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Carl C. Harris Papers, 1898-1963
12 boxes (16 linear feet)
Collection number: MS 667

Abstract:
Carl Chester Harris was born in 1880 in Orange, Massachusetts and resided there his entire life. Growing up in a small town in rural Massachusetts did not have a deleterious effect on his ability to use his entrepreneurial skills and his eccentric ingenuity for inventing or improving products. Carl's creativity combined with his ability to work tirelessly allowed him to successfully invent items to fill needs or improve various aspects of public or business life. In addition, his ingenuity led him to successfully market items to different segments of the population. He was never one to rest upon his laurels or to be content if improvements could be made. It is because of his ability to keep moving forward, even when faced with an occasional setback, combined with his civility, patience, professionalism and creativity that allowed Carl C. Harris to become the success he was.

The collection is comprised of records related to the various business interests of and product creation by Carl Chester Harris. The core of the collection focuses on The Slencil Co. and Rivet-O Manufacturing Company. The central aspect of the collection is correspondence with several patent law firms, patent lawyers and employees. In addition, there is correspondence with other companies, photographs and negatives, sketches, blueprints and mock-ups of products and advertising, various forms of informational fliers, and records, reports and lists related to the running of the companies. Finally, there are examples of various products covering the spectrum from some of his earliest inventions up through the Slencil.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Biographical Note
The noble Slencil

The noble Slencil

Carl Chester Harris was born 9 May 1880 in Orange, Massachusetts to Nelson Elvirus Harris and Evie Sophia Sawyer. Carl's first marriage was to Marie Elizabeth Stewart on 23 August 1905 in Boston. They had three children before Marie's death on 10 November 1914. He remarried before 1918 to Marion Felton and had two sons with her. It is his son Earl from this marriage, who joins Rodney Hunt Machine Company and takes over when Carl retires in 1956. Carl C. Harris passed away on 4 April 1960 at the age of 79.

One can ponder if the combined deaths of Carl's older brother Edward on 18 August 1894 at eighteen years old and his maternal grandparents, Thomas K. Sawyer and Sophia B. Howe, in 1895 and 1893 respectively, were the impetus for Carl to start on his life's path. In addition, did it become intensified with the deaths of his brother Herbert on 7 June 1907, his paternal grandfather Elbridge Harris in 1906, and his first wife?

At the age of 18 while still in school, Carl began his first entrepreneurial endeavor by starting and running the Home Telephone Co. He ran it for approximately a year before selling it to an outside interest. By the time of his first marriage, Carl was already employed at Rodney Hunt Machine Company as an agent and at the beginning of a long and successful, if eccentric, career with the company. When Carl registered in 1918 for duty in World War I, he was remarried and was Vice President and Treasurer of Rodney Hunt Machine Company. The following year he became a member of the Masons and maintained an unblemished membership until his death. When World War II arrived, Carl was President of the machine shop, when he registered for duty at the age of 61.

Other early endeavors included C.C. Harris & Co. and The Harris Register Company. Under the auspice of the C.C. Harris & Co., two of Carl's earliest inventions were The Harris "Wrench-less" Tool Post and the personal toiletry item called the Climax Pocket Instrument. One of his earlier patents for this company was for a Time Keeping Device, which was officially patented in 1913. This system was eventually referred to as the Harris or Unigraph Individual Time-Keeping System during its lifespan. The Harris Pocket Adder was created by Carl under the auspice of C.C. & Harris Co., but was marketed by The Harris Register Company, a subsidiary of the former company. This early interest in marketing, as well as the model of subsidiaries, served him well throughout his career.

Eventually, Carl, following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, started working for Rodney Hunt Machine Company, where he helped create not only an Automatic Water Wheel Control, but also a Motor Operated Gate. This did nothing to curb his curiosity and need to improve or create products for various aspects of people's lives from the office to recreation. The items for the office or home included plastic hinge box, bottle stamp pad, Good Will Cup (for smokers), Pendex, an open desktop filing system, and the card flipper, which appears to be an early version of a roll-a-dex. At this time his main effort in devising products for recreation was focused on the beach front and included an "Airplane" Slide, Corker-Bobbers, which are floatation devices, and an umbrella support. Carl was even able to pull ideas for products from newspaper articles, as demonstrated by his safety ladder. He had read an article detailing how ineffectual regular ladders had been in an unsuccessful attempt to save three children, who had fallen through the ice.

With his next endeavors, Carl created his first subsidiary named Rivet-O Manufacturing Company. Once again Carl's inventions covered a range from toys to improving business/office efficiency. Among the toys her created are the Spirit of Chance Game and the Rivet-O Toy and Punches. For the Rivet-O Toy, various kits, designs and booklets were created, which allowed children to assemble the items with plastic rivets, while playing quietly for hours. On the other hand, there were the products for the office including the Speed-Mo Line, whose main focus was stamp pads, envelope moisteners and typewriter cleaner. With this last product, Carl demonstrated his ability to multipurpose a product by marketing it as a spot remover for clothing. Additional products, included Sten-Roll, used for stenciling labels onto boxes, and a stamp pad testing machine.

