Saturday, December 28, 2013

Geyer's Stationer: a directory

The day will come when all of the old jewelry and stationery trade journals are available online. At present, however, availability is patchy, with gaps strategically located just where they most frustrate the researcher -- or so it seems. One such gap is in the run of the American Stationer between 1898 and 1905, but fortunately it can be at least partially filled in by Geyer's Stationer -- a very similar publication available through Google Books [and now HathiTrust as well -- D.], with only three 6-month gaps between 1900 and 1905. A full list, with links, follows. As usual, please let us know if you find any volumes not listed.


vol. 29, Jan-Jun 1900 (HathiTrust)
vol. 30 not available
vol. 31, Jan-Jun 1901 (HathiTrust)
vol. 32 not available
vol. 33, Jan-Jun 1902 (HathiTrust)
vol. 34, Jul-Dec 1902 (HathiTrust)
vol. 35, Jan-Jun 1903 (HathiTrust)
vol. 37 not available
vol. 38, Jul-Dec 1904 (HathiTrust)
vol. 39, Jan-Jun 1905 (HathiTrust)
vol. 40, Jul-Dec 1905 (HathiTrust)
vol. 41, Jan-Jun 1906 (HathiTrust)
vol. 42, Jul-Dec 1906 (HathiTrust)
vol. 43, Jan-Jun 1907 (HathiTrust)
vol. 44, Jul-Dec 1907 (HathiTrust)
vol. 45 not available
vol. 46, Jul-Dec 1908 (HathiTrust)
vol. 47, Jan-Jun 1909 (HathiTrust)
vol. 48, Jul-Dec 1909 (HathiTrust)

vol. 51, Jan-Jun 1911 (HathiTrust)

vol. 53, Jan-Jun 1912 (HathiTrust)
vol. 54, Jul-Dec 1912 (HathiTrust)
vol. 55, Jan-Jun 1913 (HathiTrust)
vol. 56, Jul-Dec 1913 (HathiTrust)
vol. 57 not available
vol. 58, Jan-Jun 1915 (HathiTrust)
vol. 59, Jul-Dec 1915 (HathiTrust)
vol. 60 not available
vol. 61, Jan-Jun 1916 (HathiTrust)
vol. 62, Jul-Dec 1916 (HathiTrust)
vol. 63, Jan-Jun 1917 (HathiTrust)
vol. 64, Jul-Dec 1917 (HathiTrust)
vol. 65, Jan-Jun 1918 (HathiTrust)
vol. 66, Jul-Dec 1918 (HathiTrust)
vol. 67, Jan-Jun 1919 (HathiTrust)
vol. 68, Jul-Dec 1919 (HathiTrust)
vol. 69, Jan-Jun 1920 (HathiTrust)
vol. 70, Jul-Dec 1920 (HathiTrust)
vol. 71, Jan-Jun 1921 (HathiTrust)
vol. 72, Jul-Dec 1921 (HathiTrust)
vol. 73, Jan-Jun 1922 (HathiTrust)
vol. 74, Jul-Dec 1922 (HathiTrust)

Last updated 10:56 EST, 15 Aug 2017

More on the introduction of the Clip-Cap


I've posted on Waterman's early clips here and here, and at the time had not found any mention of the Clip-Cap prior to July 1905. Now we can push back that date to April 20, the date of the issue of Geyer's Stationer in which the above ad appears (vol. 39, 1905, p. 11). All subsequent Waterman display ads in Geyer's show the Clip-Cap, even if they do not feature it to the same degree. The only material offered was German silver (aka nickel silver or cupronickel) until gold and silver versions are mentioned in the ad below, found in the July 20 issue (vol. 40, 1905, p. 11).

The ad refers interested dealers to the July issue of Waterman's Pen Prophet. Unfortunately, I do not have access to a copy, but if anyone wants to share theirs with me, I'd be happy to add its contents to this post.

