March 17, 2014

The Canadian necessaries

        In Canada, fountain pen use got off to a slower start than in the US, but there were a couple of reasons for that.  There were no local pen manufactures, so customs duty had to be paid on all pens shipped to Canada.  There were also no local repairmen, so consequently, repairs had to be shipped back to the States, and duty had to be paid a second time when they were returned.  All the following references are from Books and Notions, later known as Bookseller & Stationer.
        But in spite of the slow start, it could be said about fountain pens in the title of an article on May 1891, p.18, that they were already “One Of The Necessaries Of Life”.  It goes on to say, “Fountain pens are like sewing machines in one respect; you don't seem to see such a great many [around], and yet [they make a mysterious appearance when you need one].  Many people are prejudiced against using a fountain pen, although they never consider what a great convenience one is, if it is kept in order.  If you let a watch run down it is of no practical use, and you may say the same thing of a fountain pen.
        “I know some people who complained that their stylographic pens were “no good”.  Do you know what caused the idea?  Simply because they did not use judgment in the care of their pens, and had filled them with ink almost as thick as mud.  Quite naturally the pens clogged, and then they hastily decided that they were of no value.  I think the manufacture of fountain pens is in its infancy, and that a heavier demand will in time compel a much larger supply.  Unlike most every trade we have not any season that could be designated as a dull season.  The demand is just as regular at one time as it is at another.”
        In an article on
November 1892, p.14, “fancy goods” are defined.  The writer doesn’t mention fountain pens in this context, but he does, just barely, mention penholders.  He cites Webster’s dictionary definition, “those articles which are distinguished from simple or plain”, but he goes on, “The constant increase in the variety of the stock of the fancy goods dealer, however, is giving a wider significance to the term than it formerly had.  The fancy goods house of to-day is a great bazaar, a sort of curiosity shop, a novelty in itself, and is becoming a more important factor every year.  It not only handles goods which are distinguished from “simple or plain”, but also includes the many which are accounted necessaries.  The Fancy goods line now has in it a large percentage of the useful, and where both can be combined the value will generally be enhanced and the sale greater.  The eye admires that which is beautiful, and sentiment will continue to spend its millions every year in purchasing what must please it; but there is, nevertheless, the practical ever asserting itself and demanding that manufacturers shall not only gratify the taste, but shall give to their goods that solidity of finish which shall render them of real service to the purchasers.  Perhaps it is this desire for the combination, of the useful and fanciful which has caused so many dealers in recent years to largely increase their stock.  Fortunately or unfortunately, a fancy goods dealer finds that in order to compete with his rivals he must keep a collection of articles which he otherwise would have left untouched.  Thimbles and coal scuttles, penholders, and fire irons, workbaskets and medicine cases, masks and bibles, clocks, and jockey costumes are only a few of the strangely different things which a modern house is now carrying.  The dividing line between a fancy article and a novelty becomes every day more difficult to define.  Southey says that the latter is the great parent of pleasure, but terms are becoming so mixed that it is difficult to keep track of the parentage.  We do not expect that the fancy goods industry will, for some time at least, include wash tubs or steam engines; but even this is not beyond the limit of possibility.”
        But on
November 1892, p.20, an article on “Fountain Pens” states, “This is a line of manufactures which is not made in Canada. The supply of fountain pens consumed on this market comes mostly from the United States, the English pens not being equal to the American goods.  The leading lines sold are the Paul E. Wirt, of Bloomsburg, Pa., and Caw's Dashaway, of New York.  Other lines which are sold, but which occupy only second rank in point of consumption, are The Rival, The Crown, The Waterton [sic, Waterman?], and The Blair.
        “The gold nibs generally last from one to three years, according to usage.  These pens have then to be sent to the factory to have a new nib inserted.  This is the vexatious part to the owner of the pen.  He has to wait two or three weeks for the pen, and he feels like kicking the dealer out of town, dynamiting the Customs officials, and starting a small world of his own.  Nineteen out of twenty pens sent to the factories to be repaired require a gold nib, a new one costing $1 to $1.25.
