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domingo, 30 de setembro de 2012

Kraker Pens, the Rexall Stores and some related pen brands

If it’s true that only a few collectors are interested in these pens on the other hand fountain pen collectors with some years of experience when they listen the word Kraker
can't avoid  makeing a connection with others like for instance Pencraft, Monogram, Belmont and Dixie  ........but if we look at these words as a whole we can't also avoid an overlapping with the words Rexall Store ! As a matter of fact Kraker pen brands  have a close relationship with the famous Rexall stores .
Research about the pens manufactured by George  Kraker is an overhelming exercise with lots of places to investigate, and for those like myself who live outside the USA, the task is even more difficult !  As a pen collector I always try to do my best making use of the information obtained by others ( giving them the credits, of course ) .
Phil Munson and his Fountain Pen Restoration site  http://munsonpens.wordpress.com/   is a source I have used, among others . The late Dennis Bowden and Jineen Heiman published two articles on the PCA magazine , The Pennant , about Kraker pens but although I'm a PCA member I could't do the download ! So I decided to paste and copy the index of those magazines with the hope that some of you who are interested could be more lucky than me! Other mames wich I read in some foruns discussing these pens were those of George Kovalenko, Robert Astyk , David Isaacson Tinker, Jim Baer David Nishimura and so on .I could't also access Lion & Pen another important site and source of fountain pen information for reasons I didn't understand ( is it out ? ) .
One thing I'm sure: without  Kraker  the great community of fountain pen collectors would be deprived of a bunch of great and nice pens!

Kraker  manufactured pens in Kansas City, Minneapolis,MN Chicago, Illinois  ,Grand Haven, Michigan ( Monogram and Belmont for the Rexall stores and Pencraft, Yankee and Dixie under their own ) and finally in Libertyville, IL. Anyway they may have produced pens outside the USA because I have two early BCHR eyedroppers with the words : Chicago- Toronto imprinted on the barrels !

196 The PENNANT 2010 Spring Vol.XXVIII No. 1
Remembering....L. Michael Fultz
Confessions & Recollections of a Vintage Pen Collector by Paul Erano
A.A. Waterman: "Not Connected With L.E. Waterman".....Really? by Sterling & Catherine Picard
George M. Kraker & His Pens 1918-1932 Part I by Dennis Bowden & Jineen Heiman
Bonhams & Butterfields Bring Pen Auctions to the U.S.
Repair Basics: How to Resac a Pen by Richard Binder
Early Parker Pocket Clips by John Danza
Technotes: Nib Smoothing by Victor Chen
Pens For Kids: Pen Collector Goes Public by Gary Rubendall
Smithsonian Postal Museum & PCA Open House

194 The PENNANT 2010 Fall Vol. XXVIII No. 3
George M. Kraker & His Pens Part 2 by Dennis Bowden & Jineen Heiman
ThinkInkInkInk-New Inks Debut
Cameleon or Chameleon by Mike Walker & Perter Sacopulos
The Write Stuff for the Holiday Season by Lisa Anderson
Pens For Kids
And Who Doesn't Want a Pen for the Holidays?
Remembering Maryann Zucker by Kim Sosin & Alphonso Mur
The Bookworm A book Review by Tom Rehkopf
Pen Shows Continue to Thrive - Ohio & New York
New PCA Board Members
Tips & Tines by Nicholas Ayo


Although the name George M. Kraker may not bring the same name recognition as Lewis E. Waterman, George S. Parker, or Walter A. Sheaffer, he was an active player in the American fountain pen industry and his contribution is mostly unrecognized. In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to say that without George M. Kraker, there may not have been a W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company.

In his autobiography, W. A. Sheaffer admits he was afraid to enter the fountain pen market with his patented lever filler until George Kraker convinced him he could sell all the pens W.A. Sheaffer could manufacture. Kraker began selling Sheaffer’s pens in his old Conklin sales territory in June 1912, and was good for his promise to sell all Sheaffer could make. In the following year, Kraker and Ben Coulson, another former Conklin salesman, became two of the original stockholders when the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company was incorporated.

With $5,000 borrowed from his brother Joseph A. Kraker, the future founder of the Kraker Pen Company, Kraker became a 20% owner of the new W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company. Later, Joseph Kraker invested another $2,500 in Sheaffer stock, the stock being held in George’s name but voted by Walter A. Sheaffer. Ben Coulson, George Kraker’s partner in the sale of Sheaffer pens, also invested $5,000 in the new Sheaffer company, giving Kraker and Coulson a 40% ownership of the company.

