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By Ron Dutcher
Stan Klemanowicz posted the article below to [a now-defunct] Website:
Wilrite is a tough little company to research as not much background information exists. Perhaps if I were in NYC, and not LA, it would be easier. I’m sure the NY Public Library has many of the right resources to do the job.
I got into Wilrite a few years ago when I was looking at inexpensive and interesting pens to collect. As luck would have it, a Wilrite that exactly matched an A.A. Waterman in Paul Erano’s, Fountain Pens - Past & Present found its way into my ebay sniper scope. And a nascent collection was born.
Here’s almost everything I know.
The Wilrite Fountain Pen Company was founded in 1924 as a “successor” to a company owned by William Rappeport that manufactured silverware. Little is known of this company, but it seems they decided the pen business would be more lucrative than silverware. Incorporators were J. Hanks, H. Klosner, and Gustave Rappeport. Not mentioned in the incorpoaration papers, a William Rappeport was the secretary/treasurer. They were located at 312 Lafayette Street, which is caddy-corner across Houston Street where Eclipse was headquartered. It appears they took part of a floor in what is now called a loft building.
Wilrite appears to have been a “jobber” buying completed pens or parts for assembly.
Some of their early production are identical to those made by A.A. Waterman. A.A. Waterman ceased operations in New York in the early 1920s and remaining stock and/or parts may have been bought out and labeled Wilrite. It is also possible the same machinery and dies continued to be used to produce identical pens. Gold fill was thick and often at 1∕10. Of the several gold-filled Wilrite pens I have personally seen, few have traces of brassing.
Wilrite was also known for their gold-filled overlays over colored plastic. On one of my pens a patent date of November 17, 1925, is noted on the clip. Orange-red, black, yellow, and blue plastics are known. Most are marked 14K GOLD FILLED and brassing occurs at the usual raised areas. All I have seen are of the same design.
The patent of the clip was not owned by Wilrite, but was granted to Charles Hardy, an inventor with AMSCO Products, Inc., of New York, a metals fabricator. Mr. Hardy also invented a modification to lever fill mechanisms for pens and a method for clip attachment, as well as components for various types of machinery. (Patent numbers are 1,562,326, 1,612,918, and 1,608,233) I’’m unaware of Mr. Hardy’s relationship to Wilrite, although a similar clip was used by Salz.
Wilrite was in operation for well over a year before the patent for the clip was granted and early models were marked PAT. PEND.
Simple non-chased hard black rubber pens with silver-color (chrome?) clips and trim were also sold. Some had colored end caps.
There is mention of Wilrite in the business records listings of The New York Times for the 1920s and some of their financial problems are evident. Cash flow, difficulties with retailers or suppliers, and court cases started to take their toll. Information here is scant and without being in NYC, it is extremely difficult to pursue what really happened.
In the late 1920s, Wilrite began marketing pens made of celluloid. All of their celluloid output appears to be of low quality with most bearing a strong resemblance to that made by Wearever. An expert on Wearever, opined the pens were made by Wearever.
Wearever manufactured pens in North Bergen, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York, so it would not be implausible for Wilrite to order pen blanks from them and install Wilrite clips and nibs. Plating was of low quality and chipping is often seen. The color of the gold trim is usually a dull yellow.
The standard size of Wilrite nibs seems to have been a smallish #4. Early pens were 14K and bore the Wilrite logo. On some of their Duofold look-alikes, usually of mottled red rubber, #8s are found. Most were very softly flexible and some super-flexi ones do exist.
By the 1930s, records of Wilrite cease to be found. Likely, they went under and the Rappeport brothers moved on to other enterprises.
The original text has this patent number mistyped as 168233. Also, I have added links to the Google patent database for all three of the patents listed. —RFB
For more information, see the entry for Wilrite in the Glossopedia.
This article is part of the Manhattan Pen Makers Project, originated by Ron L. Dutcher. Except for typographical corrections, the text is as Ron published it. Ron wanted to include photos of advertisements or pens from each maker; he had some photos, but the gallery was far from complete. Photos here are a mixture of what Ron had and what I have been able to add from my own photo library. As with other reference articles on this site, you should not take this information as absolutely authoritative or complete.