Monday, March 9, 2009

Rite-Rite Long Leads

[4 1/16" x 5/16".]

Another item from a now-defunct downstate-Illinois stationery store. Affixed to the back, a label with a price — 10¢ — in fountain-pen ink.

In 1921, the Rite-Rite Mfg. Co. began mfg. fountain pens, mechanical pencils, and pencil leads, clips, and erasers. The company later became a subsidiary of the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (as in Dixon Ticonderoga). I have these details from a 1950 case heard in the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, Rite-Rite Mfg. Co. v. Rite-Craft Co. Rite-Rite was unhappy about Rite-Craft's choice of name, claiming that it would lead to confusion among customers. The Court's decision includes this bit of dry impatience:

We cannot understand how any purchaser of a lead pencil or a fountain pen, which had applied to it as a mark the word 'Rite,' could imagine that such term meant anything except that it was a misspelling of the word 'write.' It is clearly descriptive of the character of the goods of both parties.
Thus Rite-Rite and Rite-Craft kept mfg. under their chosen names, supplying supply-hungry writers before fading into the stationery past.

I wonder what sort of calculation went into the spelling of the name Rite-Rite. Having opted for the pun, the company must have decided that twin misspellings would make it simpler for customers to keep the name straight. Greater convenience when calling Directory Assistance!

Related post
Real Thin Leads

[This post is the second in an occasional series, "From the Museum of Supplies." The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family's word, for all manner of stationery items.]

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