Without George Kraker’s assurance to W.A. Sheaffer that he could sell all the lever filling pens he could make, Sheaffer may never have brought his pen to market and without the capital contributed by Kraker and Coulson, the company may not have prospered.

With the final decision in the lawsuit brought by Sheaffer going in favor of Sheaffer in January 1918, George M. Kraker, perhaps sensing the dim future for his employer, the Kraker Pen Company of Kansas City, MO, wasted little time in relocating to Chicago, IL, with his daughter, leaving behind in Kansas City his ex-wife and son.

[Copyright Dennis Bowden and Jineen Heiman, originally published in The Pennant Spring 2010]

Pen Collectors of America

A BON -TON pen

 The BON-TON  barrel's imprint ( Leslie and Harvey Co. ) 

The BON-TON original gold nib

The lever filler


I have looked over your blog entry and it looks good!

Bon Ton / Leslie Harvey

Leslie Harvey is an interesting one. There is a lot of speculation on Bon Ton and Leslie Harvey. First, Bon Ton. Here, as with LH, there seems to be a lot of speculation and no hard evidence that I know of. It is felt that they were probably made by Kraker, at least for a time, and possibly by Sheaffer for a time. The clips, levers, and nibs on these vary and some resemble both producers. Compounding the discussion is the fact that Kraker and Sheaffer were in legal battles for a time and Bon Tons may have been part of a settlement, but again, just speculation. The name Bon Ton could have been a Store, or simply a name referring to High Society.

As for Leslie Harvey, those with more knowledge than I have speculated that this could have been the combination of the first names of Leslie Blumenthal and Harvey Craig, both former Sheaffer employees, the latter somewhat famous for a lawsuit with Walter Sheaffer. Again, no concrete evidence that I am aware of, but interesting speculation.

What is known is that the were probably produced in Kansas City, and some bore the clip patent information from Faber in Ohio. Where that ties in is again speculation. George Kraker did have ties to a pen Company in Ohio during the time of these pens.

Sorry that I do not have any written evidence and like so much of the third tier information, much is based on speculation.

Phil Munson

 A Sheaffer's and two similar KRAKER pens

 An early Belmont pen in black chased hard rubber with a particular clip very similar to those of the Monogram and Pencraft pens of the same era. And also the Lotz lever.

Detail of the LOTZ lever

Detail of the barrel's imprint

The base is a double one,made in marble ( no cracks ) with two Libertyville jade green pens with lever filler but not the Lotz lever wich means that these are later pens. Besides the usual great quality of this desk base ( wich is usual on this brand of pens ) it have some details that create a different and amazing look to this particular base as you will see. Both pens have the PENCRAFT barrel's imprint and are fitted with #2 gold PENCRAFT nibs although their imprints are not similar. Both nibs are in perfect condition but one of them needs to be straightened.
I hope you can enjoy this desk base.

Detail of the tulip

Detail of the tulip's base with the two original "jade green" pins!

Details of the nibs.

And finally diferent pics of the two barrel's imprints

Posted 29 August 2005 - 07:14 AM

Hi, All,

Max of maxpens posted a message on another list requesting information about some of the inks in his collection. Specifically he asked about Rexall and Carter's. They relate in several ways as we'll see, but in this thread I'm going to concentrate on Rexall and treat Carter's as a separate topic.

Rexall was the house brand name and store name of products sold by the United Drug Company. United Drug was a cooperative of pharmacists formed about 1900 to purchase drugs and medical supplies cheaply in bulk. The cooperative's headquarters was located on Huntington Avenue in Boston on what is now the Northeastern University campus. From its incorporation in 1901 until his retirement in 1941, United Drug/Rexall was headed by Louis Liggett.

Rexall had a reputation for selling high quality products cheaply. The Rexall brand on everything from asperin to gauze to zinc oxide was a marque of quality and purity so it isn't any wonder that Rexall pens sold fairly well over more than four decades and often are some of the highest quality "off-brand" pens on the market today.

Mr. Liggett frequently contracted close to home but always looked for the best deal. The earliest Rexall pens I have found were all made by the New York firm of Sanford and Bennett. Subsequent contracts for Rexall fountain pens went to the company that produced both the Winter-Robbins and Drew pens in St. Paul, Minnesota which, it now appears, may have been George Michael Kraker's Michael-George Pen Company. Eventually, the contract for Rexall pens went to the Moore Pen Company. The metal pens, usually in gold-filled metal, were called Signet pens and were supplied by the DeWitt-LaFrance Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rexall seems to have decided to offer name brand pens as well as its own brands as early as the 1920's but the Moore and, possibly, Vaughn-Upton contract pens appear to have been the pens produced until the end of the Rexall line in or about 1952.

