Monday, July 20, 2015

Mystery pen: Parker pneumatic-filler

Those of us who research pen history often bemoan the gaps in the available documents, yet one can still stumble across the most amazing things in documents that have been available for years. Today's discovery was in a copy of Parkergrams -- Parker's newsletter for dealers -- that has been in the PCA Library since the days it consisted of photocopies, probably a good 25 years if not more.

This entry, pencil-dated February 1917, announces a new pneumatic-filling economy-line pen, to be called the "Parker Finger Filler". The description of the pen is uncanny, as it sounds just like a post-1926 Chilton, though much too early. In fact, the only pneumatic-filling pen of such an early date that fits the Parkergrams description is the Bender, patented in 1906 and profiled here. Bender died in 1912, and it seems his pen company did not long outlive him. This could fit the Parkergrams statement that "We have at last perfected and acquired the patents covering a device that is entirely new in the way of a Self Filling Pen."

As yet, this is the only mention of the "Finger Filler" that I have been able to find. It is promised that "In the next issue of Parkergrams a further announcement will be made and cuts [engravings] shown of the pen." Unfortunately, the next issue in the PCA compilation is dated illegibly, and the one following is dated June 1917. Perhaps some mention may be found in the missing issues, but for now Parker's pneumatic-filler remains an intriguing phantom.

UPDATE: Richard Binder has pointed out that Julius Abegg's US patent 1,134,936, issued April 6, 1915, would be a more likely basis for the Finger Filler's design. The "nickeled metal tube" plunger described in the Parkergrams entry corresponds much more closely to Abegg's specification than to Bender's.

George Rimakis has also noted the survival of at least one experimental Jack-Knife Safety with an Abegg-style filling system, and has shared the photo below. This pen is a #5-size, so considerably larger than the three models mentioned in Parkergrams.

UPDATE #2: Dan Zazove has pointed out William Edgar Moore's patent, US 1,801,635, filed March 15, 1929 and issued April 21, 1931, assigned to Parker. Although I am baffled at how the Moore patent could have been approved, given that it is a virtual duplicate of Abegg's, it does complicate efforts to associate the pen shown above with any one patent.


George Kovalenko said...

Thanks for the info, David. I've added it to the "Parker Model Numbers" list in my blog.

VictorS said...

Reading Moore's patent, which was assigned to Parker, I noticed that the design is based on a porous packing used to seal the space between the plunger tube and the pen barrel. According to the description, it allows for air pressure to return to atmospheric pressure after pulling the plunger and a fast push of the plunger would then collapse it again allowing permeability to equalize the internal and external pressure.
I can see how this could be quite unpractical, because it would require some waiting time after pulling and also after pushing the plunger, and also friction would quickly erode a porous seal in a short time. May be this is why this design was not mass produced by Parker.