Writing Instruments - Eversharp
Aug 23, 2010Public
Photo: In originally investigating Eversharp pencils I bought several books, all of which told the tale whereby the pencil was invented in Japan, in 1912, by the founder of what was to become the Sharp Corporation, who sold it to the Wahl Corporation of US in 1915.

This turned out to be a nonsense. A pencil called the "Ever Ready Sharp" was indeed invented in Japan, but in 1915, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the US Eversharp pencil or the Wahl Corporation. It is doubtful whether any were sold in the US or Europe, and only speculation as to whether it was inspired by a "true" Eversharp.

The photo above shows a replica of the original Japanese pencil that was made as - I understand - a promotional gift on Sharps anniversary. It is a pale imitation of the original, with the barrel's deep turned spirals simply painted on. More elaborate silver-plated versions were made at the same time - but these still seem to omit the depth of the original design.
Photo: Eversharp 1st generation metal pencil - 1913-14

A very rare 20-year gold filled model. Made by Heath, a New York firm of jewellers who added their own-design pocket clip (sadly damaged here). Marked "PATENTED" and clip as "PAT. APP. FOR" . There is a gap in the name "EVER SHARP"

The mechanism is remarkably simple - a push rod for the lead, advanced by turning the top of the pencil: the three-grooved rectangle moves up and down the rifled interior of the barrel, which is made of brass with a gold-filled outer sleeve. This example is beautifully hand-engraved.

At the top of the mechanism is the rubber-holder, which can be unscrewed to reveal gaps at the top of the steel sides into which spare leads can be placed.

It is a propel-only pencil, the owner having to push the lead back manually. Despite this drawback, the pencil became incredibly popular, as it was probably the first mechanical pencil to have the look, feel, diameter and heft of a wood pencil, and was a serious writing instrument.
Photo: The previous photo shows a very early Eversharp made by Heath, and which has the special Heath pocket clip. I had thought the latter damaged, initially, with its "hole"  but as Fig 1 of the above Heath patent (filed 1912, granted 1915) shows, this was an integral part of the design.
Photo: Eversharp pencils 1914-1917.

In 1914, the company moved over to using the famous trowel/spade clip seen in the above examples. These are still fairly uncommon to find. 

It is thought that Heath had been unable to supply sufficient pencils and Eversharp approached the Wahl Corporation, who were making adding-machines etc and whose equipment could be used to make these pencils. This turned out to be a very poor move by Charles Keeran, the pencil's inventor.

On the exposed mechanism of the silver pencil in the middle can be seen a Wahl "advert" for their leads (although I doubt they were making them at that point).

The pencils continue to show a gap in the "EVER SHARP" name.

In 1916/17, Wahl moved into the pen industry by acquiring the Boston Safety Fountain Pen Co, whose operation moved to Chicago with Wahl.
Photo: Eversharp ad. Dec.1918

This is the first use of the "Double tick" by Eversharp that I have seen. Although not used in the same context, the firm later used this sign as its gold seal of quality/guarantee.
Photo: 1922 store catalogue showing Eversharp pencils
Photo: Eversharp gold-filled pencils 1917-23

Wahl had taken a controlling stake in Eversharp in return for providing required expansion funds. Over a short space of time, Wahl had seen the possibilities in the pencil and ruthlessly exploited their position - leaving Keeran with only a small shareholding and the position of sales manager! His position eventually became untenable and he resigned in late 1917. He sold his remaining shares to Wahl in the late 1920's for a pittance - at a time when the company was selling huge numbers of instruments and making $m's annually. A sad result, and a clear warning to those requiring finance for an idea!

The name was still written in spiky lettering, but with the addition of WAHL and the gap in EVER SHARP disappeared. There was a huge range in different metals, colours and sizes. Perhaps my favourite is the "green-gold" one on the left.
Photo: Advert for Wahl All-Metal Pens and Eversharp pencils

The pens were introduced in the early-mid 1920's although this ad. is from 1925.
Photo: Whal gold-filled Metal Pen - 1920's.

This is a Ladies ring-top model and, although very small in size, its construction ensured a relatively large supply of ink.
Photo: By 1924, Eversharp were still the clear market leader, in pens and especially pencils. They had a brand new factory, five stories high with seven acres of floor space, with, according to their own publicity, a daily production capacity of: 50,000 pencils, 8,000 pens and 1.3m sticks of lead!  That's a lot of writing that could be accomodated.

The Perfected Pencil in the advert shown had just been introduced. This was still a propel-only mechanism,  very similar to the original version; the cone was lengthened (which gives rise to a simple means of determining pencils pre/post this date).
Photo: Eversharp Perfected pencil interior

The interior has been re-organised. The cap still pulls off, to reveal the rubber which tops the magazine for spare leads; the latter can still be loaded from the top, but the leads fan out from the slit when tilted, making removal far easier. Spare lead capacity was significantly increased.
Photo: Eversharp metal pencils post 1923

The larger steel nozzles are evident.

The pencil on the left is the gift that started me off! It, and the next 4, were made in England, the remaining 3 were made in Canada - Eversharp having expanded with new manufacturing plants.

The pencil 2nd from the left has an unusual - for Eversharp - cap that is reminiscent of those used by Sheaffer

The sterling silver pencil 4th from the left has an unusual coronet cap; it is inscribed "1910-35 FROM LORD AND LADY DARESBURY" and was presumably a long-service award to a servant.
Photo: Eversharp black hard rubber items

In the mid 1920's Wahl bought a rubber company and started producing its own range of coloured pens (only black versions shown above). It was really too late, and an expensive mistake, as competitors such as Parker and Sheaffer were soon to be introducing their own plastic barreled instruments that could be made in a far greater variety of colours.

