Sunday, August 13, 2017

More American Stationer issues now available online

The availability of digitized copies of The American Stationer has revolutionized writing history research over the past several years; I compiled a full list here, with notes. Unfortunately, there are still quite a few gaps -- for my interests, the most frustrating being the key years 1898 to 1905. So it was good news indeed when a fellow researcher tipped me off that there might be some more volumes now available. And sure enough, there are three which were digitized June 27-28 and which can now be viewed on Google Books. They have already been added to the full list, but I have also listed them below for your convenience.

Jul-Dec 1900 (vol. 48) Google
Jan-Jun 1901 (vol. 49) Google
Jul-Dec 1901 (vol. 50) Google

These years are an important time for fountain pen history. I have only had a limited time to look through these "new" volumes, yet they have already answered longstanding questions about Waterman's introduction of the "Spoon Feed" (treated in full in a separate post; other Waterman tidbits are noted here). Some other highlights noted so far are listed below.

In the December 15, 1900 issue (p. 23) there is a notice about the John Holland factory, noting recent improvements and describing its operations. Although brief, this mention suggests that Holland may have been one of the few fountain pen companies making its own metal overlays, for it states that all branches of manufacture were being done there, including "metal rolling" and "the most elaborate embellishment with gold and silver".

In the July 14, 1900 issue (p. 26) there is a report on Adams, Cushing & Foster taking over control of the Moore Non-Leakable from the American Fountain Pen Co., with former manager and proprietor W. F. Cushman kept on as manager. There are several ads showing the early short-cap Moores, an example of which is found on p. 26 of the September 1, 1900 issue with the tag line, "Our new pen for 1900 is a beauty". Full-page ads appear on March 16, 1901 (p. 45) and August 17, 1901 (p. 77), both preceded by full-page ads for Cross fountain pens and stylographic pens -- also controlled by Adams, Cushing & Foster.

One of the most heavily-advertised pens in these volumes is one most collectors have never heard of, the Laughlin New Departure. The full-page ad below ran in the August 17, 1901 issue, p. 69:

Smaller ads ran in every issue, along with notices on December 7 (p. 27) and 21 (p. 18) regarding the issuing of US patent 686920 on November 19, 1901 for the New Departure's jointless design featuring a removable feed. The patentee was Joseph F. Betzler, with James W. Laughlin the assignor.

Wirt collectors will appreciate the following notice that ran on April 6, 1901, p. 21:
The Paul E. Wirt Fountain Pen Company have a handsome new booklet out showing the most extensive line of fountain pens ever manufactured. Radical changes have been made in the general style of the cases, and since January 1, 1901, full-heel pens have been substituted for the old cut-heel. They report their March trade the largest in the history of the business, working the factory overtime, and in the assembling department a night corps has been employed. The popularity of the Wirt pen seems unabated.
A bit of Wirt exotica is illustrated in section on August 17, 1901, p. 10: the so-called "swelled-case" pen (I don't think I've ever seen an actual example). Alongside is a picture of a Wirt tabletop display case I have seen in real life, with glass panels front and back, wood frame and side struts. Interestingly, the very same case but differently branded appears elsewhere in a full-page John Holland ad (September 28, 1901, p. 21).

In the April 6, 1901 issue, p. 21, there are two full columns reporting on Frazer & Geyer's new factory on Thames St., which was due to be operational in ten days. Gold nib manufacture is mentioned, along with the acquisition of the Horton safety and associated machinery.

Finally, there are ads from companies that supplied gold nibs to fountain pen makers: Armeny & Marion (July 7, 1900, p. 25) and Diamond Point (August 17, 1901, p. 56), reminding us that most pen manufacturers of the era, even the most prominent, relied wholly or partially on outside suppliers for nibs.

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