"The Great Exhibition" of 1851 in London. Listed among the exhibitors were two of the major pencil-case makers of the day, London's own Sampson Mordan (run by his sons Augustus and Sampson II since Sampson's death in 1843), and Birmingham maker, John Sheldon (whose inventions included a variety of amazing and ingenious combination pencils & pen holders). Thomas Dawson, Engineer and Inventor, was from King's Arms Yard in London. He was likely one of the over 6,000,000 visitors to The Great Exhibition, and if so, he certainly would have been drawn to the Mordan and Sheldon exhibits at some point.
Thomas was no slouch when it came to creativity and inventions. In 1854, he filed a patent for "Improvements in Umbrellas and Parasols",Patent #513. On July 26, 1855, he filed Patent # 1702, "Improvements in bed-steads, couches, and other like articles of furniture, whereby parts thereof can be made to form a fire-escape when required."
His pencil patent was filed on May 17, 1855 (Patent # 1113).
Dawson's Patent pencil is made from nickel silver, just as the Sheldon pencils of the day were. It is also multi-functional, as Sheldon's were. Nickel silver is a copper alloy that also contains nickel and zinc in smaller quantities. There is no silver in nickel silver; the name simply refers to its silver appearance. The use of nickel silver allowed them to be made (and sold) much more cheaply than, say, a Mordan pencil, and yet they still looked quite similar to real silver. The pencil was 4" in length when closed and the finial holds a nicely cut and polished agate. In addition to the pencil and pen components, what made his combination pencil/pen special was the built-in stamp dispenser hidden within the upper barrel.
So why the stamp dispenser? Well, my thinking is that he was well aware of John Sheldon's special "Patent Unique Pocket Companions", which were quite well known. They had been around since being patented in 1842 (RD 1086, Feb, 1842), and he very likely saw them on display at The Great Exhibition. As an inventor, he would have known that he had to come up with something different in order to be competitive.
Prior to 1854, stamps were purchased in solid sheets and one would cut them apart with scissors as needed. The introduction of perforated stamps for public use only came in January, 1854. The Dawson's Patent pencil, which became available to the public about a year and a half later, allowed one to make a roll of several perforated stamps, place it in the upper barrel and then extract them one at a time, as needed. New stamps from The Royal Mail service, and a pocket companion to dispense them as needed; who wouldn't want one! The image below shows the various components that make up the pencil.