All of the above are made in the Greek Key design, which I think looks very good in this material.
Photo: Eversharp plastic barreled pencils

Plastic barelled pens and pencils were finally produced from 1927 onwards, alongside the original all-metal models. The mechanisms are identical. The pencil on the far right has an unusual cap.

Note the different shades of the green ("Jade") barrel-sleeves. Jade often discoloured badly - especially on pens, where the vapours from the ink penetrated the plastic and changed it, often to muddy-brown; this photo shows that discolouration (and the degree of transparency) also occurred in pencils.
 
I've included the right hand pencil here in view of the cap-style, although it's general styling and clip closely follow the Signature range shown in the next photo.

A test: two of these pencils do not belong here - which ones, and where should they more properly reside?
Photo: Eversharp : "Signature" plastic pencils

Introduced around 1928, these pencils were an attempt to fight-back against the brightly coloured pencils the other pen companies had brought to the market. The plastic used was a celluloid. There were, of course, matching pens in the range. 

These are beautiful pencils, with a fine roller-ball clip and work well. Unfortunately, Eversharp did not take the opportunity to improve the mechanism to include a repel function that would draw the lead back into the pencil as others had been using for a while. This delay was to lead to their competetive problems.

Many colours were used, some of which can be seen above. The "Lapis Lazuli" blue colour is perhaps my favourite.
Photo: Eversharp 1930 ad 

Eversharp pioneered the Personal Point concept in 1928, where a customer could have a readily interchangeable nib of his choice put into the barrel.
Photo: Eversharp pencils - 1920's and 30's

Parker had introduced its Chinese (also known as Mandarin) Yellow range in 1927, so this is presumably shortly after that. The Parker model was not a commercial success, as the pen in particular had a tendency to crack and discolour; relatively few were made, and the colour is generally much-valued by collectors as a result!
Photo: Eversharp plastic pencils from the 1930's

The four from the left are from the "Equipoise" range, introduced in 1929 for only a short time to compete against the trend away from flat-top pencils and to compete with Parker's "Streamline" range and Sheaffer's "Balance" range - both of which came out earlier and also had more curvy shapes. The black pencil is from the scarce first-production model of 1929 which had a short life. 

The two right-hand pencils are from the "Doric" range (so-called because the pens had 12 sides, as did the Greek columns of that name) introduced in 1931. As with all Eversharps these were produced in different colours - these being Kashmir Green.

A number of these pencils have the Eversharp gold seal, double-tick quality mark - their sign of top quality.
Photo: 1931 advert for the new Doric range
Photo: Eversharp ad for the new longer pencil that took 4in square leads

Note that the ad. refers to the cap as being made of a plastic called Pyralin.

Some of the square-leads can be seen in a later photo of different Eversharp lead containers.
Photo: Eversharp square lead pencils probably mid-late 1930's

Odd pencils. The one in the middle has a transparent barrel, although I don't think it was a demonstrator . 

The bottom pencil is in a colour pattern known as black and burgundy pearl web.
Photo: Eversharp "Skyline" (aka "Skyliner") pencils

Introduced in 1941, and designed by Henry Dreyfuss, these pencils were cap-activated repeater propel-only pencils and were produced in a very wide range of solid colours, striped-cap versions which are very attractive, and gold-filled caps. The range proved very popular and continued in production until 1948.

The bottom pencil is the rarer and slightly longer Executive model and dates to 1941. The top pencil has an unusual metal activator cap - more reminiscent of the earlier Coronet range. The two pencils with plastic nozzles are considered to be war-time models, saving on metal.

The Skyline was a very "modern" looking pencil - especially as regards the matching pens (see next photo). Due to the repeater cap, the pencils do not quite match the look of the pens, but are still very nice.
Photo: Eversharp "Skyline" pens.

As with the pencils, these were produced in a dizzying array of models. They are very fine writers with excellent nibs. The caps were inspired by ancient Greek helmets.

A version was made with their early ball-point (the CA  - for Capillary Action) but I am not sure whether the example at the top is an original (it's not!). 

Ball-point pens had been considered in the 1800's and in 1888 one was patented by a John Loud but was not a commercial success. In 1938 two Hungarian brothers - Georg and Lazlo Biro - invented a properly working version; they went to Agentina and patented it, selling the rights to another pen company - Eterpen - which subsequently transferred them to Eversharp in 1945. However, the company became involved in a ruinously expensive lawsuit over them and, worse, had launched its version of the CA too soon, resulting in poor quality/reliability and almost the entire production in 1945 was returned. The CA became famous as "The Pen That Ruined Eversharp".
Photo: Eversharp Skyline CA ball-point pen

I was right! The one in the last photo, is a made-up pen - this - just acquired, Sep.2010 - is the real thing. The original ink-reservoir is in the front - as you can see, this screws in to the barrel; I've been able to cobble together a working refil from a cheap modern Bic ball-point, with judicious use of paper wadding inside the pen to hold it in place.

NB - for some reason - perhaps only to differentiate it - the clip on the cap stops at the circular band. On the pens in the previous photo (and the advert in the next), it continues up and over to the other side of the cap, emphasizing the Greek helmet look.