PS It has been pointed out that the depiction of the clips in these early ads is distinctive, with squared-off tops -- unlike the rounded profiles of all known Waterman clips, but similar to the form shown in the patent drawings. Are these images actually representative of the very earliest Waterman clips, or are they artists' renditions that depend more on the patent drawings than on actual production samples? So far, no flat-topped Waterman clips have turned up. The first images of round-topped clips begin to appear in ads from the beginning of August 1905, and the last images of the flat-topped clips disappear after September -- though it should be noted that for years afterwards, Waterman ads often showed clips as more angular and less rounded than real-life examples.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A special-order Heath pencil


As soon as I put up the pictures of my Heath clutch pencils, a colleague wrote to ask about the one at the bottom -- in particular, the inscription at the top of the barrel, just below the crown. It reads, "Every Pound Pulls". This was the slogan used by the Concrete Steel Company of New York City to promote its patented "Havemeyer Bar" -- one of a number of competing forms of metal reinforcing bars used in reinforced concrete construction of the era.


The ad above (Engineering News-Record, vol. 69, Jun 19, 1913, p. 90) nicely illustrates its form, which is replicated in the relief patterning of the pencil's barrel and crown band.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Who designed the Eversharp pencil?

Up until recently, the answer would have seemed straightforward: Charles R. Keeran invented the Eversharp; the design must have been his. But as Jonathan Veley has pointed out, the appearance of the pencil shown in Keeran's first pencil patent is very different from our idea of an Eversharp. Instead of a metal tip, there is a wooden core, while at the other end there is an exposed eraser. Optional eraser covers are mentioned, but the designs shown in no way resemble the classic Eversharp's distinctive crown. All in all, this proto-Eversharp is most un-Eversharp in appearance. Note that no actual example of such a pencil is known, and the patent application for it was filed October 13, 1913.


The advertisement above was published in The Insurance Press of December 1912 (p. 83). By Keeran's own account, this was shortly before he first began thinking about an improved mechanical pencil. It would have been several months before his pencil patent application, and a full year before the first Eversharps were produced -- by Heath, by all evidence.



As the ad and the examples above show, Heath's clutch pencils have the Eversharp look, with the same proportions and the same distinctive crown. I had always thought that these pencils postdated Heath's involvement with Keeran. My reasoning was based upon the assumption that the Eversharp design was Keeran's, and that after Keeran and Heath parted ways, Heath must have borrowed the design for Heath's own pencils -- albeit only for pencils with a clutch mechanism, which clamped the lead, and did not mechanically push it out. Perhaps some components were left over from Heath's manufacturing work for Keeran, and perhaps some hadn't been paid for, allowing Heath to use them with a clear conscience -- or so I speculated.

The Insurance Press ad turns this all upside-down. Keeran invented the Eversharp's internals, but its "skin" was borrowed from a preexisting Heath product. We may never know exactly how Keeran's mechanism ended up being put into the Heath clutch pencil's body.  It might have been Keeran's idea; it might have been suggested by Heath while discussing how best to put Keeran's pencil into production. In any case, the resulting hybrid ended up eclipsing its progenitor. Heath likely didn't mind much, so long as it was producing both. Once Keeran switched production to Wahl it might have been a different story, but by then it was probably too late for Heath to do anything. I have not been able to find any patent for the Heath clutch pencil, either design or utility, even though one example, shown below, is marked "PAT. APP. FOR" on the barrel. This may explain why Wahl was in turn unable to prevent competitors from offering pencils that copied the Eversharp's appearance -- their number is striking, as is the closeness of resemblance.

ADDENDUM: More on the last pencil in the group of four shown in the picture above here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Waterman pens with non-Waterman nibs

Starting with the earliest Waterman advertisements, supplying your own nib was repeatedly promoted as an customer option. As the ad above states: "contains one of the best maker's gold pens, or your favorite pen can be fitted". These nibs didn't have to be gold, either. As the Waterman's brochure of c.1892 (available through the PCA's Reference Library) states on page 4, "It [the Waterman pen] takes gold or steel pens of the ordinary straight forms, and your favorite pen (among these) can be fitted. Holders of corresponding sizes are made for gold pens from Nos. 1 to 9." There follows a discussion of the disadvantages of steel nibs in a fountain pen, as they must be swapped out at the end of each day as they are prone to rust, and on page 7 there are instructions on how to send in your own gold or steel nib to be fitted to a Waterman holder.

