Monday, October 15, 2012

Waterman's year of innovation: 1908

Of all the Waterman catalogs from the company's Golden Age, the 1908 catalog is a standout. Richly produced and printed, it listed some of the most interesting, beautiful, and desirable pens ever made. Stationery trade journals fill out the picture, highlighting how many of Waterman's most notable innovations date to this time.
At the beginning of 1908, for example, Waterman introduced its "Baby" (not to be confused with the so-called "Doll" pen, aka "World's Smallest") and the "Check Book" pen. The illustrations above appeared on the front page of the January 11 issue of The American Stationer. On June 27, the same periodical's front page announced Waterman's introduction of a full-length slender model, called a "Secretary Pen", but now more commonly known to collectors by its model number, 12 1/2.
Just a month later, it was Waterman's first retracting-nib safety pen being introduced, initially offered in just three sizes (12VS, 14VS, 15VS, each in just one standard length) with the option of gold filled barrel bands and the choice of smooth or chased black hard rubber, or "Cardinal" red hard rubber.

And at the beginning of October, to bring our short survey full circle, the front-page news was Waterman's lavish new 1908 catalog, produced at a claimed cost of $25,000. Followup stories about the catalog and its impending distribution appeared on October 10 and October 17. It is unusual that we can now date the 1908 catalog so precisely -- and this isn't purely of academic interest. For example, there was recently a discussion about the marking of Waterman silver "Filigree" pattern pens, in particular when the "4" in the hundreds place began to be imprinted on the barrel end. I will probably end up summarizing the conclusions in a future post here, but a key bit of evidence is that the 1908 catalog is the first occasion on which it is explicitly stated that the full model code will be stamped on the butt end of each pen. For various reasons, this wouldn't square so well with the evidence of surviving pens if the catalog had been released at the beginning of 1908; it is entirely consistent, however, with an autumn publication date.

PS Perhaps not in the same category, yet significant nonetheless: Waterman's Canadian factory started producing pens towards the end of that very busy year, 1908.


George Kovalenko said...

And Waterman's first red hard rubber pens were probably made the year before, somewhere around late 1906 and early 1907. See the ad in Am. Stat., Mar 23, 1907, p.29, .

George Kovalenko.

David said...

Maybe a bit earlier yet; I wish we could get our hands on the American Stationer volumes prior to 1906!

That one-page ad showing the various cone cap models was run over and over again in the years that we do have available. But when did it run first?

Anonymous said...

Better late than never. Thanks for great article David. George-- link to American Stationer a treasure trove for hobbyist to download & enjoy.

David said...

I've gone through all the Waterman ads in Geyer's Stationer for 1905, and no mention of RHR pens in the lineup. There's an article on Waterman's HR manufacture that mentions the making of mottled, and there are full-page ads that show various models in both plain and mottled, but nothing red.

David said...

No results in Geyer's for 1906, either. Maybe 1907 was the year of red hard rubber.