Thursday, August 29, 2013

Retipping, 1912

More people are offering nib retipping services and prices are coming down, but we have a long way to go before we get back to the rates of 1912! This Aikin Lambert bill tells the story: 30 cents plus postage, five cents cheaper if prepaid with cash or postage stamps. No extra charge for straightening, at least for this job.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Three unusual stylographic pens

A notable recent addition to my stylo collection is shown above. The overlay is English-hallmarked sterling silver, and the pen itself was sold as red hard rubber. On receipt, however, it turned out to be red casein (the section and tip are in fact red/orange hard rubber), explaining the darkening of the cap and forepart of the barrel, as well as the (undisclosed) puckering and cracks in the cap characteristic of casein exposed to too many moistening and drying cycles.
The overlay bears the maker's mark of Charles Westwood and Sons, a Birmingham silversmith who supplied overlays to a number of British penmakers. The date stamp is for 1910/11. Otherwise, the only mark is found on the posting end: "Rd No. 569229/10", which would correspond to 1910 -- unfortunately, the relevant record at the British National Archives is not yet digitized. The posting end also displays the ends of what appears to be a single long metal crosspin, and upon closer inspection this pin would appear to anchor a black hard rubber barrel liner which extends all the way to the barrel mouth. Casein, of course, would not have held up to being used as a reservoir -- this pen is an eyedropper-filler -- so the pen's makers prudently lined the barrel with impermeable hard rubber.

Another newcomer to the collection is this safety. Yes, a stylographic safety: turn the end knob, and the stylograph tip retracts into the barrel. This too is English-made, though this example came from Canada. The triple-C logo that appears twice on the box top is that of the Copp, Clark Company -- a Canadian firm that still exists, though it has now left its original core focus on publishing, stationery, and board games to concentrate on financial services. In the Canadian Almanac and Miscellaneous Directory for the Year 1915 (a 1914 Copp, Clark publication), a full-page ad for the British-made National fountain pens appears on p. 527, listing Copp, Clark in Toronto as the sole agent for Canada. The Security Safety is not illustrated, but receives prominent mention: "THE 'NATIONAL' SECURITY SAFETY FOUNTAIN PENS can be carried in any position, and are non-leakable. Made in 4 Nos., as follows. . . ." Despite this ad, the Security Safety does not appear to have been a popular item on either side of the Atlantic. Neither my Canadian nor my British correspondents have seen another, though perhaps now that this one has been shown around, more eyes will be watching when the next turns up.

Though the first of its brand I've seen, the National is not my first safety stylo. That honor goes to the Moore shown above, which I've owned for quite a few years. I've never seen any mention of it in ads or catalogs, and most collectors are surprised to learn of its existence -- though it is by no means unique, as I have seen at least two other examples.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Korean faker pops up again

Our old friend in Korea has been lying low on eBay for a while, but now has listed one of his creations again -- this time explicitly describing the cap and barrel as newly-made reproductions ("Very sophisticated, can not be distinguished from the original").

This may be a slight improvement over his earlier doings. Nonetheless, it is still flagrantly illegal in that the barrel bears a counterfeit (oh, sorry -- "reproduction") Parker Duofold imprint. Using registered trademarks without authorization is a big no-no, of course. We'll see how long before eBay steps in this time.

NOTE: Our faker is still using sunpawel as his user name; the last three of his "reproduction" Mandarin lots all went to the same buyer, fatnibs.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Graf Zeppelin dip pen

When the Graf Zeppelin visited Estonia in 1930, one of the more noteworthy souvenirs of the occasion was this silver dip pen in the shape of the famous airship. How many were made and how they were sold is not known. They are not common, but I have seen several examples over the years. Though they have considerable heft, many are disfigured by dents -- typically towards the tail, as if the pen had been idly rapped against a table edge.
The details -- gondola, engine nacelles, tailfins -- are in low relief, allowing the pen to be held comfortably for writing. Clearly, this was intended as a functional novelty item.

This example, like most, is lightly engraved with the owner's name. It bears the usual Estonian silver hallmarks (835 fine, rather than the 925 of sterling), but no maker's mark. Quite a few of these Graf Zeppelin dip pens are marked with the "OV" stamp of Tallin silversmith Oskar Vük, leading many to assume that Vük was the maker. Yet the absence of a maker's mark on the other specimens indicates that a maker's mark was not required, and that the "OV" stamp may in fact be a retailer's mark (noting also the very real possibility that Vük was the manufacturer, but left off the "OV" stamp on pens to be sold to other retailers).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Canadian stationary trade journal links

George Kovalenko recently published a list of links to a most informative Canadian monthly, which started publication in 1884 as Books and Notions, changing its name by 1896 to the Bookseller and Stationer. With varying appendages ("and Fancy Goods Review", "and Canadian Newsdealer", "and Office Equipment Journal") it retained this name into the 1920s, if not longer.

