Friday, July 13, 2012

Van Valkenburg's original clip

Once upon a time, fountain pens and mechanical pencils didn't have clips. Then, a number of inventors and entrepreneurs began to offer add-on clips, which became extremely popular -- so popular, that the pen and pencil makers took notice and soon began to offer permanently-attached clips, often first purchased from the independent clipmakers, but later invariably of the penmakers' own design.

One of the most notable of these clipmakers was Levi D. Van Valkenburg, whose sprung rocker-style "V. V." clip was adopted by Parker, Conklin, Moore, and others. The "V. V." clip is well known to collectors, in versions covered by US patents 844,061 and 886,095 of Feb. 12, 1907 and Apr. 28, 1908. Much less familiar is Van Valkenburg's first clip design, patented in 1896. Since the metal part of the clip was held on the pen or pencil by a thick rubber ring (which also provided the clip tension), there wouldn't be much left once the rubber inevitably hardened and rotted. Indeed, in a recent thread at Lion & Pen, George Kovalenko wondered if any even survived.
Well, fear not, George! This turn of the century Remex eyedropper recently showed up in the mail; the box is a bit stained and rough, but the pen is nearly pristine. It was used, but not much, and not for a very long time. And on the cap is a fully intact 1896-patent Van Valkenburg clip.
The rubber ring has long since hardened, so the fit on the cap is a bit loose. For some reason it was put on backwards (the thumb tab should be on the right, of course). I photographed the pen as I received it, yet it should be easy to slide the clip off and put it back on in the correct orientation.
The clip is marked with the May 26, 1896 patent date, though these clips continued to be advertised for a good 20 years afterwards and perhaps more.

PS The clip would still work mounted backwards, since a pocket's edge would readily slide under the smooth curve of what was intended to be the thumbpiece. Perhaps the original owner couldn't be bothered to push down on the thumbpiece to release the clip's grip each time the pen left or was returned to his pocket.

PPS Here is an ad for the clip from a 1908 issue of Geyer's Stationer:

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