[Posted on L&P on Jan 1, 2008.]
Here’s an article from The Busy Man’s Magazine, January 1909, p.152. It’s titled “The Fountain Pen Industry in Canada”, written by Edward J. Kastner, the manager of the Canadian branch, but it’s really about the new Waterman’s factory in Canada, not the whole fountain pen industry in Canada. The magazine was the predecessor to the modern MacLean’s Magazine, a magazine similar to Time, or Newsweek, but earlier it took a format more like that of Saturday Evening Post, or Life. The word “employes”, which appears four times in the article, is not a mis-spelling. It’s just an old-fashioned spelling of the word “employees” that isn’t recognized by spell checker any more. Check out the picture in this ad from the August 1910 issue of The Busy Man’s Magazine, p.1, for examples of the “large variety of sizes and styles” of “Personal Pen Points” made by Waterman’s at the time.
I first wrote about this picture in the first post in my first thread on L&P on May 27, 2005, “Repair Tools 1”,
also found in this article on my blog, but I didn’t find copies of the ad until Sept 5, 2007,
and again on Jan 30, 2012 in this version from The American Stationer, Apr 16, 1910, p.1.
Someone really should collect all these early Waterman’s ads and publish them in a book, or on a USB memory stick.
The Fountain Pen Industry in Canada
“The starting of the large Waterman’s Ideal plant in St. Lambert marks the growth and development, in Canada, of an Industry which is of personal interest to us all. Of all the arts and inventions with which man has enriched the world none has proved as serviceable as the art of writing. A visit to the new Waterman plant is convincing of the undertaking of this firm to so prepare its output as to make it of such a degree of fineness as to equal perfection, and afford a most perfect and complete pocket writing instrument. Thus, the art of writing, in the present age, has become one without the many inconveniences of the past. It is learned that the enormous capacity of the new Waterman factory, as described hereinafter, is so arranged that the increasing demands of the public, through the trade of Canada, may be always promptly supplied. An idea of the necessary preparation to insure this is conveyed through the output of this firm’s United States factory, which, in 1906, was called upon to supply, for the year, Waterman’s Ideals to the enormous extent of $2,500,000 in value.
“The new Canadian factory is a three-storey and basement building, 85 x 150 feet, with approximately 25,000 square feet of floor space, constructed entirely of reinforced concrete, is absolutely fireproof throughout, and so built that there is practically no vibration whatever from the action of the machinery. All modern appliances have been installed. The ceilings are high, the ventilation is exceptionally well regulated, and even the most remote corners require none other than the natural light, which the construction and arrangement of the building permits during the working day.
“The power is electricity, generated by the plant and controlled from a switchboard. The present capacity is 150 horse-power for immediate use, although an additional 150 horsepower is provided for. The boilers are fitted with the modern Parson’s Improved Blower System. The engine is one of the latest and best types, and the exhaust steam from the engine heats the entire building. The generators are of the 65 kilowatt type, alternating current, and the connecting motors used throughout are the alternating current type.
“A trip through the building is convincing of the enormous preparation necessary to the starting of this plant, which commenced operation on December lst  with a small force of skilled employes, although it is estimated that the capacity of the working force of the complete plant is in excess of 400 employes. The first pen manufactured in the new factory is planned to be presented to the Premier, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The planning and installation of the complete equipment and starting of the new Waterman plant is under the direct management of William I. Ferris, Vice-president of the Company, John Seiler being the Superintendent in charge of the works.
“On the first floor of the building is the office of the Superintendent of Manufacture, in addition to the Rubber Department, with a capacity for 125 employes. In this department is received the finest grade of Para rubber, from the South American forests, where it is selected by Waterman representatives. The conversion of the crude rubber into the four simple parts of the finished pen requires 130 careful operations, most all of which are executed on modern machinery of special type.
“On the second floor is the Smelting Room, where the gold metal is melted and placed in a crucible, which stands over a furnace that heats it to a temperature of 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is added an alloy of silver and copper bringing the gold down to 14 kt., the correct standard of fineness required for writing purposes. Ingots are then formed of a size about one inch in thickness.
“These are then passed to the Gold Pen Manufacturing Department on the same floor, which has a capacity for 150 mechanics. The production of Gold Pens requires well-skilled help, most of whom it will be found have devoted a lifetime to this art. Each gold pen passes through about eighty operations, and is finally tempered, and, in this same department, tipped with iridium, which renders the pen point stronger and more durable than any other metal ever mined. It is said that in this department are made gold pens of such a large variety of sizes and styles that the exact requirements of every style of handwriting can be fulfilled.
“On the third floor are departments for the assembling of the parts, the chasing or engraving of the rubber holders, and the mounting with gold and silver. The working capacity of this floor, in these departments, is 100 employes, and each of the operations, or handlings, through which the pen here passes, is as technical and careful as those of the formation departments. The five parts, when carefully assembled to fit to an infinitesimal fraction of an inch, are submitted to trained hands—experts in the use of the pen—to test the quality of workmanship submitted to them. The pens before leaving this department receive the trade mark of the manufacturers, which is the permanent guarantee, and has built the enviable reputation connected for many years with Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen.
“The Canadian Headquarters of the manufacturers are located at No. 136 St. James Street, Montreal, with a large and active selling force under the management of the Secretary of the company.”
Olle Hjort posted this Waterman’s ad from 1907 to show what was happening on the different floors, but it needed to be turned upside down. The ad reads from top to bottom, opposite to the way the building floors are laid out in the article from 1st floor to 3rd. You can find more info on Waterman’s in Canada in the article by Joan Geschlecht and Peter Markman in Pen World, Vol. 13, No. 2, Nov/Dec 1999.
[Addendum, new pics added on Dec 29, 2015.]
Here are two vintage photographs owned by Derek Lepper showing the Waterman’s Montreal factory. He photographed them in their original frames, and kindly supplied me with copies and gave me permission to place them here. One shows the exterior of the factory in St. Lambert, Que., and the other one shows an interior shot of one of the factory assembly lines.