In an article on June 2, 1879, p.432, about the MacKinnon pen, “with diamond point on there pen”, the author writes, “Fountain pens are considered articles of necessity by many writers in every line of business. Writers for the press who have used it, speak of it in the highest terms of praise, and the increasing sales indicate its growing popularity.”
On Feb 16, 1880, p.158, we find this disparaging comparison of the stylo with the fountain pen. “The new calligraphic pen offered to the trade by Mabie, Todd & Bard, is different from [stylos] in that it has two points instead of one, thus being more like an ordinary pen, and allowing the writer to make light or heavy lines at pleasure. The demand for these goods far exceeds the supply, some of the manufacturers having standing orders by the gross ahead. Several other pen manufacturers are working out new ideas for fountain pens, and ere long we shall doubtless have variety enough from which to select a pen just to one's taste. Some of those now on the market are poor affairs, and many have cast them aside as entirely worthless.” I think the writer is talking about the Cross stylograph.
And on Mar 15, 1880, p.246, we read that, “Fountain pens have been for many years offered to the public, and they have been made in almost every conceivable style, shape, and principle of action. But it is only of late that inventors have reached a point where success seems to have been assured, and the trade as well as the general public have been led to believe by liberal advertising that this was so, and thousands have invested their money only to find that they have been deceived and humbugged. Some of these pens, it is true, will write for a time tolerably well, but as a general thing they clog up in a short time, or the point gives out, and the buyer finds himself four or five, dollars out of pocket for an article he cannot use. It has been admitted by some of the manufacturers that more than half of these pens are imperfect and have to be returned to the factory for overhauling; and, as an evidence of the truth of these reports, we see it announced that a factory has been organized, in Boston specially devoted to repairing defective fountain pens.” Again I think the writer is talking about the Cross stylograph because their points gave out, and many had to be returned to the factory for overhauling, and lastly Cross started up a repair department in their factory to deal with defective pens. They seriously went into the business of repairing their own pens. They probably made more money repairing their old pens than selling new pens.
The Edward Todd “Paragon Fountain Pen” is praised on May 15, 1880, pp.427, 428, in another disparaging comparison with the stylo. “A fountain pen that will really do the work required of an article of that character appears at last to have been produced. So much fault has been found with all that have been offered heretofore, that the writing public will be pleased to learn that Edward Todd & Co. will be ready to supply an article they will guarantee in every respect as far ahead of anything in the market, and from the encomiums already received from those who have examined it, there is no doubt of its perfection. It is different from all others in several respects. Instead of making the usual monotonous and uniform stroke, it can be used for light or heavy lines, like the ordinary quill or gold pen, never drops any ink, can be filled direct from the inkstand without a filler, and will carry enough to last longer than any other we have seen. These advantages will be readily apparent to every penman, and orders are being received m advance from dealers in the principal cities.”
An article about the proper ink for fountain pens on June 1, 1880, p.459, states that, “Fountain pens having become such a necessity, and their peculiar structure requiring the best and finest quality of ink, some of the ink manufacturers have been exerting themselves to prepare an article that will give a free flow from the pen, and will not congeal or dry up in the fountain. All who have tried Carter’s Writing Ink pronounce it the best for the purpose, and consequently the sales of this brand have been larger the past year than ever before, and are constantly increasing. Those who find their pens don’t work will do well to see that it is not the fault of the ink they use.”
Here is a short piece on Aug 2, 1880, p.64, about the introduction of stylographs in British reprinted from the London Truth, and suggesting an old use for goose quills. “Whenever I see a new pen advertised, by which the trouble of dipping it every moment into the inkstand is avoided, I try it. After a short experience I throw it aside, for the mechanism is too complicated, or the ink gets on my fingers. But now I have come across an American invention, called the Stylographic Pen, which seems to me perfect. It is filled with ink by means of a syringe, and it contains enough to last for several days. Writing with it is much like writing with a pencil. I bought mine at Mappin’s, in Regent street, but I suppose they are to be found elsewhere. It cost 14s. 6d., which is much too dear, for I should think that it could be made for about half a crown. If the patentee were to reduce the price to about 5s., these pens would be patronized so universally that goose-quills would be used alone by geese.”
There is another disparaging comparison with the stylo on Aug 16, 1880, p.108, but first it states that the Paragon by Edward Todd “is selling more rapidly than it can be made, the demand keeping steadily ahead of the supply”. The idea of a fountain pen is still so new that it goes on to say, “This pen has some distinctive features, the most important of which is that the point is a real pen, and not a needle, like the others. To those who wish to preserve the identity of their writing this feature is all important. It differs also from the other pens in the manner of filling, which is done by simply immersing the pen and turning the head of the holder. This arrangement makes the process of cleaning a very simple one.” On the same page we also find that The Readers and Writers Economy Company is “constantly bringing out new devices for economizing time, labor, or room, many of which are directly in the line of the stationery trade. The Company have recently made a new advertising card of the stylografic [sic] pen, which is very neat, and which they will send to dealers. They also furnish the trade with a large wooden sign in the shape of the pen.”
