Yore Write!

The Three Musket Tears

I almost shed a few wee happy tears yesterday when the first of my recent KB Collection auction purchases arrived, which included three musket pencils. The three were sold together as a single lot (an “all for one, one for all” kind of thing I suppose). I hadn’t really intended to bid on this particular lot but one of the pencils was a design by a British maker that I had been looking for for some time. So I threw in a low ball bid… and they threw back an invoice…

The first two pencils are unmarked and made of electroplated base metal or German silver. They would have been made as a bit of a novelty item in the mid-1800’s. These two rifles each have a pencil, a toothpick, and a dip pen built into them.

But it was the 3rd pencil that had my attention. It is also German Silver, and made by Josh Baker. The imprint on the lower barrel is “JOSH BAKER NO 1166 4 APR 184”. That would have been “1842” at the end but they ran out of room on the barrel when this one was stamped. This one has a pencil and toothpick but no dip pen. It is 8.5cm (3.5″) closed and 10.5cm (4″) when the pencil is extended.

1842 Josh Baker Novelty Pencil


After spending hours trying to find out more about Josh Baker, I had all but given up when I found an entry in “The Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine” of 1842 attributing design #1166 to “Joseph Baker”, not “Josh Baker”. So now I have two names, Josh & Joseph. The barrel of the piece is clearly “Josh” and the design registration is clearly “Joseph”. Could it be a typo in the registry, or second “Baker” that is part of the business? So far I’ve been unable to find out where in England they were made, or whether Baker made any other pieces. The search for clarity continues.

And now that I think about it, perhaps those weren’t happy tears… my watery eyes may have been a result of having received the credit card bill for the auction purchases on the same day as the shipment of pencils …

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