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If you made adding machines for a living, as did the Wahl company at the turn of the century (not to be confused with the different Wahl company that now makes grooming products), what better way to augment your product line than with a nice mechanical pencil? (Maybe green eyeshades and sleeve garters?) That's exactly what Wahl did when in 1914 they introduced the Eversharp propelling pencil.
For years, collectors have supposed that this is the same pencil that had been invented by the Japanese Ever-Sharp company, which had been founded two years before in Tokyo by Tokuji Hayakawa (that company later became known simply as Sharp and is still very much with us). Unfortunately, as attractive a story as this might be (with its linkage between ancient writing instruments and modern electronics), later research has debunked it; the Eversharp pencil was actually a U.S. invention, independent of the Hayakawa version). The man responsible was one Charles Keeran, who originally hired Wahl to produce his pencils, but was eventually forced out when Wahl took over the product.
In any case, three years later, Wahl added the Boston Pen Company to its holdings; Boston pens were famed for high quality pens with spiffy little rollers at the ends of their clips which helped alleviate the national crisis in erosion of men's shirt pockets. Thenceforth, the Boston pens were sold under the Wahl name. These pens were typical of the hard-rubber fountain pens of the period, and were well-constructed and tastefully decorated.
Not long after Wahl went to the trouble of buying out a rubber company to supply rod stock for its pens, everyone else in the industry began moving to celluloid. Wahl may have been late getting its own Pyralin (celluloid) pens to market, but it was worth the wait; the Personal Point, fitted with roller clip and a tiny double-checkmark medallion (Wahl's signification of the lifetime guarantee) is one of the most luxurious looking of vintage pens and commands high prices among collectors today.
During the 1930s, Wahl offered the Doric and Coronet pens, both very beautiful examples of high Art Deco style. Both piston-fillers and lever fillers were offered in many sizes and styles.
In the later 1930s, air travel began to become increasingly routine, and penmakers sought ways to prevent pens from leaking at high altitude (and correspondingly low cabin pressure). Wahl offered a "Safety Ink Shut-Off " feature in the late 1930s; this pen used the fit of the cap to push a tab that was supposed to cut off ink flow to the feed, but the system did not work well, and the U.S. government eventually forced the company to ratchet in its advertising claims. The 9-way adjustable point feature, which varied the "flex" of the point to provide variations between fine and bold, shaded writing, was more successful technically, but did not last more than a few years.
The Skyline and its stubbier cousin the Fifth Avenue dominated wartime production. In 1946, Eversharp launched the ill-starred capillary action ("CA") ballpoint pen based on the original Biro patents. Although Eversharp intended to be the first to market in the U.S. with a ballpoint pen, they were in fact the second (behind an upstart company called Reynolds). Legal battles with competitors slowly drained the resources of the company, and few notable models appeared from Eversharp in the 1950s. The company's writing instrument operations were purchased by Parker in 1957.
More recently, the Eversharp name has been revived for use on ball pen refills and on the Fisher Space Pen in its many variations. Independently, at least two revivals of the Skyline have appeared on the market, although neither appears to have anything to do with the original company. Faint (and often not-so-faint) echoes of the stylish Wahl-Eversharp pens of the 1925-1940 period can be seen in numerous modern pens, particularly those from Italy.
(c) 1996-2002 Richard C. Conner. All rights reserved.