Thursday, February 20, 2014

Waterman's model renumbering: pinning down the date

In 1917, Waterman made a number of changes in its model numbering system. Several different models had previously shared the same number, differentiated by letter suffixes. Afterwards, the tens place was used to denote model type, with suffixes used much less extensively.

A year or two back I tried to narrow down exactly when this change took place. I looked at all the ads I could find, and concluded that it must have been between late February and late August. Now that we've found more online sources for the stationery trade, I revisited the question. The range can now be trimmed to between late April and late August, though with some caveats.

A prime source was The American Stationer. The Waterman ads that appear on the covers of the February 24, March 10, and April 21 editions all present a range of pens under the older numbering system. The cover ad on August 27 uses the new system. The ads in between don't provide model numbers at all -- which may not be accidental. The same pattern holds for other trade journals in which Waterman advertised regularly. The first ads I could find that used the new system appeared in Geyer's Stationer on August 16, 1917, p. 3, and in the Jewelers' Circular on August 22, 1917, p. 108.

Unexpectedly, however, there is another ad in Geyer's on September 6, p. 69, where the old numbering system pops up one more time. This, and the four months of ads without model numbers, got me thinking. If one were to make a numbering change of this sort, how would it be done? Advertising the new numbers right away would cause confusion, since there would be many pens with the old numbers still in the system. Continuing to advertise the old numbers after production of the new numbers had started would pose similar problems. Extrapolating from this, I suspect that Waterman deliberately planned on three or four months' transition, figuring that this would be enough time for dealers to turn over most of their stock, but without worrying too much if some older stock remained. Notices about the change were surely sent out to dealers, with equivalents of old and new clearly laid out, though I do not recall ever seeing an example (this must also have been discussed in the Pen Prophet, if anyone has copies from 1917). If this is correct, the actual date when the Waterman factory began imprinting pens with the new numbers was probably late April or early May of 1917.

1 comment:

Daniel Adamski said...

David, That's a great find. I, too, found a 62 recently. It was one of the lots in an auction in January that had many, many fine pens (an estate of a collector of pens for fifty years).
Will you look inside your cap and tell me if it is entirely smooth like a typical slip cap? The inside of mine "almost" looks like there are threads, but not quite. My pen is in excellent condition: very black with crisp chasing and deep imprint. Cap and barrel do not look like a marriage.
Daniel A.