This article also appears in the Winter 2020 Pennant, the magazine of the Pen Collectors of America.

Kraker #3 Black Hard Rubber Pen upcapped with box in background

Kraker No. 3 Black hard rubber fountain pen. Pen & box from the collection of Cyndie Reppert. Articles from the Sheaffer Pen Museum archieves. Photo Copyright © 2020 Jim Mamoulides / PenHero.com LLC.

The Kraker Pen Company was founded by former Sheaffer Pen Company stockholders and employees. Following a long legal battle, it later became part of the Sheaffer Pen Company.

            This is part II of a four-part series. Part I, “The Beginning of the Kraker Pen Company,” was published in the spring 2020 issue of the Pennant and covers the earliest history from conception to incorporation. Part III will explain the legal battle between Kraker and Sheaffer, and part IV will deal with the Kraker Pen Company under Sheaffer ownership.

  

Kraker #3 Black Hard Rubber Pen upcapped with box in background

Kraker No. 3 Black hard rubber fountain pen. Pen & box from the collection of Cyndie Reppert. Articles from the Sheaffer Pen Museum archieves. Photo Copyright © 2020 Jim Mamoulides / PenHero.com LLC.

Kraker Pen Company letterhead. Used by Kraker from late 1916 or early 1917 until closing.

Kraker’s First Pens

By November 1914, Kraker was getting ready to begin large-scale manufacturing and the distribution of Kraker Pens. With the relations between Kraker and Sheaffer worsening, Kraker was doing its best to keep operations as secret as possible. From the start, the Kraker Pen Company was facing pressure from Sheaffer—this never ended. In a letter to his attorney Rudolph William Lotz on November 18, 1914, George Kraker says, “[T]here is no question but what this move on the part of the gentleman from Iowa will cause me considerable damage, but, as you know, damages are hard to prove.” Kraker despised Sheaffer so much that he would rarely refer to him by name. He would refer to him as “the gentleman from Iowa,” “the man from Iowa,” [1] “His Nibs,” [2] and other not-as-nice names. In early 1915, the Kraker Pen Company was making Kraker Pens, as well as another well-known Kraker-made pen, the Bon-Ton.

Bon-Ton imprinted with the Leslie Harvey name and patent no. 778,407. From the author’s collection.

Leslie-Harvey and Bon-Ton

Shortly after Kraker began making its pens, the Leslie-Harvey Company was born. It has often been thought the Leslie-Harvey Company was a separate company that contracted the Kraker Pen Company to make fountain pens imprinted with its name. The Bon-Ton, somewhat popular now among collectors, features the Leslie-Harvey name (without the hyphen). However, the Leslie-Harvey Company was a subsidiary of the Kraker Pen Company, the name taken from Leslie A. Blumenthal and Harvey Green Craig—the two founding board members of Kraker along with namesake Joseph Kraker. The company purchased Charles A. Faber’s 1903 lever-filling fountain pen patent, no. 778,407. This patent was used in the making of the Bon-Ton pens and is also on the imprint of the Bon-Ton pens.

 

 

 

Drawing by Harvey Green Craig for Patent 1,242,323

Bon-Ton imprinted with the Leslie Harvey name and patent no. 778,407. From the author’s collection.

Kraker #3 Black Hard Rubber Pen upcapped with box in background

US patent no. 778,407, purchased by the Kraker Pen Co and used on the Bon-Ton

Early Success

By October 1915, just over a year after incorporation, the Kraker Pen Company had over 1,000 accounts in 23 states as well as nearly $55,000 in assets (about $1.4 million today). Additionally, the Kraker Pen Company employed 35 people, including 14 salesmen. The Kraker Pen Company was being held back mainly by the inability to get material to the factory. [1]

Changes in Construction

Following the previously mentioned acquisition of patent No. 778,407, the Kraker Pen Company changed its design to use a lever with two pins rather than one. The sole purpose of this change was to align more closely with the acquired patent, and to set the pen apart from Sheaffer’s lever-filling mechanism. As Blumenthal said, this patent “positively protects us in every way on this style of filler.” [2] To further distinguish its pens, Kraker used a metal collar in their barrels as well as “buttons” on the end of their caps and barrels.

