February 07, 2015

The Montblanc Splat

[Posted on L&P on June 1, 2009.]
        Have you ever wondered what happened to August Eberstein after he left the Simplo Filler Pen Co. in disgrace?  No?  Well, some of the early “Montblanc” and “Rouge Et Noir” and “Boston Pen Co.” collectors certainly might be interested.  To those who aren’t familiar with Eberstein, he was the factory manager and engineer for American Fountain Pen Co., which made the Moore’s Non-Leakable Safety eyedropper.  He had one early US patent in 1903 that was unassigned, while his other US patents from 1904-5 were assigned to Charles Brandt, also of American Fountain Pen Co., Boston Fountain Pen Co., and later Moore Pen Co.  Eberstein left for Germany around 1905-7 and worked with Eugen Hahn, with whom he shared a patent, before he helped start up the Simplo Filler Pen Co. and served as their first factory manager and engineer.  He provided the technical and engineering expertise, and the patents and the look and designs for the early “Rouge Et Noir” pens from 1907-9, the precursors to the early “Montblanc” pens.  To his disgrace, he secretly sold off the company equipment and raw materials in order to finance his lifestyle, and was taken to court before disappearing with his family back to the US.  But later he reappeared in the UK and worked with Ernest Macauley Wade, with whom he shared another late patent in 1912.  Well, these two patents provide clues as to his later fate.
        After he left the US, Eberstein joined forces in Berlin with the merchant Eugen Hahn, and together they received UK patent no.
13,900 from 1907, applied for on June 15, 1907.  The illustration shows both an ordinary eyedropper and a safety eyedropper.  The latter is shown with a push-rod mechanism reminiscent of the Moore safety pens, although he also produced safeties with a spiral-screw mechanism.  The safety pen is also shown with an internal cap stopper with the silver rod to help avoid accidents, a fail-safe mechanism in case the nib was not retracted.  None of these ideas were original by that time, and none of them were the subject of this patent.  All the patents were in the public domain, but he provided the expertise to meld these various functions together, and also predisposed the look and the design and the style of the Simplo safety pen.  But more importantly, this patent provided the original rationale for the colored cap end.  The specifications state in part, “The invention relates to a fountain pen holder in which the closing cap for the end carrying the pen is provided with a distinctive colour, 3, which enables the position of the pen to be recognised when the holder is closed.  By means of the invention it is therefore possible to avoid inserting the penholder [in a pocket] with the pen downwards, and the resulting escape of ink. . . . The colour, 3, shows that the fountain penholder always must be carried or held upright in the closed position, that is to say, with the pen and the mouth of the socket upwards, in order to prevent the ink from flowing out and the holder from being soiled”.  So that’s the origin of the red-colored end of the “Rouge Et Noir”, and later the solid white top, and yet later the white six-pointed-rounded-star of the “Montblanc”, sometimes irreverently referred to by pen collectors as the “snowflake”, or the “bird splat”.  I guess that makes this the Ur-splat.  All other reasons and explanations for the splat are after-the-fact rationalizations.
        In a message on Zoss on Dec 20, 1998, and here in my blog post about Freud’s fountain pen
I wrote this about Freud’s large RHR Montblanc safety eyedropper.  “It’s an enormous, almost tumescent, all-red pen, except for the suggestive, white, dripping star on the tip of the cap”, a different kind of splat.  Papa Freud liked his pens big and red.  Here’s a more recent picture of a large RHR Montblanc safety pen at the October 2008 Hamburg pen show on Azad Kurdistan’s “MrGoldfink” blog spot, and at the October 2014 Hamburg pen show on Simone Piccardi’s “Pencyclopedia” website.  The pen is owned by Horst Max Schrage, and it shows up on his “” website.  The name “Montblanc” wasn’t trademarked until 1910 in Germany, after Eberstein had left, and the US trademark for the white splat, TM 839,016 from Nov 21, 1967, stated that the first use of the splat in commerce wasn’t until 1913, when it was first trademarked in Germany.  And the special process of inlaying the splat in the end of the cap wasn’t patented until 1914.  But Eberstein and Hahn started the whole idea in 1907.
        And where did Eberstein end up?  Most versions of his story say that he went back to the US after his disgrace.  But UK patent no.
29,078 from 1912, applied for by August Eberstein and Ernest Macauley Wade on June 13, 1912, shows that he ended up in England, doing business at 13 Hope St., in Liverpool.  This patent was for a spoon-shaped feed with a “plurality of grooves or slots” that communicated with the “ink passage” and “air duct”, and the nib needed to be immersed only to a depth sufficient to seal these openings.  So that’s where he was.  He continued to invent and create new fountain pen technology to the end, or at least a little while longer.

Also take a look at the Anti-Splat pen in this blog post.

George Kovalenko.