December 07, 2015

The Waterman’s Treasure Chest

  , and the Penman Co.

[Posted on L&P on Jan 1, 2, 5-7, 10, 2009.]
        “Here’s the link to the Christmas
“Wishbook” catalogue website.  In the Spiegel “Holiday Greetings” catalogue from 1942, there is a bunch of pens on page 17, and in the bottom right-hand corner, there is the above cheap pen set in a box, priced at just 79 cents.
        “It doesn’t explicitly say that it’s a Waterman’s set, but it does say that it’s a “push-button filling pen”, which isn’t likely for any Waterman’s pen from the 1940s, and it is grouped on the page with another boxed Waterman’s pen set priced at $4.40.  Looking closely at the box, however, it looks exactly the same as the “Waterman’s Treasure Chest” box from the 1920s.  Here’s a
picture of a box that sold on Ebay recently.

        “Perhaps it wasn’t a big seller in the 1920s, and Waterman’s had an overstock of these boxes, and then later they got rid of them at a blow-out price.  Or maybe an independent company made the boxes for all comers.  But have you seen a pen set in a nice box for 79 cents lately?  Well, the “Buy It Now” price for the box on Ebay was $200.00, and they got it.  And that was without any cheap pen set in it.  I wonder whether the box in the Spiegel catalogue had the Waterman’s logo on the lid, like
this one did.”

        Derek Lepper sent a
picture of a “Waterman’s ad with a variation on the Treasure Box”, and I wrote, “The box in the ad is the familiar Waterman’s box from the 1920s, the one with the phrase “The Treasure Chest of Today” printed on the lid of the box.  I have seen dark blue, green, and mottled green-and-gold boxes, and I have heard of a burgundy colored one, but I haven’t seen one, yet.  Has anyone else seen any other colors?”

        John Chapman wrote, “Note that the text in the Spiegel catalogue says “Famous Penman bargain pen and pencil set”.  Methinks the brand name was Penman, which is a bargain pen to say the least.  Not that this really tells us much more, but Penman button-fillers don’t seem like a likely candidate for Waterman manufacture.”

        And I wrote, “So the pen set and box are a marriage.  If the Penman button-filler is a bargain pen, then it’s a real mismatch with the Waterman’s box.  The box way out-classes the pen and pencil set.  I thought the phrase “Famous Penman” was just advertising hyperbole.  Do you have any documentation of the Penman company?  Anything will do.”

        John Chapman wrote, “I assumed from the use of the capitol letter in Penman that it was the brand name.  It seemed to fit.  No documentation per se, but I have seen low-end pens on Ebay with that name, and I think I may have the remains of a Penman button-filler at home.  Very 4th tier.  If the one I am thinking of is a Penman, than the clip, and the clip in the catalog pictured above, seems much like some Wearevers.
        “In an interesting side note, there are a number of cheapo pens in the Sears catalogs of about the same time, for this price and lower.  In some cases they give you color options, but in others it just says “Assorted colors”, and you just get what they send you.”

        And I wrote, “Here are some details about the Penman Co. that surfaced when Antonios Zavaliangos did a search for “Penman” in a commercial legal service hosted at the Drexel Univ. Library.  He sent me a 31-page court reporter’s summary of an appeal of the outcome of an earlier trial for nonpayment of taxes against the Starr Pen Co.  There’s an interesting connection between Starr and Conklin that I will post separately in its own post, in order to stay on topic here, but here’s my distillation of the summary of the court case, and some info on the connection between Starr and Penman.
        “First, here’s the company history from my Penmakers book, which is still forthcoming.

Penman Co., a division of United Advertising Co., was a fountain pen, mechanical pencil, and combo wholesaler located at 179 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill.  They were in business 1940-44, and they sold cheap fountain pens under the name “Penman”, and a fountain pen and mechanical pencil combo called the “Winchester”, starting in October 1943.  Martin P. King was the manager, and his wife Ruth King, Edward H. Larson, and Nelson J. McMahon were the other principles.  Leo Ungar was the sales manager starting in 1942.  The name of the partnership was changed to King, Larson, and McMahon, or K. L. & M., on Jan 1, 1943.  Starr Pen Co. supplied the completed pens and combos for them.  The company was dissolved sometime after 1944 when a court case over fraudulent non-payment of taxes by Joseph Starr put the Starr Pen Co. out of business as well, but the court case was still dragging on in 1954.
        “The petitioner in the present case, Joseph Starr, appealed the previous ruling against him.  Here’s the info on the appeal heard in the Official Tax Court.
        “Docket No. 24672.
        “Date Issued, 03/30/1954.
        “The Commissioner originally determined deficiencies in income tax for the years 1942-1946, but the appeal narrowed down the non-payment to 1943-44.  Here are some curious statements in the summary.  More will follow in the other post concerning “Conklin and the Starr Pen Co.”.
        “The judge wrote in the “Opinion” of this appeal, “The record in this proceeding is very large; it includes testimony covering 2,974 pages of transcript.  The entire record has been considered and carefully analyzed by the Court”, which explains why the summary goes on for 31 pages.
        “During the case, Martin P. King testified that he received kickbacks from Joseph Starr, what King referred to as “royalties”, and which the judge termed “side-payments” in his “Opinion”.  Starr denied all of this in his testimony, even though it was demonstrably false.  Again in his “Opinion” the judge writes, “In considering every detail of the voluminous record of this case, care has been exercised to evaluate the inconsistencies in some of the details of the testimony of the respondent’s witnesses.  Attention has been given to testimony about King’s expenditures for luxuries such as jewelry and furs, and to testimony about his gambling activities, and about his displays of currency in large denominations.  However, in considering the complete and entire record, we are unable to conclude that King’s testimony is unworthy of belief”.
        “In defense of his opinion of King’s testimony, the judge cites another court case where the judge, in weighing the evidence of an interested witness, wrote, “There may be such an inherent improbability in the statements of a witness as to induce the Court, or jury to disregard his evidence, even in the absence of any direct conflicting testimony.  He may be contradicted by the facts he states as completely as by direct adverse testimony, and there may be so many omissions in his account of particular transactions, or of his own conduct, as to discredit his whole story.  His manner, too, of testifying may give rise to doubts of his sincerity, and create the impression that he is giving a wrong coloring to material facts.  All these things may properly be considered in determining the weight which should be given to his statements, although there be no adverse verbal testimony adduced”.

        “After reading that little bit of legalese, we should consider ourselves lucky that we did not have to “consider and carefully analyze” all those 2,974 pages, even though many specifics about the relationships of various nib makers, penmakers, and pen-part jobbers were left out of the summary.  For that, you’ll have to read the full record of the testimony.  But Starr’s whole attitude of misdirection and lies is exemplified by that misused Waterman’s box in the catalogue listing.”

George Kovalenko.