        “There should be a fountain pen factory in Canada.  Twenty-five per cent duty on foreign pens should give a stimulus to a manufacturer, but as yet it has not done so.  Thousands of dollars worth of fountain pens are consumed every year in this growing country, and thousands of dollars are spent in securing new gold nibs, and yet nobody makes rubber pens, and nobody makes gold nibs.  If there was a Canadian factory, the great length of time required to have a fountain pen repaired would be so much lessened that the demand for fountain pens would increase a hundred fold.  At present the sale is confined to the goods of one or two leading manufacturers on account of this difficulty; as the cost of the Customs inspection, registration, duly, etc., is small for a large number, but great for a few.  This second-hand way of doing business is too slow for the citizens of this country, and the demand for domestic pens is simply awaiting the lucky manufacturer who first touches the market with a supply.”
August 1893, p.20, there is an article about having a “want [that] is most keenly experienced”, “a want which is bitterly felt”, namely the lack of “rational amusement, literary self-improvement, and delight” while traveling, that is, “the lack of books” and libraries in hotels for the “Travelling men”, the “men on the road”.  It does not specifically mention fountain pens, but what it says, applies equally well to them.  “It is not a very profound remark to say that what even two years ago were the luxuries of life are now the necessaries.”
March 1899, p.16, an article titled “The Fountain Pen Trade” states, “Judging by reports, the trade in fountain pens is not only increasing, but is going to be more active during the coming year.  There are a number of fountain pens in the market, both the standard expensive kind and the cheaper ones, and The Copp, Clark Co., in order to meet all tastes, are showing all kinds.”
September 1902, p.30, however, it still needed to be said that, “Fountain pens are no longer looked upon as novelties or luxuries, but are considered by a large class of people as absolute necessities.  The sale of these handy little articles the last few years has increased [by] bounds [and leaps], until to-day there are numerous concerns, with large capitalization and handsome offices and salesrooms, interested solely in the manufacture and sale of fountain pens.  As every stationer is well aware, large, beautifully-furnished offices, from which are sent out a complete staff of travelling men and where thousands of dollars are spent annually in advertising can only be supported by large margins of profit where the only article sold is a comparatively insignificant article such as a fountain pen.
        “The sale of such goods as the fountain pen almost altogether depends on the salesmanship and guarantee of the dealer, and the same guarantee is demanded of and given by the stationer whether he sells a pen on a small or large profit; and no matter what brand of pen sold there is always a certain amount of repairs and exchanges necessary.  This is another reason why the dealer should only handle fountain pens on which he makes a good margin of profit and not those which it is necessary to send to an American factory whenever a slight repair is necessary.
        “[One dealer is] offering to the trade a line of fountain pens which they have had specially made and which are modern and up-to-date in every respect.  These pens are made solely for this house by one of the largest factories on the continent, and are fully guaranteed by the firm referred to.  The convenience of buying a high-grade fountain pen from a local wholesale house, fully guaranteed by them, and where all repairs and parts may be procured on short notice, will undoubtedly be readily appreciated by the Canadian trade.”

        On July 1904, p.264, we hear of the Waterman’s repair department.  “The L. E. Waterman Co., manufacturers of Waterman's Ideal fountain pens, have now a branch agency at 36 Alliance Building (formerly the Imperial building), 107 St. James Street, Montreal. It will he a great convenience to the trade and the public using these pens to have a local branch, for, although Canadian orders will still he filled from New York [this changed in 1908 when a Waterman’s factory was opened in Canada], the repairing will be done in Canada, a complete repair department having been installed here.  This will save Canadians not only several days’ delay, but will also do away with the Canadian customs’ duty, which is charged on pens brought back to Canada after being repaired in the United States.”
        And on
November 1904, p.448, we finally find that Parker followed suit.  “A Canadian agent has been appointed by the Parker Pen Co., of Janesville, Wisconsin, makers of the Parker fountain pen.  The lucky firm is G. A. Weese & Son, of Toronto.  This piece of news should be welcome to the Canadian trade, especially when the additional information is given that Weese & Son is installing a complete fountain pen repair plant in their premises.  It will no longer be necessary to send pens a day or two days’ journey into the United States to have repairs effected.  The necessary work can be done expeditiously in Toronto, at the least possible expenditure of time and money.”

George Kovalenko.