Carl's second subsidiary was The Slencil Co., whose main product was the Slencil, a flat mechanical pencil. Carl demonstrated his ingenuity for marketing by envisioning not only selling directly to the public, but selling to businesses for giveaways and eventually advertising. Slencils were originally constructed of metal and named Socials and were eventually made of plastic and called Stags. In addition, Carl invented various clip styles and products to be used in conjunction with Slencils. He also focused on creating displays to properly showcase the products to different segments of the public. The most successful of these was the Adjusto Display unit, which could be properly viewed no matter on what shelf it was placed.

It is during the Rivet-O and Slencil years that Carl built up a connection with various patent law firms and a personal rapport with specific patent lawyers. It is with these lawyers that Carl was able to obtain patents and trademarks in Canada and various European countries. In addition, when physical examples of products were needed or if there were production complications, Carl came to rely on four individuals at the factories. These gentlemen were Earle Bean, Howard Day, Bob Sisson and Dick Waterman.

Carl C. Harris was a gentleman, whose creativity combined with his ability to work tirelessly allowed him to successfully invent items to fill needs or improve various aspects of public or business life. In addition, his ingenuity led him to successfully market items to different segments of the population. He was never one to rest upon his laurels or to be content if improvements could be made, which is demonstrated by the innumerable Slencil variations and products. It is because of his ability to keep moving forward, even when faced with an occasional setback combined with his civility, patience, professionalism and ingenuity that allowed Carl C. Harris to become the success he was.

Scope and contents of the collection

The collection is comprised of records related to the various business interests of and product creation by Carl Chester Harris. The core of the collection focuses on The Slencil Co. and Rivet-O Manufacturing Company with additional material focusing on Rodney Hunt Machine Company and earlier ventures such as the Home Telephone Co. and C.C. Harris & Co. The central aspect of the collections is the correspondence with several patent law firms and lawyers and employees, the former dealing with patents and trademarks and the latter focusing on the creation and production issues of the products. In addition, there is correspondence with other companies, photographs and negatives, sketches, blueprints and mock-ups of products and advertising, various forms of informational fliers, and records, reports and lists related to the running of the companies. Finally, there are examples of various products covering the spectrum from some of his earliest inventions up through the Slencil.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Carl C. Harris Papers (MS 667). Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.

History of the Collection

Acquired from Channing, Ann, and Ed Harris, Dec. 2010 (2010-094 and 2010-218).

Processing Information

Processed by Mark Parsons, Aug. 2014.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Link to SCUA
Language
English
Related Materials

SCUA also holds the records of the Rodney Hunt Machine Company (MS 105), for which Carl C. Harris was a long-term executive and co-owner.


Series Descriptions
1898-1959
1.5 lin. foot

Consists of personal correspondence, patents awarded to him, as well as patents of interest, a list of early patents, a brief history of Rivet-O and Slencil, early business ventures and product ideas including the Home Telephone Co. and C.C. Harris & Co., an example of the Time-Keeping device, and magazines and catalogs, some of which contain advertisements, as well as from other companies, such as the Simplex Time Recorder Co.

1906-1956
1.5 lin. feet

Consists of correspondence with various patent lawyers dealing with patents and products, correspondence with other companies, for example Channing L. Bete co., Inc., original patent certificates, sketches, blueprints and physical examples of products, photographs and negatives of products including some by C. Bau of Corker-Bobbers, employment application and pay stubs for Carl C. Harris.

1915-1959
4 lin. feet

Consists of correspondence with various patent lawyers dealing with patents and products, correspondence with other companies, for example The Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Co., correspondence with employees regarding products in development, original patent and trademark certificates, sketches, mock-ups and physical examples of products, photographs and negatives of products, displays and the plant at Rohunta, some by Harold Duval, product brochures, broadsides, folders, forms and catalogs, gift catalogs with products listings and pay packages for Carl and Marion Harris.

1930-1963
8 lin. feet

Consists of correspondence with various patent lawyers dealing with patents and products, correspondence with other companies, correspondence with employees regarding products in development, original patent and assignment certificates, sketches, blueprints, mock-ups and physical examples of products, displays, brochures, images and advertisements, photographs and negatives of products, displays and of the Valley Mills Annex and the Slencil Shop by various photographers including Harold Duval, Hames' Photo Shop & Studio (Robert W. Hames), George M. Cushing, Jr. Photography and George H. Davis Studio, product brochures, broadsides, bulletins, folders, forms, form letters, letterheads and price lists, lists of material providers, samples sent, orders, investments, price list and value of patents, journals of payments received and paid out and orders, ledger of Slencil orders, and company logos used on Stag Slencils.

Contents List
Series 1. Carl Chester Harris
1898-1959
1.5 lin. foot

Series 2. Rodney Hunt Machine Company
1906-1956
1.5 lin. feet

Series 3. Rivet-O Manufacturing Company
1915-1959
4 lin. feet

Series 4. The Slencil Co.
1930-1963
8 lin. feet


Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Business people--Massachusetts--Orange
  • Industrialists--Massachusetts--Orange
  • Inventors--Massachusetts--Orange
  • Mechanical pencils
  • Mechanical pencils--Marketing
  • Office equipment and supplies industry--Marketing
  • Office equipment and supplies industry--Massachusetts--Orange
  • Rivet-O Company
  • Rodney Hunt Machine Company
  • Speed-Mo
  • The Slencil Co.

Genre terms
  • Board games (game sets)
  • Construction toys
  • Life preservers
  • Mechanical pencils
  • Patents
  • Photographs


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