Thursday, February 9, 2017

A hidden nib imprint

Slip-cap eyedropper-fillers are common enough in black hard rubber, and it's not unusual to see examples in mottled. Red hard rubber is another story.

When this pen came our way, it seemed possible that its maker could be identified by its details of construction, even though it was unmarked and carried a plain warranted nib. The cap with its circumferential groove looked somewhat Waterman-like, while the feed was not inconsistent with Aikin Lambert. The material, however, pointed in a different direction, as it was not a bright, clean orange but somewhat darker with black specks.

Identification ended up coming in an unexpected place: the underside of the nib, shown above. The imprint references US patent 772193, issued October 11, 1904 to De Witt C. Van Valer, and assigned to Frazer & Geyer. The patent describes a method of giving a gold nib resilience by compression using dies and a hydraulic press, rather than the traditional hammer-tempering.

Frazer & Geyer (also referred to as "Frazer Geyer" in contemporary records) manufactured fountain pens under their own name, the "Lincoln" being one of their best-known models. But not all Frazer & Geyer pens were so marked. Most notably, Frazer & Geyer became the maker of  A. A. Waterman pens by 1901, when William G. Frazer and Hobart W. Geyer formed a separate partnership with Arthur A. Waterman, as A. A. Waterman Co. (see Chapman v. Waterman, 1917). Although some have written that Arthur A. Waterman was forced out of the company by his partners in 1905, more recent research has shown that the dissolution of the partnership in May of that year was due instead to his partners' financial and legal issues. The Chapmans, who had been lending money to Frazer and Geyer, ended up taking over their interests in settlement, including both the Frazer & Geyer Company, and Frazer and Geyer's position in the A. A. Waterman Co.

So how to classify our pen? While it is closely connected with A. A. Waterman, calling it one is more than a bit of a stretch. Frazer & Geyer it will have to be -- though there is no telling whether it was made before or after the Chapmans took over the company. I'm inclined to after, however, judging from the contours of the cap and barrel. The pen is clearly modeled on the market leader, the Waterman 12, but on the version made towards the end of the decade and later, with flatter and less domical ends. And while we are discussing A. A. Waterman's copying of Waterman designs, I should also mention a couple of Waterman 20 clones that Dick Johnson sold many years ago, both of A. A. Waterman (Frazer & Geyer) manufacture.