Fountain Pen Genealogy

On April 18, 2013, I won an eBay auction for an Artcraft BCHR ringtop pen.  When it arrived, I found the following inscription on the ⅜” wide cap band:

SARAH E. MACKENZIE 1922

The barrel is imprinted:

            Cromer              Pen Company
Artcraft         X         Fountain Pens
Birmingham                     Alabama

with the Artcraft logo, shown below, in the center of the imprint where I have placed the X.

Artcraft paleteThe end of the barrel is imprinted .

When I acquire a personalized pen, I am always curious about the story of the original owner.  In addition, Artcraft pens are a special interest of mine.

The Cromer Pen Company was initially incorporated as the Edison Artcraft Pen Company but its name soon was changed to the Cromer Artcraft Pen Company.  The name is marked variously on pens as Cromer Artcraft Pen Company, Cromer Pen Company, or Artcraft Pen Company.  The company was only two years old when this pen was engraved, and it seemed unlikely that distribution of its products would have been widespread in 1922.

The eBay seller was from Ohio, but some correspondence with him revealed that he had purchased this pen during a buying trip through the South.  Thus it seemed likely that the original owner, Sarah E. Mackenzie, could have been from the Birmingham area.

My wife, Elaine, is a professional genealogist who specializes in locating the provenance or origin of artifacts.  You can find her blog at Whoquest.  With this kind of resource readily available, I could not pass up the chance to find Sarah E. Mackenzie.  She soon found the following information:

Sarah Ella Mackenzie was born in Ohio on January 11, 1906.  She was the only child of Louis and Sarah Mackenzie.  Her mother’s maiden name was Lawson, born in 1872, died on May 2, 1966.

The 1920 census showed that her father was a Superintendent at a Birmingham area steel plant, and the family lived at 2430 Ensley Avenue.  Ensley is a suburb of Birmingham, very near several of the steel mills.  The census record showed that Sarah Ella was living at home and her age was 15.

In 1922, she would have been 17 years old, and this fountain pen was probably a high school graduation gift.

Further research revealed that Sarah graduated from Birmingham Southern College in 1926.  She is listed in the college records as Mrs. Sarah M. Flemister ’26.  In the 1930 census she is shown as a school teacher, age 25.

Sarah married Robert C. Flemister in June, 1938.  He was with Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company.

The most recent available census is for 1940, when Sarah is listed as Office Manager for the YWCA.

Her husband, Robert, died May 20, 1996, in Birmingham at age 92, and Sarah died in Birmingham on October 16, 1995, at age 89.  There is no record of their having had any children.  They apparently were financially successful, because there is a Sarah Mackenzie and Robert C. Flemister, Jr., Scholarship, providing financial assistance to worthy and needy students with preference given to students majoring in biology, chemistry, or music, at Birmingham Southern College and a Sarah Mackenzie Flemister and Robert C. Flemister, Jr. Scholarship, for deserving students with need, at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

The pictures below show the pen and the engraved band, “unrolled” with Photoshop.  Click on the images to enlarge.

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