Beautiful design meets optimized function in what is one of the most successful designs for a pencil sharpener ever made. The Dexter series of sharpeners was sold for about 80 years but the No. 2 is the model that best showcases what can be done when aesthetics and practical design so perfectly merge.
The Dexter No 2 pencil sharpener was sold by the Automatic Pencil Sharpener Company (APSCO) beginning about 1933 until at least 1945. The No 2 weighs 1 lb 10 oz and measures 5″ L x 2.75″ W x 4.25″ H. The body of the sharpener and frame for the shavings catcher were made of nickel-plated steel, not chrome as was by then more common. The shaver catcher body was made of celluloid, a type of plastic. The crank handle and selector dial are made of a zinc alloy, probably zamak.
The original model of the Dexter pencil sharpener, which I refer to as the “No 1”, was first available in 1914 until at least 1928. Sometime between 1928 and 1933 the Dexter No 2 Improved was introduced. Stylistically the original model is very similar to the No 2 and was made from the same materials. The differences between the No 1 and No 2 were mainly with the mechanics. For instance, the No 2 had a pencil hole size selector dial on the front whereas the early model No 1’s just had a single common-size hole for a pencil. But it’s not quite that simple. Later models of the No 1 also had pencil hole size selector and other minor improvements. It seems that there was a real evolution to the models and at some point it was decided to rebrand the Dexter as the No 2 Improved.
The Dexter Electric was sold for a short period starting in 1922. The machine retailed for $50 which when adjusted for inflation comes to a staggering $705 in 2015 dollars. It was marketed by the Farnham Printing & Stationery Co of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The machine consisted of a seventieth horsepower electric motor which engaged a special model Dexter sharpener. The power was transmitted between the motor and the cutter via a special worm gear. The motor was started by pressing a button and stopped when pressure was released. It is interesting to note that a universal type motor was used permitting connection on either alternating or direct current.
Sometime after 1945 the Dexter No 3 Improved was introduced. There were two versions of this sharpener differentiated mainly by materials, coloring, and the logo. In the late 1940’s APSCO rebranded and standardized it’s styling, logo, and even colors used on all of their sharpeners and by 1953 the second version of the No 3 was the only one available for sale.
The Dexter Model A was introduced in approximately 1948 and was available until at least 1960. The main differences between the Model A and the second version No 3 were mainly stylistic. There also was a Dexter Model B which followed after the Model A.
The Dexter Super 10 was available from at least 1958 with the latest reference I can find about it being 1963. This sharpener would have been made from zamak, steel, and nylon with some variations having parts that continued to be nickel-plated.
The Automatic Pencil Sharpener Company (APSCO) was in business as APSCO until at least 1971, but was acquired by Berol in the 1970’s. Berol was acquired by Newell and placed in their Sanford division in 1995. Sanford split into 2 divisions in 1998 and in 1999 changed names to Newell Rubbermaid.
Dexter pencil sharpeners were made by both Berol and Sanford, although they were made from comparatively inferior materials, but they don’t seem to have been manufactured after the name change to Newell Rubbermaid. However, 1914 to approximately 1998 is still a heck of a good run for any commercial item.
Patent & Other Information:
- Dexter Super 10 Instruction Sheet
- US Patent 640846
- US Patent 756287
- US Patent 819104
- US Patent 839806
- US Patent 1197157
- US Patent 1204604
- US Patent 1280323
- US Patent 1283584
- US Patent 1390517
- Times-Herald Publishing Co Stationery Dept. (1914, February). advertisement. The Evening Times, Grand Forks, ND, page 8
- Western Bank Supply Co Catalog (1921), Oklahoma City, OK page 112
- Editors (1922, May). Electric Pencil Sharpener. Typewriter Topics, page 48
- Leslie Stationery Catalog (1933), Minneapolis, MN page 370
- Staple Catalog (1945), St. Louis, MO page 85
- Utility Supply Co Catalog (1952), Chicago, IL page 72
- APSCO (1953), The APSCO Line [brochure], Rockford, IL, APSCO
- APSCO 50th Anniversary Full Line Catalog (1958), Rockford, IL, page 4
- WOSCO Catalog (1963), Greensberg, PA page 16
- Sanford L.P. , Wikipedia. Accessed January 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanford_L.P.
- Berol, Wikipedia. Accessed January 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berol
Visit me at http://www.facebook.com/americanstationer. Leave a comment or maybe even give me a quick “Like” 🙂