This list was published at Lion & Pen, and its original URL is here. The entire site is now down, however, with no information forthcoming about when or if it will become available again. George has kindly allowed me to republish and expand upon his list here, so that it may remain accessible to interested researchers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Petrache Poenaru's fountain pen: a mystery solved

A few years ago, I noticed that a number of online reference sites had quietly been updated with the claim that the first fountain pen (or, sometimes, the first cartridge fountain pen) had been invented in the 1820s by Romanian polymath Petrache Poenaru. It was not easy to figure out exactly what sort of pen Poenaru had invented, so I threw the question out here.

It took three years, nearly to the day, but now we have the answer, thanks to Simone Piccardi, who has posted a copy of the French patent here, with transcription.

The description, translated into English, is as follows (my translation, quick and dirty):

Explanation of the diagrams on Plate 1 which depict the pen assembled and in its details (the same letters denote the same parts in the different diagrams).
Fig. 1 shows the pen closed up in its case and ready to be placed in the pocket like a pencil. It consists of a tube A taken from an ordinary large swan quill of the sort used for making paintbrushes intended for map notes. At the end of this quill tube is fitted a little tube B in thin metal, whose end is threaded on its exterior, and which screws into a cap C, closed on top. The lower end of the tube A is fitted into the upper part of a little tube of thin metal shown in Fig. 2, which has three different diameters D, E, F. The upper part D receives, as we will explain, the lower end of the quill tube A, the lower diameter [step] E is a friction fit with the goose quill G, which is cut like an ordinary quill pen and which can be replaced as desired either by a quill of the same nature or by a metal nib. The middle diameter [step] E is a friction fit, a bit tight, with the end of the cap H, in metal, which covers the quill point G when one no longer wishes to write. At the bottom of this cap is soldered the base of a long needle I whose point, when one caps the nib after having written, goes into the end of the quill G and fits into a little hole of the same diameter as the needle's point drilled in the center of the base of the little end of tube F, to stop the ink from escaping.

In this fountain pen [plume sans fin], the quill tube serves as the reservoir, into which the ink is introduced through the end of the quill, all that is necessary is to unscrew the little cap C.

The advantages of this pen over those already existing for the same purpose, being that the tube A is of quill rather than of metal or glass, the instrument is by this means much lighter, less breakable, and to make the ink arrive at the point of the nib, it is not necessary to shake the pen, which is very inconvenient, all that is required is simply to squeeze the tube A with the fingers and the ink will in this manner be made to flow in greater quantity through the little hole drilled in the center of the base of the little holder F, fig. 2. This method also remediates any problems arising from temperature differences between the metals.
Poenaru's pen was not a cartridge pen, and the description clearly states that it was intended to be an improvement on existing fountain pens. Its distinguishing feature was a barrel made from a swan quill.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Another pen with an airship connection

A Parker Black Giant is a noteworthy pen in itself. This one has considerable additional historical interest that fits right into my own fascination with early aviation -- airships, in particular (a recent post on a Zeppelin-sold fountain pen is here).

This oversized Parker belonged to Major Walter W. Vautsmeier, who died on February 21, 1922 in the fiery crash of the Roma, an Italian-made semi-rigid dirigible and the last US military airship to be filled with hydrogen. According to the University of Illinois Alumni Association's Alumni Quarterly and Fortnightly Notes, vol. 7, no. 11, Mar 1, 1922, p. 156, Vautsmeier had been an aviation instructor during World War I at Kelly Field, and had hoped to become one of the Roma's pilots. At the time of his death, Vautsmeier was serving in the Coast Artillery Corps, assigned to the Air Service (Aerial Age Weekly, Mar 6, 1922, p. 610).

The crash of the Roma did not impress itself upon historical memory as did the Hindenburg disaster. There were no newsreel cameras to record its demise, and though the loss of a brand-new airship with 34 deaths made headlines nationwide, in time the Roma was largely forgotten -- though not before ensuring that US military airships would henceforth be filled with helium. Vautsmeier's big Parker came to us without any provenance or accompanying items. There are no signs of scorching or overheating, so it seems likely that it was not aboard the fatal flight, given the intensity of the fire following the crash. For more photos of the Roma, before and after the disaster, and a full account of its last flight, see this 2010 article.