Not long after this, however, mention of other makers' nibs disappears. In Waterman's catalog of c. 1897 (so dated in the Reference Library, but possibly a year or so earlier) holder and nib sizes are cut down to five, from numbers 2 to 6, while emphasis is given to Waterman's ability to provide gold nibs to any taste. Exactly when this shift took place remains to be determined, though it seems likely that it coincides more or less with the introduction of the New Style (cone cap) holders in 1894; it is also plausible that it was not immediately rigidly adhered to, and that for some time afterwards, customers wishing to buy a Waterman pen would not be turned away if they insisted on bringing in their own favorite gold nib to be fitted.

All this is well known to serious Waterman collectors, but I recently came across a few references to Waterman pens with non-Waterman nibs that may be less familiar. The one below is an 1888 contest announcement printed in Stenography in the January, February, and March issues (pp. 5, 14, and 23).


"Gold mounted" would indicate the Waterman pen had gold filled barrel bands, and it is explicitly noted that it was fitted with a #5 Mabie Todd Stenographic nib. Another good example of special-purpose gold nibs taking precedence over the holders to which they were fitted is seen below.

This appears on page 7 of Benn Pitman and Jerome Bird Howard's The Reporter's Companion (Cincinnati, The Phonographic Institute, 1891). The special shorthand nibs -- from the imprints shown, probably made by John Holland or Weidlich -- are offered on their own, with a pocket dip holder, or fitted to a Waterman's fountain pen.

Finally, we have the ad above, from page 27 of the advertising supplement appended to the Gardeners' Monthly and Horticulturist, vol. 28, Jan 1886. It is in the name of Charles H. Marot, the publisher and owner of the Gardeners' Monthly, and it is safe to assume that it is entirely representative of how Waterman pens were sold at the time by authorized dealers. Regarding non-Waterman nibs, it is consistent with contemporary ads in stating: "USES gold or steel pens of the ordinary forms, and your favorite pen can be fitted" and "WE have holders for gold pens of numbers 3 to 8 inclusive, and for the common steel pen: also, an assortment fitted with gold pens ready for use." It is full of additional tidbits, however, such as the listing of holders by model numbers -- which at the time did not correspond directly with the nibs they carried -- and the provision of those holders' exact measurements. Perhaps most notable is the following statement:
"PRICES given are for well-finished 14 carat gold pens of the smallest size suited to the holder; 16 carat gold pens, or pens of the larger sizes, cost from 50 cents to $1.00 more. The 16 carat pens are of extra finish as as quality and are well worth the difference in price."
The extent to which nibs and holders were marketed as separate components is further highlighted by the very last line of the ad:
"A certificate may be had with each pen, which warrants the gold pens and holders for five (5) years, and guarantees both combined as a fountain pen, to give satisfaction on thirty days' trial or the money will be returned."
UPDATE: Waterman's Circular no. 55.26 can be dated right around 1901 from its back-cover trumpeting of the gold medal received at the 1900 Paris exposition, and from the 155/157 Broadway address (by the end of 1901, it had changed to 173 Broadway). And on page 7, we are told:
In ordering a gold pen and holder complete and ready for use, send a sample of writing and a description of the kind of pen desired . . .

In ordering a holder for a gold pen send the gold pen to be used, because the holder has to be adjusted to every gold pen, and we require these fittings to be done under our supervision.
 So as late as 1901, Waterman was still installing non-Waterman gold nibs upon customer request.

Dunlap patent stylographic pen

This stylo bears an imprint for Louis E. Dunlap's US patent of November 18, 1884, number 308,144. Dunlap had been the manager of Livermore's Stylographic Pen Company at 290 Washington Street in Boston, but appears to have struck out on his own in the midst of the what seemed to be a booming market for stylographic pens. The exterior of the pen is typical enough for stylographics of the era, but let's take a look inside.

