, say a dead stranger, for instance”.  He was as cold as a dead stranger.  And as we all know from L. E. Waterman’s underhanded dealings with Frank Holland and A. A. Waterman, L. E. was as low as a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.  So they were well suited to one another.  Or as Charles Dickens said, “They were well met”.  This was the corporate culture, and this the man that F. P. Seymour had to work with as his direct superior.
The problem was that, in his later years, E. T. Howard was the head of the ad department in name only, but he continued to receive all the commissions while another person, F. P. Seymour, did all the work.  From 1907 to 1918, F. P. Seymour was also called the “advertising manager”, but he was only the acting head who didn’t get any of the glory.
        Curiously, just a few days after F. P. Seymour quit and severed all ties with the company, E. T. Howard died on Aug 6, 1918.  He was an old man, and he was going to go soon, any way, either into retirement, or into his final just deserts.  But F. P. Seymour must have gotten the feeling that he wasn’t going to be promoted when E. T. Howard retired, or died, so in a preemptive strike, he quit his job instead.  He left quite abruptly, and before the old man was even in his grave.  Perhaps he, like A. A. Waterman before him, was feeling a bit under-appreciated when he realized he was never going to be promoted to the head position in his department when E. T. Howard left, and he was never going to get all the advertising commissions that E. T. Howard got, nor was he ever going to be promoted to the board of directors, so instead he took a month off, and then drove west to Chicago and started on Aug 31, 1918 as secretary of Horder’s Stationery Stores, a large stationery company based in Chicago, Ill.  It certainly helped that he was married to the boss’s daughter.  He was also vice-president of the Associated Stationery Supply Co., a Horder’s subsidiary.

        But at the same time that they lost F. P. Seymour, the Waterman’s company was writing “humble” things about E. T. Howard, their former publicist.  In the same issue of The American Stationer, Aug 31, 1918, that they printed Frank D. Waterman’s “Appreciation” of his fellow board member, p. 12, they also had an article about F. P. Seymour, p. 18.  F. D. Waterman relates the full story of how E. T. Howard helped his uncle out with an advertising campaign in the Century magazine, and for which his uncle “owed him a debt of gratitude” that was repaid by making him a director in the company “from the start”.  E. T. Howard was also rewarded with being given “the account for the advertising agency”.  F. D. Waterman goes on to say, “We never forgot the early years of Howard’s steadfast devotion to our interests, during which time his commissions were small because our investment in advertising was not large, [but] when...our account grew to pretty large proportions, we felt that he was entitled to continue to place it and to make the commissions paid by publishers”.  The article titled “Seymour Begins Work At Horder’s Stores” is much shorter.  Its one, single sentence reads, “Fred Seymour, after a trip to Chicago from the East, has taken up duties at Horder’s Stationery Stores”.  That’s it.  That’s all they wrote.  And they called him “Fred” this time as well.  And lastly, to put a final seal on the move, he also became a member of the Chicago Stationers’ Association.  F. P. Seymour was finally gone from New York.
        That was the best revenge, to disappear into the corporate anonymity of another big stationery company, or two, and make a pile of money, and never be heard of again, at least not in Am. Stat., except for one last time.  They reported on May 10, 1919, p.17, that F. P. Seymour was honored in New York with a dinner tendered by the Joseph Dixon pencil company, and attended by many New York notables in the stationery field, but Waterman’s was conspicuously absent.  There’s a sense that their corporate feelings were somehow hurt by him, and that he was being slighted by them, but not by the others.  There’s also a sense of deference to the large corporation, and not daring to say the truth openly, but still siding with F. P. Seymour on this one privately.  They were merely afraid of angering the large elephant.

George Kovalenko.


        *In an article in The American Stationer, Mar 18, 1911, p.22, F. P. Seymour’s slide lecture in Philadelphia is reported on and summarized.  He showed “a slide of the birthplace of the great Waterman industry at 136 Fulton Street”, or rather, the site of the great Waterman’s rip-off.  It goes on to say, “Three dozens a year were made and primarily only for insurance men who found it advantageous to have a fountain pen in order to close on policies which otherwise might be lost if the prospect had to wait until pen and ink could be secured”.  There’s no ink blot, but it’s still a part of the genesis of that myth, although a more practical and less fanciful version.  It’s not the blatant fantasy perpetuated by such stories as the one in Printers’ Ink Monthly,
Dec 1921, p.62.