The Conklin Pen Company was founded by Roy Conklin in 1898 in Toledo, Ohio. Conklin quickly became one of the industry's leaders with the success of its "Crescent Filler" pens, which were the first commercially successful "self-filling" pens (as opposed to eyedropper fillers prevalent at the time, which were filled by unscrewing the top and pouring in the ink). So successful was the design that it was not until after Sheaffer introduced the sleek looking lever filler in 1908 that the company offered any significantly improved products. By 1920 Conklin had switched over to lever fillers to keep up with Sheaffer, and it was also in that year that the company started to produce mechanical pencils, to keep pace with Eversharp and Parker, which were producing pencils to match their pens.
History proves that once a company starts tryng to catch up with the competition, it rarely gets back out in front. Conklin did well through the 1920s, but it only barely survived the depression. In 1938 the company was sold to a group of investors who moved the company from Toledo, Ohio to Chicago. In November, 1941, the company name was sold again, this time to the Starr Pen Company, which produced painfully cheap pens under the once great name. The remainder of the Conklin story, to its demise in the late 1940s, is detailed on the Starr page.
A new company has revived the name and is making beautiful pens, rollerballs and ballpoints styled after the originals, particularly the enduras. But I don't think they are making pencils....yet. Hint, hint.... HINT!
(click on pictures to enlarge)
1. The first Conklin Pencils.
Both of these examples are stamped "Conklin" on one side and "Patented July 6-1920" on the other.
The design was by Harry P. Fairchild of New York, who received patent number 1,345,436 on that date. View here. If there are models marked Pat. Applied For or produced under the Fairchild name, I'm not aware of them.
Conklin quickly adapted Fairfield's design to match the rounded shape of the company's pens, replacing the scrolled cap shown in his patent drawings with a short round one. These early ones, however, preserve most of the original features; in particular, Fairchild's unique six-chambered spare lead compartment under the cap is intact.
2. Later Conklin metal pencils, 1920?-1922.
Here is a group of slightly later Conklin pencils, which bear little resemblance on close examination to Fairchild's original design. Note that the caps have been elongated, and when you remove the cap, there's a three-spoke lead compartment instead of Fairchild's six-pointed star lead chamber. Although these are all imprinted "Pat. 7-6-20," they were actually produced using a later design, patented by C.N. Johnson. Johnson's first version, filed November 28, 1921 and issued September 16, 1924 as number 1,508,795 (view here) used the Fairchild star, but it was his second design with a three-spoke lead chamber, applied for December 31, 1921 and issued May 20, 1924 as number 1,494,424 (view here) that was used for this series.
Johnson's 1924 patent dates don't appear on these because by the time they were issued, 3 years after they were applied for, Conklin had ceased producing metal pencils in favor of the Endura line (see below).
The other distinctive feature on Conklins is their springed clip, which is easy to open (but also easy to break, as the righthand example illustrates). The patent on the clip, issued May 28, 1918, was to Frank H. Mooney and was given number 1,267,575. View here. Collectors refer to it as the "Mooney clip."
3. Conklin Duragraph, 1922-1924
The Duragraph line was a brief but important evolutionary step for Conklin, a step away from the typical all-metal pencils and into hard rubber.
The Durograph also introduced the mechanism later used on the Endura line, which has proven over time to be one of the most reliable and resistant to damage. Unfortunately, whicle the mechanism was solid, the hard rubber nose cones proved to be very fragile and tended to chip.
4. Conklin Endura, 1924-1930
These were exceptionally well made and produced in beautiful colors. The mechanisms, barrels and tips were virtually indestructible, and the only weak point was the spring clips, which tended to break off. As soon as I remember how to get these guys apart, I'll install clips in the two "rare clipless" models shown.
Hey, don't forget to look closely at any of the black and bronze ones. Sometimes you'll find one that's navy blue and bronze. See it?
5. Conklin Symmetrik, 1930-1932
Sheaffer's introduction of the streamlined Balance line in 1929 made everyone elses' pens look, well, square. To the outside world, Conklin introduced the Symmetrik. Internally, Conklin executives must have said to themselves "Hmm... why don't we round off the ends of the Enduras for a bit until we can think of something new?"
These have a neat sparkly crescent on the cap. Crescent filler, get it?
6. Conklin Nozac, 1932-1938
Here was something exciting. The name cam from the fountain pen, which was a piston filler with no sac (Nozac.. get it?). Although most people remember the pens as the big technological leap for Conklin, the pencils were entirely new, as well. These were extremely durable and well made, and the clips were redesigned to be much more durable. Some were faceted, some were not. Different sizes were produced, as well.
7. Conklin Symmetrik, 1932-1938
I'm not sure what else to call these. They aren't Nozacs, they aren't Symmetriks (they have a middle joint twist mechanism) and some were produced without a matching pen to go with them.
8. Other Conklins, 1924-1938
Here's a grouping of other pencils produced by Conklin during their time in Toledo. From left, shown are three student pencils; the orange and black "Halloween" pattern, the black and white "Zebra," some of the brightly colored "All-American" student models, and some others I haven't quite been able to categorize.
9. Conklin "All American"
These were extremely attractive. Unfortunately, they are almost always found with names very deeply imprinted in them.
Conklin of Chicago, 1938-1947
Quality ranging from barely acceptable to hold-it-together-with-scotch-tape-and-it-will-pass-for-a-pencil.
The first example on the left is a nice piece imprinted Chicago, and must have been put together from leftover Toledo parts. The next two are also pretty good and accompanied the "cushion point" line of pens.
The last three were probably produced for the Starr Pen Company after Starr bought whatever was left of Conklin in 1941. They are very poor quality.
But I will leave this subject with a mystery, one found at the 2011 Chicago Pen Show. This piece is different from anything else I've seen with the Conklin name on it. The lower barrel is stamped with Patent Number 2,028,855, which was issued to Arthur Winter of Weehawken, New Jersey on January 28, 1936. View patent here.
Winter's design was for a clutch actuated pencil, but this piece doesn't match the design. Whether this was cobbled together in Chicago during the chaotic last days of Conklin, or whether parts are missing and it was cobbled together by the person that sold it to me, is as yet unknown.