The needle assembly is a press-fit into the point section. When pulled out, it is just as described and illustrated in the patent: a spring-loaded needle, with the spring action provided by a helically-cut section of hard rubber tube -- not vulnerable to corrosion, like a metal spring, nor likely ever to break from fatigue given the short working travel of the needle and the robust proportions of the hard rubber coil.


Advertisements and obviously-paid magazine writeups of the Dunlap pen appear in a burst in 1885. At some point in 1886 the ads stop appearing; the American Stationer for the second half of 1886 is not available online as yet, but there are several ads in the issues of the first half of the year, and none in the years following.


How long Dunlap remained in business is hard to tell. The company moved from its original address at 296 Washington Street in Boston to 280 Washington at the beginning of 1886 (American Stationer, vol. 19, Jan 28, 1886, pp. 93-4). The Boston Almanac and Business Directory for 1888 (vol. 53, p. 433; copyrighted in 1887) lists Louis E. Dunlap under "Pens" at 280 Washington, and the same entry -- just his name, in the "Pens" category -- appears in the following two years' volumes unchanged. The year after (vol. 57, p. 444, for 1892, copyrighted 1891) the address is 277 Washington, and in the two years thereafter the address changes to 7 Milk. I have not been able to find any mention of Dunlap in the American Stationer after 1886, so it seems probable that even if Dunlap continued to sell his remaining stock for some time afterwards, his company was really only a going concern for a couple of years. The pens are certainly not easy to find, though even with the imprints obscured, you can't mistake the interior construction. Dunlap later applied for a patent for an improved ink pellet, which was issued to him in 1897 (US patent 590,139)

Dunlap had assigned half of his stylographic pen patent to Herbert W. Thayer of Franklin, Massachusetts, so it is possible that Thayer was Dunlap's silent partner in the pen venture. Thayer later became involved in local and state politics, and he is described then as being a manufacturer (A Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators, 1904, p. 162). Thayer died in 1908, trampled by a runaway horse startled by the sight of an electric car (New York Times, Jan 16, 1908).


Friday, November 15, 2013

A jewel-tipped Mordan

Jewel-tipped nibs are rare, so this Mordan pen and pencil combination is something special. It is fully hallmarked for 1832/33, with maker's mark of Sampson Mordan and Gabriel Riddle. Both pencil nozzle and jewel-tipped nib retract in the usual manner.


The nib is lightly marked "MORDAN" on top of its shank. The tipping is intact on both sides, though its surfaces are a bit rough. Jewels were certainly hard, but not as resistant to chipping as iridium or osmium.

A project that needs doing is compiling a list of surviving jeweled nibs, as the numbers appear to be small indeed. If you have such a nib -- even if in very damaged condition -- please get in touch so we can make a start on this census.

What is a Waverley nib?

This is a Waverley nib. Its complex shape is best appreciated in a side view, which shows the necked collar, the three ridges, the up-down-up longitudinal contour, and the turned up tip.

The creation of the Waverley nib is credited to Duncan Cameron, who in 1850 joined his brothers as one of the principals of the Scottish firm of Macniven and Cameron. This date has sometimes been confused with the date of the Waverley nib's introduction, some fourteen years later. Production appears to have begun in 1864, with a British patent for the turned up tip issued in 1865 and a US patent in 1867. Elements of this distinctive design were later copied by other makers of steel and bronze nibs, but the only gold fountain pen nibs made in this form were those used in Macniven and Cameron's own "Waverley" fountain pens -- albeit without the upward bend at the tip.



The Waverley nib was very successful, and aggressively advertised. It remained in production until 1964 -- a full 100 years -- and though some sources assume this also marked the end of Macniven and Cameron, the company continued on, issuing a token to commemorate its bicentenary in 1970. Renamed Waverley Cameron, the firm ran into troubles in the late 1980s, but was only finally dissolved in 2012.

A few years ago, Richard Binder began to offer customized nibs with turned up tips, which he dubbed "Waverley" nibs as a tribute to Duncan Cameron and Macniven and Cameron.  Unfortunately, this led to a bit of confusion, with some collectors and pen sellers wrongly assuming that "Waverley" could be used as a generic term for any nib with a turned-up tip.

