Friday, December 13, 2013

Waterman pens with non-Waterman nibs

Starting with the earliest Waterman advertisements, supplying your own nib was repeatedly promoted as an customer option. As the ad above states: "contains one of the best maker's gold pens, or your favorite pen can be fitted". These nibs didn't have to be gold, either. As the Waterman's brochure of c.1892 (available through the PCA's Reference Library) states on page 4, "It [the Waterman pen] takes gold or steel pens of the ordinary straight forms, and your favorite pen (among these) can be fitted. Holders of corresponding sizes are made for gold pens from Nos. 1 to 9." There follows a discussion of the disadvantages of steel nibs in a fountain pen, as they must be swapped out at the end of each day as they are prone to rust, and on page 7 there are instructions on how to send in your own gold or steel nib to be fitted to a Waterman holder.

Not long after this, however, mention of other makers' nibs disappears. In Waterman's catalog of c. 1897 (so dated in the Reference Library, but possibly a year or so earlier) holder and nib sizes are cut down to five, from numbers 2 to 6, while emphasis is given to Waterman's ability to provide gold nibs to any taste. Exactly when this shift took place remains to be determined, though it seems likely that it coincides more or less with the introduction of the New Style (cone cap) holders in 1894; it is also plausible that it was not immediately rigidly adhered to, and that for some time afterwards, customers wishing to buy a Waterman pen would not be turned away if they insisted on bringing in their own favorite gold nib to be fitted.

All this is well known to serious Waterman collectors, but I recently came across a few references to Waterman pens with non-Waterman nibs that may be less familiar. The one below is an 1888 contest announcement printed in Stenography in the January, February, and March issues (pp. 5, 14, and 23).

"Gold mounted" would indicate the Waterman pen had gold filled barrel bands, and it is explicitly noted that it was fitted with a #5 Mabie Todd Stenographic nib. Another good example of special-purpose gold nibs taking precedence over the holders to which they were fitted is seen below.

This appears on page 7 of Benn Pitman and Jerome Bird Howard's The Reporter's Companion (Cincinnati, The Phonographic Institute, 1891). The special shorthand nibs -- from the imprints shown, probably made by John Holland or Weidlich -- are offered on their own, with a pocket dip holder, or fitted to a Waterman's fountain pen.

Finally, we have the ad above, from page 27 of the advertising supplement appended to the Gardeners' Monthly and Horticulturist, vol. 28, Jan 1886. It is in the name of Charles H. Marot, the publisher and owner of the Gardeners' Monthly, and it is safe to assume that it is entirely representative of how Waterman pens were sold at the time by authorized dealers. Regarding non-Waterman nibs, it is consistent with contemporary ads in stating: "USES gold or steel pens of the ordinary forms, and your favorite pen can be fitted" and "WE have holders for gold pens of numbers 3 to 8 inclusive, and for the common steel pen: also, an assortment fitted with gold pens ready for use." It is full of additional tidbits, however, such as the listing of holders by model numbers -- which at the time did not correspond directly with the nibs they carried -- and the provision of those holders' exact measurements. Perhaps most notable is the following statement:
"PRICES given are for well-finished 14 carat gold pens of the smallest size suited to the holder; 16 carat gold pens, or pens of the larger sizes, cost from 50 cents to $1.00 more. The 16 carat pens are of extra finish as as quality and are well worth the difference in price."
The extent to which nibs and holders were marketed as separate components is further highlighted by the very last line of the ad:
"A certificate may be had with each pen, which warrants the gold pens and holders for five (5) years, and guarantees both combined as a fountain pen, to give satisfaction on thirty days' trial or the money will be returned."
UPDATE: Waterman's Circular no. 55.26 can be dated right around 1901 from its back-cover trumpeting of the gold medal received at the 1900 Paris exposition, and from the 155/157 Broadway address (by the end of 1901, it had changed to 173 Broadway). And on page 7, we are told:
In ordering a gold pen and holder complete and ready for use, send a sample of writing and a description of the kind of pen desired . . .

In ordering a holder for a gold pen send the gold pen to be used, because the holder has to be adjusted to every gold pen, and we require these fittings to be done under our supervision.
 So as late as 1901, Waterman was still installing non-Waterman gold nibs upon customer request.

No comments: