J. Harris & Co. of New York began producing pens in the teens or early 1920s, and while their products weren't the best, they were not terrible, either. Quality on their early pieces was on a par with Morrison; quality on their later pieces were on a par with, well, later Morrison pieces.
To my knowledge there are no pencils specifically branded as J. Harris & Co. pencils. However, the company produced pencils under a variety of names, most of which are fairly plentiful: Ambassador, Congress and Majestic are the three most commonly encountered. I have heard that towards the end of the company's run, they changed the name to Majestic Pen Company, and there are product boxes from the 1940s that do bear that name; however, a Majestic store display card I have from the late 1940s or early 1950s, with very cheap metal cap fountain pens, still says J. Harris & Co. on the back side.
The first pencil I picked up at an antique show was a Majestic, and collecting thie different colors and patterns was the earliest phase of my mania. So throw rocks at the quality of these all you want -- I'll always have a soft spot for a weird color or pattern.
And of course, because there are so many to keep track of, I'm always buying duplicates by mistake.
(click on pictures to enlarge)
I believe Ambassador was the earliest name J. Harris used, because the three flattops on the left are not found in any other series. The next two, in jade and pearl and black, are high quality pieces with nice riveted clips. Probably sometime around 1930, the company rounded off the tops of these same pencils.
Ball clip Ambassadors
Later, Harris switched to a standard middle joint, nose drive pencil. Into the 1940s, the company introduced some interesting harlequin and candy stripe patterns.
The clips and mechanisms may have been supplied by Eagle.
Ambassadors from the 1940s.
The company was definitely acquiring parts from Eagle by this time.
In the late 1940s and perhaps into the 1950s, the company introduced two styles of clips unique to Ambassadors. The ribbed clips on the left are pretty hard to find; the rounded clips on the right are more common, but the range of colors and patterns is more limited.
The Welsh-style flattop on the left is quite unusual and may suggest that Harris shopped around a bit before settling on their suppliers. The flattops are identical to the Ambassador flattops and are very high quality, as are the rounded top pencils.
Majestics in the early to mid 1930s.
Majestic evolved somewhat differently from the Ambassador line. These are all middle joint, nose drive pencils, but the quality is significantly better, and many have faceted barrels and checkerboard center bands. A few even have three part bands usually seen on pencils made by the top-tier manufacturers. the torpedo shape is also unique among Harris brands.
Majestics with "oval clips."
All of these have a diffent clip with the name within a raised oval. The colors and the flattened tops suggest that Eclipse may have been involved in their production.
Majestics from the late 1930s.
As the line developed, the company switched to the same Eagle clip used on other Harris brands. Although the colors are still nice, quality is definitely lower than on earlier models.
"Transitional" Majestic clips.
The rounded clip on the left example is the only one I've seen imprinted with Majestic; all others in this style read Ambassador.
The "feather" clip on the other examples have the name in very small letters down the center rib. That clip is also found on pencils marked "Viceroy."
The three-faceted clip is also seen on Eagle and Epenco pencils and is probably licensed from Eagle. I believe these were near the end for the Majestic line, as the striated plastic was carried over to the cheaper metal top cap examples on the right.
Note that these are found with both a deco band and stacked coin band.
I believe the Congress line was introduced later, since I've never seen a flattop. All these appear to have been made in the 1930s and 1940s, and the line did not appear to have much of its own identity. Note that all the styles of clips and bands appear also on Ambassadors and Majestics.
University (top) and President
The names may be different, but the heritage is undeniable.
The confetti-decorated University third from top may have been produced by another manufacturer entirely using the same name.
|An earlier model marked President also matches early Ambassadors and Majestics.|
|And another brand name used by Harris -- Arthington.|