Prints & Cards
Eversharp Air-lite 1938-1941
School Pens Sure Are Swell
The Wahl Eversharp Air-lite served as the "back to school" pen with the Eversharp name, making it's prom debut probably in 1938 and bopping along through 1941. The pen was a notch down from the Pacemaker, an attractive and inexpensive alternative to the premium priced Coronet. Like the Pacemaker, the Air-lite was offered in striped celluloid and black and was fitted with a smooth writing 14 karat gold nib. The Air-lite has a simpler clip with "silvery" trim, possibly rhodium, as on contemporary Eversharp pencils, instead of chrome plating.
The clip design foreshadows later Eversharp pens with "EVERSHARP" stamped vertically and "MADE IN USA" stamped in the clip top word over word. Air-lites sold for US $2.75 for the pen and US $1.00 for the pencil. Three colors were offered, Jet-black, Silver-gray, and Green pyralin (Eversharp's name for celluloid).
The Air-lite is essentially the same construction, materials, and shape as the Pacemaker in a down market trim. Early Air-lites (c1938-1939) carry the same barrel imprint as the Pacemaker, "WAHL EVERSHARP"over "MADE IN USA". The 1938-1939 Pacemaker is a larger diameter pen than the same vintage Air-lite, easy to see in advertisements and with the pens side by side. The Air-lite cap has two narrow plain silver color bands and no cap-top band. The clip is a sword or blade-like design, a much less regal design than the Pacemaker, which has one of the smartest clips put on any pen. Both pens have visulated sections. The nib and feed is visually no different on either pen and may be from the same parts bin. The pencil follows the same design as the pen, with a plain eraser cap, rather than the fancy pyralin insert cap found on the Pacemaker.
The Pacemaker was slimmed down in 1940, when Wahl reorganized under the Eversharp name. This made the two pens identical in size and construction to the point that Air-lite and Pacemaker caps and barrels can be swapped, a strong indication that they were different versions of the same pen. The black model would basically only have the cap as the difference, a nearly 30% premium for the better trim. Both pens now have the new "EVERSHARP INC" barrel imprint. Examples from this later run can be found with Skyline nibs and feeds, which also hints that the Pacemaker was a precursor to the Skyline.
I got a fistful of Air-lites at the Washington DC Pen Show, and only knew what they were because I have advertisements for the Pacemaker that also show this pen. In each case, the seller had no idea what model the pen was, though one thought the pen was possibly a Pacemaker, a very good guess!
The proportions of the Air-lite are exactly the same as the later version Pacemaker, a mid-size pen that measures 5 inches long capped and 6 inches posted. It's lightweight and easy in the hand, and the cap adds little weight when writing.
As with the trim, the celluloid colors are a step down from the Pacemaker's vivid stripes. These are unexciting, ordinary striped pens. A bit of a disappointment next to the dullest green stripe Pacemaker. Perhaps the black model is more interesting.
The clip is stiff and has no spring, so it probably won't clip well to a thick shirt. For a school pen, it's not going on a sweater or rugby shirt, so the smirky guy in the advertisement must have his swell pen clipped somewhere else! The pen rides high in the pocket, as with most front mounted clip pens. The pen fills easily with a quick stroke of the lever.
The Air-lite is blessed with typically smooth Eversharp nibs. The "flexible" mark on these nibs is more a nod to "not manifold" and isn't always an indication of wet noodle tine splitting ability. Some will simply be soft, others will be very expressive. Try before you buy. All the examples I tested turned out to be wet and even writers. One is a nifty flexible oblique. No biters in the pack.
I found no examples that showed any of the celluloid crazing that plagues many Pacemakers. Perhaps these were just good finds, or the celluloid in these is more stable, like the later Skyline pens. The "silver" plate is apparently very durable and holds up very well. A Pacemaker style clip in that color would make this a more attractive pen. Of course, so would better celluloid!
Are Air-lites collectible? Well... They aren't nearly as pretty as Pacemakers. Too bad Wahl didn't use wilder plastics like Conklin did. Perhaps Eversharp wanted a "family look". The Air-lite is definitely not well known and doesn't possess any special characteristics to raise that level of awareness. Rare? Not a factor here. Good writers? Yes! A better catch than a no-name cheapie because of the excellent Eversharp nib, and once fixed up, a great starter pen to get some student interested in the hobby. In that case, the Air-lite would be just swell!
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Last Update 8/23/04