Presto pencils were significant in that they were about the earliest repeater-style pencils produced in the United States. As the following research shows, these entered production about 13 YEARS before Eversharp introduced its repeater line.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
From the left, the first two are earlier round-barrel examples that are stamped "Presto Pat. Appl. For." The next two (both missing their top buttons) have faceted barrels but also are stamped "Pat. Appl. For." The example on the right is a demonstrator model, stamped "Presto Patented."
The faceted barrel models, with their color and their trim, suggests that the Eagle Pencil Co. may have had something to do with their production.
See also the Hi-Speed page for an example of this mechanism used on that brand.
Here's a closeup of the nose on the demonstrator, showing the spring-loaded collar (the right opening) pushing lead through the tip (the left opening).
|The barrel on the demonstrator is stamped with the name "Samuel Kanner." Strange, since the cutaways make the pencil very uncomfortable to hold, and therefore unlikely that a customer would use it as a daily writer and personalize it. On a hunch, I checked patent databases to see if a Samuel Kanner had anything to do with inventing mechanical pencils, and I hit paydirt! The original patent for what would become the Presto was applied for on November 24, 1924 by A. Pollak, who assigned his patent to -- you guessed it -- one Samuel Kanner. The patent was awarded July 13, 1926 as number 1,592,502. View patent here. Later, Samuel Kanner applied for and obtained his own patent for an improved version, which featured among other improvements a clip incorporated into the top button (patent 2,222,295, Issued November 19, 1940 - view here). I am very lucky, and feel very honored, to have what appears to be one of Mr. Kanner's prized possessions in my collection -- an item he probably showed off to countless people during the 15 years or so the Presto was produced.|
Finding a later Presto was a bit more challenging, but one popped up on ebay right after I first published this article.
In addition to the Doric-style band cutouts, the mechanism also strongly resembles an Eversharp repeater mechanism, except the top button unscrews to reveal an eraser (that accidentally advances the lead if you erase too hard), and the tip threads face outward and screw into the barrel, rather than onto the mechanism itself.
While I was poking around for more information on Mr. Kanner, I found a notation that he died in Los Angeles in 1965, at the age of 76.