In keeping with the times, Rexall offered pens priced at $7.00 and more in the 1920s but, by 1938, the highest priced pen was a Belmont Monogram priced at $5.00 retail.

Louis Liggett lived in the toney Boston suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts and named one line of Rexall pens for his home town. Other chief house brand names were Monogram and, as I've already mentioned, Signet.

Thanks to the exceptionally generous Charlie Harles I can say that Sanford and Bennett made Rexall pens through 1915 at least.

By 1926 George Kraker had the contract. The repair facility was at 1510 Washington Street, Grand Haven, Michigan. Thanks to the research of Dennis Bowden and Jineen Heiman we know that Rexall had contracts for 5 million pens
from Karaker's Grand Haven, Michigan plant.. It is possible that Kraker continued to produce Rexall pens after moving to Libertyville, Ill. Signet pens in both gold-filled and hard rubber were available but all pens and pencils so marked are DeWitt-LaFrance products.

By 1934 some changes had arrived and Moore now had the Belmont/ Monogram contract. Signet pens were now a plastic pen with either a lever or syringe filler priced at 50 cents each and the Medford pens, which may have been made by Vaughn-Upton in Medford, Massachusetts (the town next to Belmont) could be had for 25 or 29 cents retail depending on model.

In 1942 there is a Scout "plunger filled" pen and in 1952 there is a Cascade fountain pen that resembles a Wearever patent that retailed for as little as 79 cents.

The Rexall ink house brand was Old Colony. I can unequivocally say that Old Colony ink is a Carter's product packaged for Rexall. I do not believe that ther ever was a supplier other than Carter's. Old Colony packaging is almost identical to that of Carter's.

Tomorrow, I'll delve into Carter's.

So that's as much history as I know most of it being due to the wonderful generosity of Charlie Harles.

Take care,

Rob Astyk

[Note: The above message has been edited and corrected. My original source contained a misprint that identified the founder and president of Rexall/United drug Co. as Lois Liggett. That person was, in fact, Louis Liggett and very definitely a man. I apologize for the original incorrect information.-RWA 8/28/2006]

The House Of Pencraft


As you can see below, it came from an estate, and in a Pencraft box, complete with instructions. At first glance, there is nothing very unusual. It is a Kraker Pencraft, made in Libertyville, IL, which dates it in the very late 1920s or very early in the 30s. At that time Kraker had a contract to produce pens for Rexall, under the name Monogram, among others. The box says Pencraft and the directions are for Pencraft/Dixie Pens and Pencils.


Below is the restored pen, a Monogram/Pencraft with orange and yellow ends. What I had not noticed when I received the pen was that the cap has a familiar Monogram clip and a Pencraft Body. When I first looked at the pen I just assumed that the cap “jewel had discolored to a dark/dirty yellow. Now it is clear that the cap is a mismatch. The two fit together perfectly ~ just the imprints and jewels are mismatched.  

So why are the cap and barrel different? Well, I can only hazard a few guesses, and will never really know.

Perhaps, the pen was repaired and when it was sent back to Pencraft for repairs they substituted either the cap or barrel. Or perhaps this pen was produced near the end of the production in Libertyville and they were just using up remaining parts. Or perhaps the pen was a mistake and either the barrel or cap was placed in error. I can play “perhaps” for quite a while, and we will never know. My leaning is that they were near the end of production in Libertyville and simply using up parts and this pen was the product.

Below is the direction sheet that was in the box. Note the ink stains. This seems to run against my initial observation that the pen had not been used before. The title of this article ~ The House Of Pencraft ~ comes from the pencil page. I had never seen this term before.

I looked up the name Theodore Haake on the internet and no persons with ties to fountain pens or Michael George came up. I am not certain if this was the owner of the pen (though this is written in pencil) or possibly someone from the factory.




The nib is a Forever Nib #6. I have seen Forever, Everlasting, Dixie, and Warranted Nibs used on Kraker pens of this era. Everlasting and Forever are interesting names, perhaps in response to Parker and Sheaffer’s ” Lifetime ” guarantees.


The second pen from the left is similar to the one on Phil Munson's previous article with the following diferences:
1 - The barrel's imprint is MONOGRAM instead of PENCRAFT.
2 - The nib is a MONOGRAM - EVERLASTING ( see pic ) and not a FOREVER .
3 - The cap top of my MONOGRAM is yellow ( the one on the PENCRAFT is RED ) and the barrel's end of my MONOGRAM is red ( and the one of the PENCRAFT is yellow ) . A complete inversion ( intentional or not ? )

Detail of barrel's imprint on the MONOGRAM pen.
Detail of the MONOGRAM pen nib.