On Oct 15, 1880, p.305, there is a short mention of another ink appropriate for fountain pen. “Kent's inks are constantly gaining in favor with all who use the pen. His writing fluid is entirely free from sediment or any ingredient that will cause mold, and will keep its black color for any length of time. A new article for fountain pens will be welcomed by those who use these now popular articles.”
Another mention of the Paragon on Nov 15, 1880, p.442, also ends with a comparison with the stylo that disparages the latter. “Fountain pens have come into such general use during the past two or three years, that pen manufacturers have exerted their utmost to produce something that would suit the wants of the public, and save the annoyance caused by the imperfect and improperly constructed articles that have heretofore been sold as Fountain pens. It remained for Edward Todd & Co. of this city, to accomplish this, and in their Paragon Fountain Pen the public will find the very perfection of the article. The pen used is not like the stylographic, but is a regular gold-pointed pen, with which either heavy or light lines can be made, and not a monotonous stroke like others.”
On Dec 1+15, 1880, p.543, Kent’s inks are again recommended for fountain pens. “His nutgall ink for fountain pens is an article that has long been wanted, and those who have found these pens to clog up and refuse to work, will avoid this annoyance if they use this ink.”
In an article on Sept 15, 1882, p.554, about the Cross Pen Co.’s first fountain pen, which was a cross between a stylo and a nibbled pen, the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne are quoted, “I will make the man immortal who will give me a good pen”. The Cross Pen Co. named their new “stylographic shading pen” the “Hawthorne” in honor of the great author. The article both disparages and praises the stylo. “Its distinctive features are that while otherwise similar to an ordinary stylographic pen, it has a shading-pen point, by which individuality of handwriting can be retained; a gold or steel pen may be used, and removed or inserted at pleasure; and the flow of ink can be regulated to suit the hand of the writer.” And in an ad on Nov 1, 1882, p.675, they call it “undoubtedly the ‘King’ of all writing instruments”. One thing that the article and the ad neglected to mention was that the pen was a failure. It was a 6-month wonder that had come and gone in a flash. It was a pen that wanted to have it both ways, a fountain pen with a shading nib, but with a stylographic feed mechanism. It didn’t function, not many were produced, and none survived. Well, maybe Michael Fultz had one. Hawthorne promised to immortalize them, and they gave him a pen that was worthless and eminently forgettable. And they named it after him!
In an article on Jan 1, 1883, p.7, the stylo and the typewriter are mentioned along the way in a discussion of such labor saving devices as alphabetization and reference works. “After all is said about ‘labor-saving machinery’ that is usually said, there remains to be observed of it that the very best and most valuable is that which saves the labor of professional writers. And we don’t mean by this the type-writer or the stylographic pen--both very useful in their way. But we are considering now the encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other volumes of condensed wisdom, which are invaluable to students and literary workers, and this because they save the memory. One need not store away facts, dates, places, descriptions, etc., when he can have an alphabeted or an indexed volume at his hand to supply such information when needed.” According to Socrates, pens and writing were also ways to “save the memory”, and also Rousseau’s dangerous supplement.
And then finally on Feb 1, 1883, p.97, there was more backlash against the stylo in the name of De La Rue’s fountain pen, “The Anti-Stylograph”, which was fitted with a nib. “It presents many advantages, and it can be used in fine or heavy strokes. Many think it has all the advantages of the stylograph pen without its drawbacks.” But on the same page there is this. “The stylographic pen, it is said, brings the inventor $1,ooo,ooo; the [fountain] pen, for shading different [lines], $1oo,ooo”, both independent fortunes. In both cases the inventor was a rich man, but one was more independent than the other. At that time, the stylo was ahead of the fountain pen, but it was not long before the tables were turned.
On Oct 24, 1891, p.219, the magazine was still crowing, and growling, and barking, and braying about how great the fountain pen was. The writer talks about many other labor-saving devices, all mixed in with pentalk, but please allow me to reduce it all to an encomium to the fountain pen. Let me warn you, this is a fiction. “Fatigued with writing, I sat back in my chair, with half-closed eyes, for a well-earned interval of rest. I still retained in my hand my fountain pen which, for four years, has done yeoman’s service. Bless the inventors of that luxury [necessity]. In olden times, they were of the most primitive form. Now, they are the perfection of shape and the embodiment of cleanliness, and we have thousands of admirable kinds to select from, all tending to reduce labor and to attain rapidity and neatness, and to save us from disagreeable tasks. It is no longer necessary to keep dipping the quill or penholder. They are of all shapes, and so contrived as to save all possible labor. There seems to be no end in shape, color or material, combining safety and attractive appearance, standing ready to hand in neatly fanned pyramidal clusters in cups of sensible shape on the desk. When we are weary of wielding the pen, we can have recourse to the stenographer and type-writer, and what they produce can be duplicated freely without extra labor, all helping to rob mercantile and literary work of its most vexatious details. How different is all this to the spluttering quill, the thick and gummy ink, and the sand sprinkler of our forefathers. In those days epistolary work was an alarming task, requiring courage and energy for its performance. It is with a sigh of thankfulness over these many changes for the better that I draw my chair once more close to my table, again take up my friendly fountain-pen, and lighten my labors”. Now, how far overboard is that?! I keep pens on my desk in little alabaster vases and goblets and spooners “of sensible shape”.