In fact, the original Waverley was neither the first nib with its point turned up, nor the only. Nor was its name ever used to denote anything but an actual Macniven and Cameron Waverley nib. And let us not forget that at least some original Waverley nibs -- Macniven and Cameron's own gold fountain pen nibs -- dispensed with the turn-up entirely!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Figural novelty pencils, then and now

Is there a collector who doesn't long for a time machine when looking at old catalogs? Some now-iconic rarities were expensive luxuries when new, but many were not. Studying old catalogs highlights how what is valued now wasn't necessarily what was valued then. Nowadays collectors generally value silver pens far more highly than their gold filled equivalents, for example, but their respective valuation was the exact reverse when they were new.

I recently ran across a particularly dramatic example of this in an Aikin Lambert catalog brochure from the 1880s (the title page features the company's exhibition award medals from Philadelphia [1876], Paris [1878], Sydney [1879], and Melbourne [1880], and D. F. Foley is listed as one of the firm's four principals, so the catalog predates his founding his own firm in Feb 1888). The last page lists a selection of figural novelty pencils -- now very rare and desirable -- and their prices.


A magic pencil in the form of a champagne bottle was only $1.25 in gold plate or celluloid, $2 in sterling silver. Other designs such as bullets, obelisks, bells, and telephones fell into the same range. This was cheap in both absolute and relative terms, as a look at other pages demonstrates.


In the same price range we find your basic small gold-nibbed dip pen in various forms, all of which are in plentiful supply today. For the price of a single run-of-the-mill boxed #1-size dip pen with gold filled holder and pearl taper, you could have had two figural novelty pencils!


Too late now, alas -- the exchange rate has changed rather dramatically in the last 130 years. The novelty pencils shown above are all American made, though not all are Aikin Lambert products.

ADDENDUM: The brochure was printed by the prominent New York firm of Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann, at 21-25 Warren Street (name and address in the bottom margin of the back cover). This helps narrow the date, as the two senior partners retired in 1885, the company continuing as the J. Ottmann Lithographing Company.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stylomine 303 self-filling safety

After an absence of too many years, I was back in Europe last week for the Hamburg and London pen shows. Travel is broadening when it comes to collecting, too. Had I never left the USA, I would probably never have learned about the pen featured here -- nor, finally, have had the opportunity to acquire one.

While to all outward appearances a normal black hard rubber French safety, it is nothing but. Instead of a turning knob at the end of the barrel, there is a blind cap. Turn it counterclockwise -- the opposite direction the end knob of a safety is turned -- and the nib extends from the barrel. Keep turning, and the blind cap comes off, revealing a rubber bulb. No eyedropper required: this safety can be filled from a bottle by itself. Note that the barrel threads are set back from the barrel mouth more than is usual, allowing the mouth to be dipped into ink for filling without getting ink into the threads.

As far as I know, these pens were sold almost entirely in France, yet they are very rare even there. A solution in search of a problem, perhaps -- but a wonderful bit of gadgetry! Coincidentally, a European pen friend was able to acquire another example just a couple of weeks ago, in mottled hard rubber with a gold filled overlay.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Gorham pen with a twist

Dip pens by Gorham often have a bold helical pattern, but normally all in sterling silver. This pen combines the usual silver with ivory, to stunning effect. I've not seen another example, though I do have an unmarked pen of very similar construction combining silver with wood instead of ivory.