A group of diferent MONOGRAM  pens.

Three BELMONT pens. Unlike the Pencraft and the Monogram previous showed on this page  this black Belmont have the transparent tops ( cap and barrel ) in the same color ! The yellow ladie's size model have green transparent tops.

Aspect of the Barrel's imprints. Its interesting that the factory  engraved on the barrel's is more deep on the first letters in particular the B .

A group of BELMONT pens.

Two BELMONT pens, ladies size, made in black hard rubber.The third pen is a DREW pen

The DREW pen

The LOTZ lever


The #5 Warranted gold nib ( maybe a replacement )

Two black hard rubber REXALL eyedropper  pens both with REXALL acommodation clips and a gold filled SIGNET .

A REXALL sleeve filler ( called self filler )

The De Witt-La France Co. was formed by William P. De Witt and David J. La France, and was one of several Boston-area pen and pencil producers of the late teens and early 1920s. The company produced both hard rubber and all metal pens and pencils.
My research has revealed more speculation by other collectors than hard proof, but when I merge all of the stories, here's the best I can come up with: De Witt and La France, both of whom were inventors, went into the pen business sometime between 1916, when David La France first applied for a patent for a fountain pen, and 1918, when the pair first collaborated on an invention assigned to DeWitt-LaFrance Co. Over the next few years, the pair patented several innovations for writing instruments, most notably for a fountain pen lever and a pen and pencil clip. As is shown before, the first of the company's pens and pencils were produced by the Samuel Ward Manufacturing Co. under the brand name "SAWACO." Later, the company produced pens under the names "DELACO" (as of the writing of this article, I have found no pencils so marked) but more frequently under the trade name "Superite." At some point in the early 1920s, the company landed a substantial contract to supply pens and pencils to the Rexall Drug Stores, under the name of "Signet" (one source I read suggested that the Rexall contract was actually with the
Moore Pen Company, but De Witt-La France was subcontracted to supply the product). The company may have also acquired a contract to produce pens for the Laughlin Pen Company, which went bankrupt sometime in the mid- to late 1920s (I have never seen a Laughlin pencil).
Meanwhile, the Carter Ink Co. decided to get into the writing instrument business. In 1926, when Carter started making pens and pencils that appeared to be made from Laughlin pen parts and bearing the De Witt-La France clip, DeLaCo pens cease production, but the "Superite" brand continued until about 1929. After 1929, all trace of De Witt-La France writing instruments disappears, although collectors of antique radios appreciate the fact that the company made radios into the 1930s, including the "Superadio."
The first patent I found, 1,209,978, was for a fountain pen lever design and was assigned to Charles Brandt, owner of the Boston Pen Company (later sold to Wahl Eversharp). Later De Witt-La France patents I found prior to 1926 listed both David J. La France and William P. De Witt as inventors and the assignee was the De Witt-La France Co. On December 20, 1929, David J. La France applied for a patent for an improved version of a De Witt-La France pencil design -- by himself -- and the assignee of the patent was The Carter's Ink Co.

By 1929, David J. La France had applied for patent number 1,845,293 by himself, without William De Witt, and the patent was assigned to Carter's. This indicates that by 1929, whatever remained of De Witt-La France's pen and pencil operation had been absorbed. View patent here.

In one final irony, that last patent application was not granted until 1932, the year Carter stopped producing the pens and pencils De Witt and La France created.

A SUPRITE pen ( first on the left ) followed by two red hard rubber pens: a LAUGHLIN and a CARTER'S

Details of the clips

The SUPRITE barrel's imprint

Details of the clips in the rest position and after you make pressure with your finger over their proximal part and the consequent upward movement of the distal part

A SIGNET pen set, ladies size in black hard rubber

Detail of the original SIGNET gold nib
Detail of the barrel's imprint

Two DIXIE pens both made in Libertyville

A group of BELMONT pen pencil combinations

I would like to thank Phil Munson for his personal help on the content of this page.

1 comentário:

Jon Veley disse...

Hey Luis, great article as always. I ran across this while I was doing research for an upcoming article at Leadhead's, and I noticed something I can add. Rob Astyk's quote about the Rexall store brands contains an inaccuracy.

The "Medford," "Scout" and "Cascade" brands were undoubtedly made by the Eagle Pencil Company.