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"Loaned by..."


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Hi All,


Have you ever bought a personalized pen, and then undertaken an Internet search to see if you can turn up any information on the individual immortalized on its barrel? In my experience, such searches are usually unavailing. But I've had better luck with the commercial institutions whose names appear on the Sheaffer Service Pens in my collection.


(If you aren't familiar with Sheaffer's loaner/service pens, you may want to click here to visit Richard Binder's marvelous site. Search his glossary for the "service pen" entry.)


I recently acquired a red Balance loaner engraved "Loaned by Jaccard Jlry. Corp." That name intrigued me, and a quick Web search reveals that this was a famous (and interesting) establishment. This may all be old-hat to folks in the St. Louis area, of course.


Jaccard was originally known as Mermod and Jaccard Jewelers: a St. Louis institution founded in the mid-19th century. By the time of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, Mermod and Jaccard was described as follows in the official Book of the Fair:


In the line of silver and plated ware, jewelry, diamonds and watches, Missouri is represented by the exhibit of the Mermod and Jaccard company of St. Louis. For this, the pioneer firm in supplying first-class goods to the country west of the Missouri, it is claimed that the jewelry trade of the west has been revolutionized through its operations. Be this as it may, there can be no question as to the quality of workmanship displayed in its handsome pavilion, furnished, draped, and equipped so as to represent the historic era with which the earlier annals of St. Louis are connected. So also with the exhibits, specially prepared for the occasion, and designed after the finest specimens of French art work, from the days of Louis IX, after whom the city was named, to those of Louis XV, in whose reign it was founded.


In the 1890s the company's premises was destroyed by a fire causing some $335,000 in damage; the magnitude of the disaster warranted a New York Times account. But the firm must have resumed operation rather quickly; it went on to make the medals for the 1904 Olympics and the 1904 World's Fair (of "Meet me in St. Louis, Louis" fame). It was evidently renowned for its printing as well as its jewelry; it appears several times in the Final Report of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission (1904-5) as a source of letterhead, envelopes and cards. The company ran an advertisement in a 1920 St. Louis school yearbook, giving special mention to its printing capabilities: "School and College Invitations and Visiting Cards a Specialty." College visiting cards...times have certainly changed!


Mermod and Jaccard was described, in its heyday, as one of the largest and best-established jewelers in the country, and also as the Tiffany's of the west. In its own communications, the company did not shy away from over-the-top self-promotion; one of its sale catalogs (undated but thought to be c. 1920) refers to the itself as "the Grandest Jewelry Establishment in the World."


The company must have survived into the 1930s, because my service pen was made in that decade. (Service pens typically lived hard lives, and this example is one of the nicest I've encountered; maybe Jaccard, as a large establishment, had so many loaner pens that no one of them experienced undue wear.) Obviously, Mermod dropped out of the picture at some point.


The firm also figured, apparently, in commercial litigation of importance sufficient to justify inclusion in some law textbooks.


Anyway - apologies for a rather lengthy detour. But I found it interesting that one little piece of engraving on an old pen could evoke (with only a cursory search, after all) such a rich historical context. Our anonymous, unengraved instruments may have even more fascinating stories to tell - who can say?





Edited by Univer
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  • antoniosz


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Absolutely fascinating. Finding things like this add a new dimension to the tangible history evident in FP collecting. Thanks for sharing!

"The older I get, the more I realize I'm getting older".

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