Monday, September 23, 2013

An unusual ink sac






When I started to take apart this Eagle coin-filler, I knew it was in good condition. It was still a surprise to find that its original sac was intact, and of unusual construction.
Instead of being made with a molded end, this sac is actually a section of rubber tubing with a stiff rubber plug glued into the end. Not a very desirable design if the pressure bar presses evenly on the whole sac, but perfectly serviceable given the one-piece bar used here, which cannot compress the sac at its bottom end.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Søren Kierkegaard's silver dip pen at auction

Only just spotted this -- sale took place on September 18, with the pen selling below low estimate at kr 60,000 (€ 8,050) to the Københavns Museum. Catalog entry with full details and more photos here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Retipping, 1912

More people are offering nib retipping services and prices are coming down, but we have a long way to go before we get back to the rates of 1912! This Aikin Lambert bill tells the story: 30 cents plus postage, five cents cheaper if prepaid with cash or postage stamps. No extra charge for straightening, at least for this job.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Three unusual stylographic pens

A notable recent addition to my stylo collection is shown above. The overlay is English-hallmarked sterling silver, and the pen itself was sold as red hard rubber. On receipt, however, it turned out to be red casein (the section and tip are in fact red/orange hard rubber), explaining the darkening of the cap and forepart of the barrel, as well as the (undisclosed) puckering and cracks in the cap characteristic of casein exposed to too many moistening and drying cycles.
The overlay bears the maker's mark of Charles Westwood and Sons, a Birmingham silversmith who supplied overlays to a number of British penmakers. The date stamp is for 1910/11. Otherwise, the only mark is found on the posting end: "Rd No. 569229/10", which would correspond to 1910 -- unfortunately, the relevant record at the British National Archives is not yet digitized. The posting end also displays the ends of what appears to be a single long metal crosspin, and upon closer inspection this pin would appear to anchor a black hard rubber barrel liner which extends all the way to the barrel mouth. Casein, of course, would not have held up to being used as a reservoir -- this pen is an eyedropper-filler -- so the pen's makers prudently lined the barrel with impermeable hard rubber.

Another newcomer to the collection is this safety. Yes, a stylographic safety: turn the end knob, and the stylograph tip retracts into the barrel. This too is English-made, though this example came from Canada. The triple-C logo that appears twice on the box top is that of the Copp, Clark Company -- a Canadian firm that still exists, though it has now left its original core focus on publishing, stationery, and board games to concentrate on financial services. In the Canadian Almanac and Miscellaneous Directory for the Year 1915 (a 1914 Copp, Clark publication), a full-page ad for the British-made National fountain pens appears on p. 527, listing Copp, Clark in Toronto as the sole agent for Canada. The Security Safety is not illustrated, but receives prominent mention: "THE 'NATIONAL' SECURITY SAFETY FOUNTAIN PENS can be carried in any position, and are non-leakable. Made in 4 Nos., as follows. . . ." Despite this ad, the Security Safety does not appear to have been a popular item on either side of the Atlantic. Neither my Canadian nor my British correspondents have seen another, though perhaps now that this one has been shown around, more eyes will be watching when the next turns up.

Though the first of its brand I've seen, the National is not my first safety stylo. That honor goes to the Moore shown above, which I've owned for quite a few years. I've never seen any mention of it in ads or catalogs, and most collectors are surprised to learn of its existence -- though it is by no means unique, as I have seen at least two other examples.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Korean faker pops up again

Our old friend in Korea has been lying low on eBay for a while, but now has listed one of his creations again -- this time explicitly describing the cap and barrel as newly-made reproductions ("Very sophisticated, can not be distinguished from the original").

This may be a slight improvement over his earlier doings. Nonetheless, it is still flagrantly illegal in that the barrel bears a counterfeit (oh, sorry -- "reproduction") Parker Duofold imprint. Using registered trademarks without authorization is a big no-no, of course. We'll see how long before eBay steps in this time.

NOTE: Our faker is still using sunpawel as his user name; the last three of his "reproduction" Mandarin lots all went to the same buyer, fatnibs.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Graf Zeppelin dip pen

When the Graf Zeppelin visited Estonia in 1930, one of the more noteworthy souvenirs of the occasion was this silver dip pen in the shape of the famous airship. How many were made and how they were sold is not known. They are not common, but I have seen several examples over the years. Though they have considerable heft, many are disfigured by dents -- typically towards the tail, as if the pen had been idly rapped against a table edge.
The details -- gondola, engine nacelles, tailfins -- are in low relief, allowing the pen to be held comfortably for writing. Clearly, this was intended as a functional novelty item.

