Marx Toy Museum Online










Rock 'Em Sock 'Em

Here is the update we promised. If this author has learned anything about collecting, it would be -- never say -- that's the whole story!!  This is why documenting the story of the Louis Marx Company is so important!
While we were collecting material about the pen for the part 2 section, we received an e-mail from-- MPC Midwest-- stating he was cruising our site and read the story about the ball-point pen. He then told a story of how, at a sale, he purchased the pen you see in the picture. HOWEVER-- this MARX pen was made by  THE CHARMORE COMPANY!!
After our request, and his great desire for the VIRTUAL MUSEUM to have a more complete story, he has allowed us to add the item to our archives. We thank---MPC Midwest for their generous offering.
With the pen in house, we then had an interview with the MARX foreman on the assembly line that made the pen. Mr. George Colao has vivid memories of his days at MARX and they are included in this continuing story.
The pen was now being made in the CHARMORE plant at 19th & Cranberry Street (across the tracks from Marx). The ink tube and parts remained the same however the pen now has a plastic cap. The cap has a metal clip and it is held in place by a plastic plug glued in place. The metal band, on the cap, is wider and has a better --snap-- when closing. The band is pressed into place. G.C. told us how the CHARMORE pen was a much better pen and one reason was that now the metal parts were 14 carat GOLD PLATED!! They could plate hundreds of parts at a time in the tanks. Also, the clip is engraved with--- made in usa &  PENMARX. The plating was done by a process of vacuum metalizing in the tanks that also put the dark finish on the entire MARX miniture gun series! The pen is called PENMARX SPHERELINE PEN and it was molded in maroon, green, blue and possibly other. MPC Midwest researched the patents and found patent #2258841 was issued in 1941 & patent #2416896 in 1947.
G.C. had an average of twelve girls on his assembly line. They always had girls on the line because, in those days, they could pay them less than men and they were better at putting small parts together than men!!!!! G.C. estimated that, in a 10 hour shift, they produced 10,000 plus pens . The pen job ran between June and stopped just before the December holidays. In that period of time, hundreds of thousands of pens were shipped!!
The Virtual Museum thanks---MPC Midwest--Mr. Colao and Karl G. for there time and willingness to help with this report.
The ball point pen, as we know it today, began it's life in 1888. John Loud, an American leather tanner, made the first one. It was never produced as well as the 350 other patents for the device. Many attempts were made around the world, but we will now go to the reason for this story.
We take you now to Erie, Pennsylvania and the corner of 18th & Raspberry Street, first home of the TOY KING! The years are 1949 & 1950. Our information has been garnered from both Erie & Glen Dale, West Virginia employees.
The picture shows the parts it took to assemble the pen.The box, the pen was shipped in, is 7/8" square and 5 3/4" long. On top it is rubber stamped in black---ROYALMARX. The underside of the bottom box is rubber stamped---MAROON (black) the only two colors we know of? It also has-- LISENSED UNDER U.S. PATENTS---2258841-2390636//2397229-2416896. The boxes are a creme heavy smooth cardboard.
The barrel (2 pieces) are hard plastic. The barrel on the left in picture, is the top when writing. It has a small vent hole drilled in the side and internal threads. The bottom part has external threads, a groove for the brass snap ring to hold the cap on and internal threads at the bottom (writing end) where the ink barrel screws into it. The ink barrel is very elaborate compared to todays style. The barrel is steel tubing 1/8" O.D. by 1/32" wall by 4 1/8" long. It has a brass, machine turned, tip with steel ball and rubber bladder pressed into it. Before assembly, the bladder was filled with ink. The cap is highly polished brass with a brass clip that is held in place with an aluminum rivet. The clip has--- MADE IN U.S.A. stamped into the face. Between the two plastic barrels is a brass ring for style purposes only.
The two barrels were molded (20 parts?) at a time. There was a mold for the top and bottom (two seperate molds). Since the threads were in the mold, an ingenious method was employed to remove the parts. The mold had a seperate plate that contained the threads. After molding, the mold was disassembled. A multiple spindle machine was attached to the protruding parts and when turned on (counter-clock-wise) it UNSCREWED THE ENDS!!!!! This story came from an employee that was an apprentice mold maker at the time!! He told us many storys about the factory and how toys were made and we will re-tell them to you in his words in future storys!!
The pens were placed on an assembly line just as toys were. Marx mostly used the female worker to do assembly work because of their ability to do finer work than men. He also paid them less. In a future story we will try to have the foreman in charge of this assembly line tell his story?
WELL-- we feel very fortunate to have these two examples of an effort that lasted perhaps three months? Not until Eberhard-Faber (later Bic), came into the picture, was the ball-point successful!
Please write us(if????????) you have questions: