Ross-Memo pencils are pretty far up there on my"cool scale." These pencils carried an onboard spool of paper, that could be advanced through a slit in the upper barrel and torn off to write notes. The bottom example is turned to the side to show the slit. The top example advances the paper by turning the top knob; the lower ones, which appear to be later, have a thumb hole in the back of the upper barrel to advance the paper.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
I was very excited to run across the center example, which was complete with box and spare roll of paper. The box provided enough information to unlock some of the history of these pencils. It indicates that these were made by the R. W. Ross Manufacturing Corp. of New York (on this example, the yellow sticker has been added to the box to indicate the store where it was sold). But a single word on the bottom flap, "Patented," sent me back to the databases to find out more.
And find out more I did! R. W. Ross is short for Ruth Warren Ross, whose original patent, titled simply "Paper Dispenser," was applied for on July 2, 1936 and granted March 16, 1937 as number 2,073,719. View patent here. This design was the knob advanced type shown at the top, and showed an ordinary wood pencil mounted in the "business end."
My research on Ruth Warren Ross continues. From what I've learned so far, she must have been an extraordinary woman. If it weren't enough for a woman in the 1930s to invent and patent a device, then set up a manufacturing company to produce it, she also patented another invention the same year she patented the Ross-Memo pencil -- for a car muffler! View patent here.