This example, like most, is lightly engraved with the owner's name. It bears the usual Estonian silver hallmarks (835 fine, rather than the 925 of sterling), but no maker's mark. Quite a few of these Graf Zeppelin dip pens are marked with the "OV" stamp of Tallin silversmith Oskar Vük, leading many to assume that Vük was the maker. Yet the absence of a maker's mark on the other specimens indicates that a maker's mark was not required, and that the "OV" stamp may in fact be a retailer's mark (noting also the very real possibility that Vük was the manufacturer, but left off the "OV" stamp on pens to be sold to other retailers).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Canadian stationary trade journal links

George Kovalenko recently published a list of links to a most informative Canadian monthly, which started publication in 1884 as Books and Notions, changing its name by 1896 to the Bookseller and Stationer. With varying appendages ("and Fancy Goods Review", "and Canadian Newsdealer", "and Office Equipment Journal") it retained this name into the 1920s, if not longer.

This list was published at Lion & Pen, and its original URL is here. The entire site is now down, however, with no information forthcoming about when or if it will become available again. George has kindly allowed me to republish and expand upon his list here, so that it may remain accessible to interested researchers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Petrache Poenaru's fountain pen: a mystery solved

A few years ago, I noticed that a number of online reference sites had quietly been updated with the claim that the first fountain pen (or, sometimes, the first cartridge fountain pen) had been invented in the 1820s by Romanian polymath Petrache Poenaru. It was not easy to figure out exactly what sort of pen Poenaru had invented, so I threw the question out here.

It took three years, nearly to the day, but now we have the answer, thanks to Simone Piccardi, who has posted a copy of the French patent here, with transcription.

The description, translated into English, is as follows (my translation, quick and dirty):

Explanation of the diagrams on Plate 1 which depict the pen assembled and in its details (the same letters denote the same parts in the different diagrams).
Fig. 1 shows the pen closed up in its case and ready to be placed in the pocket like a pencil. It consists of a tube A taken from an ordinary large swan quill of the sort used for making paintbrushes intended for map notes. At the end of this quill tube is fitted a little tube B in thin metal, whose end is threaded on its exterior, and which screws into a cap C, closed on top. The lower end of the tube A is fitted into the upper part of a little tube of thin metal shown in Fig. 2, which has three different diameters D, E, F. The upper part D receives, as we will explain, the lower end of the quill tube A, the lower diameter [step] E is a friction fit with the goose quill G, which is cut like an ordinary quill pen and which can be replaced as desired either by a quill of the same nature or by a metal nib. The middle diameter [step] E is a friction fit, a bit tight, with the end of the cap H, in metal, which covers the quill point G when one no longer wishes to write. At the bottom of this cap is soldered the base of a long needle I whose point, when one caps the nib after having written, goes into the end of the quill G and fits into a little hole of the same diameter as the needle's point drilled in the center of the base of the little end of tube F, to stop the ink from escaping.

In this fountain pen [plume sans fin], the quill tube serves as the reservoir, into which the ink is introduced through the end of the quill, all that is necessary is to unscrew the little cap C.

The advantages of this pen over those already existing for the same purpose, being that the tube A is of quill rather than of metal or glass, the instrument is by this means much lighter, less breakable, and to make the ink arrive at the point of the nib, it is not necessary to shake the pen, which is very inconvenient, all that is required is simply to squeeze the tube A with the fingers and the ink will in this manner be made to flow in greater quantity through the little hole drilled in the center of the base of the little holder F, fig. 2. This method also remediates any problems arising from temperature differences between the metals.
Poenaru's pen was not a cartridge pen, and the description clearly states that it was intended to be an improvement on existing fountain pens. Its distinguishing feature was a barrel made from a swan quill.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Another pen with an airship connection

A Parker Black Giant is a noteworthy pen in itself. This one has considerable additional historical interest that fits right into my own fascination with early aviation -- airships, in particular (a recent post on a Zeppelin-sold fountain pen is here).