Factory drawing showing ‘buttons’ on the ends of the pen. From the Sheaffer Pen Museum archives.

Kraker #3 Black Hard Rubber Pen upcapped with box in background

US patent no. 778,407, purchased by the Kraker Pen Co and used on the Bon-Ton

Kraker’s Fancy Pens

As the Kraker company grew, it began producing more high-end pens, which the company internally called Fancy Pens. [3] The Fancy Pens feature ornate gold cap bands as well as all-metal and filigree pens. At least some of these ornate bands and filigrees were made by the Wall-Stieh Company in New York City. On November 18, 1914, Kraker wrote to Wall-Stieh, “We would like to have you turn [two Kraker pens] down to the size that you require to fit them with filigree and chased mountings we selected.” This relationship resulted in the production of the Kraker Fancy Pens shown here.

Red Mottled Hard Rubber Kraker Pen with Clip and #2 replacement Sheaffer nib

An assortment of Kraker’s “Fancy Pens,” all from the collection of Cyndie Reppert. Left to right: Early 341 or similar, last number unknown at this time – early imprint circa 1914-1916; Model unknown, possibly solid gold  but is not marked, circa 1915-1918; Model unknown, good example of filigree by Wall-Stieh, circa 1915-1919; Model #34S with sticker, circa 1916-1920; Model unknown, filigree style pen, circa 1914-1917; Model #31, circa 1916-1920; Model #343S, ring top style pen, circa 1916-1920.

New Patents 

In 1915 and 1916, Kraker received three patents for aspects of their pens. Patent 1,164,654, issued to George Kraker on December 21, 1915, primarily covered the construction of the barrel and pressure bar —including the button. Patent 1,170,825, issued to Joseph Kraker on February 8, 1916, covered a new bar design which the company seemingly never used. Patent 1,199,993, issued to George Kraker on October 3, 1916, was an expansion of Joseph’s design, which laid out the lever construction (fig. 8).

Red Mottled Hard Rubber Kraker Pen with Clip and #2 replacement Sheaffer nib

An assortment of Kraker’s “Fancy Pens,” all from the collection of Cyndie Reppert. Left to right: Early 341 or similar, last number unknown at this time – early imprint circa 1914-1916; Model unknown, possibly solid gold  but is not marked, circa 1915-1918; Model unknown, good example of filigree by Wall-Stieh, circa 1915-1919; Model #34S with sticker, circa 1916-1920; Model unknown, filigree style pen, circa 1914-1917; Model #31, circa 1916-1920; Model #343S, ring top style pen, circa 1916-1920.

Artwork for US Patent 1,111,501 by Albert Scheible
Artwork for US Patent 1,111,501 by Albert Scheible
Artwork for US Patent 1,111,469 by G. M. Kraker

Changes in Branding

Following the issuing of these patents, the Kraker Pen Company revamped their branding. They introduced a new imprint, featuring the first and third patent numbers as well as the “Kraker Kuality” slogan. This change took place in late 1916 or early 1917. In addition to the new imprint, the Kraker Pen Company began using a new letterhead around this same time. This branding was used until the closing of the Kraker Pen Company. Insert Kraker Kuality imprint photo and orange letter head

 

The Downfall of Kraker

On February 19, 1918, the Kraker Pen Company fell to the hands of the W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company. For the price of $1.00, W. A. Sheaffer acquired the entire company—including patents 1,164,654 and 1,199,993. [3] This same day, a contract was signed by the Kraker Pen Company and W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company for the non-exclusive use of Sheaffer’s patents by the Kraker Pen Company, now owned by Sheaffer. This sale and contract made the Kraker Pen Company a Kansas City factory for Sheaffer.

Kraker Pen Company logo. Digitally adapted by the author from the letterhead shown at the begining of this article.

The author thanks the Sheaffer Pen Museum and Dan Reppert for access to the documents used for this article. He also thanks Cyndie Reppert for the use of her Kraker Pen collection, for allowing examples to be photographed for the article, and for previous research by her and Dennis Bowden.

Notes

  1. Letter from George Kraker to attorneys Lotz & Scheible, November 16, 1914
  2. Kraker to Lotz & Scheible, October 26, 1914
  3. Letter from L. A. Blumenthal to Chas. M. Bush, October 18, 1915