Thursday, March 29, 2018

Charles N. Packard


I recently received a call from an old friend in the estate liquidation business. I hadn't seen him in a few years, and he'd accumulated a number of pens that he thought might be of interest. There were several dip pens in the group, with the largest shown above -- a well-used hard rubber holder, broken and mended, with a #10 Charles N. Packard nib (the small nib, included for scale, is from a Sheaffer Snorkel).

Packard nibs aren't all that common, so it seemed a good excuse to put together some information on their maker. We can start with a couple of obituaries; the one below appeared in the American Stationer, vol. 51, March 29, 1902, p. 27:


Additional details, including Packard's age, were provided by the New England Stationer and Printer, vol. 16, April 1902, p. 82:


According to the official Massachusetts death records, Packard died on March 11, 1902, from "Leucaemia: exhaustion". According to that same entry, he was born in Plainfield, to Royal L. Packard and Mercy Hersey. Packard is recorded in the 1900 census as married and living in Springfield, born in July 1833, and as of June 4, 1900, 66 years old. Other records include that of his marriage to Abbie B. Holmes, 22, on Jan 1, 1857 in Williamsburgh, where Packard is listed as a "Gold Pen Pointer", and of the death of his daughter Helen F. at the age of two months and fifteen days, of cholera, on July 8, 1872.

Despite what some have claimed, I can find no record of Packard ever having lived or worked in New York. There were other Charles Packards living in Massachusetts during our Charles Packard's lifetime, which might explain some of the confusion.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A warning about pens in ultrasonic cleaners

I've been meaning to post on this for some time, but was somehow hoping to have photos to illustrate the point. Doesn't make all that much sense, I admit, since once I discovered the risk, I wasn't about to repeat the mistake just for a photo's sake.

OK, so what am I talking about? If you put a pen or pen part into an ultrasonic cleaner so that only part of it is immersed (typically, just the nib or nib and section), the ultrasonic waves can travel through the portion that isn't immersed and create a hot spot where the waves converge. That spot can end up hot enough to blister celluloid, as I discovered when cleaning a later-production Sheaffer plunger-filler's Triumph nib with the internal filling unit still attached.

This doesn't happen if the part is fully immersed, since the cleaning solution disperses the heat and probably also dampens the natural resonance of the part. There also seems to be more risk if the barrel is sitting at a slant, as opposed to held vertically -- but in any case, either immerse the assembly to be cleaned completely, or go slow and use multiple short cleaning cycles instead of a single longer one. Depending on the power output of your cleaner, you might want to go with 15-30 second cycles rather than 90-180.

The vulnerability is greatest with thin-walled barrels. Pelikans and other similar celluloid-barreled piston-fillers are at risk, along with plunger-fillers as noted above. I have not experienced problems with barrels of hard rubber or acrylic to date, nor with the thicker celluloid barrels of Vacumatics.