This oversized Parker belonged to Major Walter W. Vautsmeier, who died on February 21, 1922 in the fiery crash of the Roma, an Italian-made semi-rigid dirigible and the last US military airship to be filled with hydrogen. According to the University of Illinois Alumni Association's Alumni Quarterly and Fortnightly Notes, vol. 7, no. 11, Mar 1, 1922, p. 156, Vautsmeier had been an aviation instructor during World War I at Kelly Field, and had hoped to become one of the Roma's pilots. At the time of his death, Vautsmeier was serving in the Coast Artillery Corps, assigned to the Air Service (Aerial Age Weekly, Mar 6, 1922, p. 610).

The crash of the Roma did not impress itself upon historical memory as did the Hindenburg disaster. There were no newsreel cameras to record its demise, and though the loss of a brand-new airship with 34 deaths made headlines nationwide, in time the Roma was largely forgotten -- though not before ensuring that US military airships would henceforth be filled with helium. Vautsmeier's big Parker came to us without any provenance or accompanying items. There are no signs of scorching or overheating, so it seems likely that it was not aboard the fatal flight, given the intensity of the fire following the crash. For more photos of the Roma, before and after the disaster, and a full account of its last flight, see this 2010 article.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Silicone sacs now available in four sizes

We didn't want to go into full production until we got them right, and now we've got them! Genuine 100% silicone rubber pen sacs in four sizes: 14, 15, 17, and 18½. The smallest sacs, size 14, were specially designed for use with Sheaffer Snorkel fountain pens -- although of course they can be used for many other models as well. Having a sac that is melt-proof, no matter what ink is used, is especially desirable for a Snorkel, since getting access to the sac takes extra time and effort, and since any internal leakage in a Snorkel is particularly messy, not to mention potentially damaging.

The sacs can be ordered from our Nibs, Parts and Supplies page and from American Art Plastics. They will also be listed on eBay, under vintagepens. You can read more about silicone sacs here, here, and here. I have also updated our page on pen sac selection and installation, adding a chart that lays out the various pros and cons of the ink sac materials currently in use.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Earliest known Waterman 18

Despite what you read, dating of "firsts" is very much work in progress, even for major makers such as Waterman. In a recent post I shared my attempts to figure out when Waterman's "Clip-Cap" clip was introduced, and showed the first "PAT. APL'D FOR" clip I had been able to find. And here I can now show the second -- whose presence on an 18 makes it the earliest 8-size Waterman that I know of, given that the Clip-Cap patent was issued on September 26, 1905.
The cap is cracked, reinforced by a piece of nickel silver wire added as an ad hoc cap band. The pen is otherwise sound, worn and faded but intact, and to all appearances entirely original. The clip has been attached directly over the patent imprint found on Waterman cone caps from 1898 on. How late this imprint continued to be applied is another mystery, but this pen suggests that it was used at least into 1905.
The barrel imprint is the standard two-line imprint with globe, with the 1884 patent dates but not the 1903. Note the deeply domed ends of both barrel and cap, another early characteristic. The number 18 is imprinted at the end of the barrel in standard fashion.
The #8 nib has a commensurately early form of imprint; the spoon feed does not seem to bear any patent imprints, but I have not cleaned it and given it a thorough examination as yet.

The earliest printed reference to an 8-size Waterman pen I've found so far is an August 1905 ad in the Bookseller and Stationer, p. 287 (the same ad, shown above, also appeared in Meyer Brothers Druggist, vol. 26, no. 11, Nov 1905, p. 13). The only model listed in that size is a smooth cone cap; the largest size for any other model is 7. There are also references from a few years later to an 18 having been used to sign the Portsmouth Treaty in September 1905 (National Magazine, vol. 28, Aug 1908, unpaginated).

In my previous post I toyed with the idea that the rarity of the Clip-Caps with the "PAT. APL'D FOR" imprint might indicate that the clips weren't put into production until some time after the patent application was filed on April 7, 1905. Since then, I've found a reference from July 1905 indicating that the clips were being actively marketed by that time (Bookseller and Stationer, p. 273). Nonetheless, the paucity of advertising for the clips prior to 1906 is striking -- though perhaps the picture will get rounded out once more periodicals from 1905 become available online.