Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two early fountain pens

At the Washington, DC pen show this year I was fortunate to be able to acquire two rather esoteric bits of fountain pen history. Both formerly belonged to Mike Fultz; after he died, they ended up with a pen friend, who very kindly held them for me for months after I expressed interest, until we could finally get together in person at a show to work out a deal.
The older is a metal pen whose design owes much to contemporary propelling pencils, including the inset seal stone in the crown. The nib is extended by pushing forward the sliding collar at the rear, but that's not all, as it also reveals an opening with a thumb-operated pressure bar -- a very early sleeve-filler.
How early? It is marked "DARLING'S PATENT", the patentee being John Darling, of Stane, Lanark County, Scotland. The pen's design corresponds, albeit not exactly, to USA patent 68418, issued September 3, 1867. Darling had already successfully applied for British patents, including 3215, issued December 6, 1866, 74, issued January 11, 1867, and 288, issued February 2, 1867 (the last discussed but not illustrated in the Cantor Lectures), but as yet I only have these patents' titles, so cannot say if they differ substantially from the US patent in any key details. The US patent describes two main variants: in the first, the pressure bar was intended to be used to keep the underside of the nib supplied with ink (the feed was really nothing more than a bent tube) with the pen's reservoir to be filled by opening the end and pouring in ink; in the second, a second barrel aperture was added, the pressure bar being depressed through both apertures in order to fill the pen. It now seems obvious that the second aperture was redundant, and that a single central aperture would serve equally well to both fill the pen and expel ink as required, and this is fact appears to be how the pen shown above was made to be used, as there is no provision for opening the end of the reservoir and hence no other way the pen could have been filled. The pen appears to be of British rather than American manufacture, judging from its overall styling and appearance.
The second pen took a little more research to identify. The key was the October 2, 1877 patent date on its side. This would have been USA patent 195719, issued to John Morrow Might and William Hope Taylor of Toronto (Canadian patent 6462, awarded August 24, 1876; British patent 7617, awarded July 10, 1877). The construction is typical of contemporary US retracting dip pens and mechanical pencils, with similar gold filled trim and hard rubber components bearing the Day's patent stamp. The original cap is missing, and the patent drawings are not close enough to the actual pen to give a good idea of what the cap looked like. There are a number of features on the pen that do not appear in the drawings, including a rotating shut-off valve at the front of the barrel and the sliding collar which seems to have been intended to compress the internal sac by pushing inwards upon the slotted barrel. There is no nib, but interestingly enough the US patent explicitly states that the pen is designed to use "any ordinary pen-nib" (it is also noteworthy that the patent uses "pen" and "nib" in their modern senses).

UPDATE: The full Canadian patent may be viewed here -- thanks to George Kovalenko for the pointer.

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