Penman Company was a division of the United Advertising Company, a Chicago company which operated between 1940 and 1944. Penman sold inexpensive, steel nib pens and mechanical pencils by mail order. The company did not produce its own pens, but instead acquired them wholesale from Starr Pen Company. Starr had acquired what remained of Conklin in November, 1941, including leftover stock, which is why Penmans resemble Chicago Conklins.
After the United States entered World War II in December, 1941, the War Production Board began rationing natural resources needed in the war effort, and in early 1942, the WPB issued an order limiting the production of fountain pens and prohibiting the use of steel in nibs. Simultaneiously, the Office of Price Administration issued an order fixing price ceilings for fountain pens and pencils in order to prevent profiteering. Penman found itself unable to acquire pens and pencils and unable to sell them at a profit, so the company closed its retail operations in the summer of 1942 and sold off the rest of its stock wholesale by the end of the year.
That was the end of Penman, but not the end of the story. On January 1, 1943, two of United Advertising's shareholders, Edward Larson and Nelson McMahon, formed a partnership with Martin King, the sales manager of Penman until Penman closed, called K, L & M, to carry on the retail pen and pencil business. Unfortunately, the partners continued to deal with the Starr Pen Company, which had no qualms about war profiteering and tax evasion.
On the brighter side, the tax court's opinion in the Starr Pen Company's tax evasion case is what gave me all the details used in this article. As Daniel Tosh would say, "and for that, we thank you."
(click on pictures to enlarge)
|Four examples of Penman mechanical pencils. Although the washer clips and the similar plastics had always suggested a connection with the Chicago-made Conklins, it wasn't until I researched Penman's supplier, Starr, that I could prove a connection.|