Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stephen Champlin's pen

Several years ago I was lucky enough to acquire a fine Lownds' patent dip pen and pencil combination in solid gold. Although the metal content is not specifically marked -- not unusual -- the patent information is clearly imprinted along with the maker's name, William Wilmarth.
The patent is number 11,752 of 1854, for an "Improved Pen and Pencil Case". Both Lownds and Wilmarth were active in New York City in the 1850s.
The most notable thing about this pen-pencil, however, is its former owner. Although it came without any provenance, the engraved name, "S. CHAMPLIN. U.S.N.", clearly refers to Commodore Stephen Champlin (US Navy records up through 1882 list no other S. Champlin who served as an officer). Born in Rhode Island in 1789, Champlin was a first cousin of Oliver Hazard Perry, and commanded the Scorpion at the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. Champlin was reportedly the last survivor of that battle, living until 1870, though his career was cut short by crippling injuries suffered in an engagement in 1814.
Two US Navy ships have been named after Stephen Champlin, as has the town of Champlin, Minnesota.

UPDATE: This very pen-pencil appears to have been mentioned in Champlin's will, signed December 17, 1869, bequeathed to a grandson:
"Item Fourth: I give, devise and bequeath, to my daughter, Eliza Ellen Cook, mine and my wife's portraits and frames for same, writing desk formerly used by my wife, gold pen and holder, picture and key, entitled Union, with frames, photographic album containing fifty pictures, and eighteen numbers of Shakespeare's pictures; and to her son, Stephen Champlin, my gold pencil case and pen."
Other gold pens are mentioned, but no other pencils or pencil cases, as mechanical pencils were then called.

UPDATE: Here is a nice 1856 Wilmarth advertisement for Lownd's patent gold pen and pencil cases. The ad is also informative for the history of the firm, noting that William M. Wilmarth had previously been associated with Eaton, Griffiths & Co., and before that, Addison, Wilmarth & Co. Maiden Lane was the center of the Manhattan jewelry trade throughout the 19th century, including pen manufacture.


Frederick Leary said...

Dear owner of Commodore Champlin's pen. I am related to the Commodore viz the Badger side of the family, who also enjoyed generational service with the USN. I am compling information regarding family information to put in a historical biography I am writing. This information about the Commodore's pen is a nice discovery, and I would be interested in knowing more. Sincerely, Frederick Leary, email: nws1968@hotmail.com.

David said...

Good to hear from you.
I'm afraid the information I've found to date is all posted or linked here. If I come across anything further, I would be happy to share it with you.