September 27, 2015

Prince’s Protean, and vulcanite

 , and hard rubber.

[Posted on L&P on Apr 21, 27, 28, July 13, 14, 2007, and June 2, 2009.]
        Antonios Zavaliangos wrote, “This is it!  The first commercially successful fountain pen in the US.  The earliest reference to the pen that I have been able to find is from The Knickerbocker,
April 1855, p. 437, a New-York monthly magazine, shown above.  Apparently the offices of the magazine were next to Newell A. Prince’s office at #8 Appleton Bldg., 348 Broadway Ave., in NY.”

        And I wrote, “Also take a look at the
Fall 1999 issue of The Pennant for a great article by Ed Fingerman.  Four examples of the different models of Prince’s pen are illustrated there.  Antonios also mentioned the Charles Goodyear patents for rubber, but they are for soft, elastic rubber.  The only patent for hard rubber is the Nelson Goodyear patent.  But it’s not as simple as that.  The original US patent for hard rubber, 8,075, was issued in 1851 to Nelson Goodyear.  But it was re-issued in the US in 1856, RE556, to Henry B. Goodyear, the administrator of Nelson’s estate.  This in turn was extended on May 6, 1865, and finally expired on May 6, 1872. Until that date, any item making use of the hard rubber patent had to bear the patent date of this patent, or of the latest re-issue.
        Antonios then wrote, “The only point in Nelson’s patent that differed from Charles’ earlier work was that he used more sulphur”.  And I wrote, “Not just more sulphur, but more heat, and pressure, and for a longer period of time”.  Okay, that was the short answer
on “Vulcanization”.  Now, here’s the long answer.
        “Most hard rubber items are molded, or subjected to heat in a mold, to keep the rubber matter from running and losing its shaped form in the process of heating.  The rubber is also, therefore, of necessity, exposed to pressure from the simple fact of being contained in a mold.

        “Goodyear discovered the vulcanization of soft, elastic rubber in 1838-39, and the patent was issued on February 24, 1839, but Goodyear did not achieve any financial success with the product until after June 15, 1844, when he got his own patent for vulcanization after five years of experimenting with and perfecting the process.  In the meantime, Thomas Hancock in the UK heard of Goodyear’s work on rubber and rushed to get his own patent for vulcanization in Britain on May 30, 1844, just before Goodyear’s US patent.  It was Hancock who first observed that if rubber were allowed to remain too long in a bath of molten sulphur it became black and hard, and he said so as an aside in his patent for soft rubber.  It is because of this that Ralph Wolf states in his book, India Rubber Man, The Story Of Charles Goodyear (1939), that the credit for finding out how to make hard rubber “undoubtedly should go” to Hancock.  But his patent was primarily for the vulcanization of soft, elastic rubber, and it mentions this odd effect of hardening only as a peripheral comment, or as an after thought.  Meanwhile in America, Nelson Goodyear, Charles’s brother, also noticed that rubber turned hard when sufficient quantities of sulphur were added, and sufficient heat and pressure were applied for the appropriate length of time.  But Nelson received his patent only as late as May 6, 1851, thus leading Wolf to call him merely “one of the inventors of hard rubber”, even though in America he is credited as thee inventor of hard rubber.

        “Here is a quote from an abridgement of Hancock’s British patent for elastic rubber taken from Bennet Woodcroft’s Patents For Inventions, Abridgements Of The Specifications Relating To India Rubber [Caoutchouc] And Gutta Percha (1859), published by the UK Patent Office.  After laying out the first two improvements for soft, pliable rubber, the abridgement lays out the third improvement for hard rubber in Thomas Hancock’s UK patent no. 9,952, applied for on Nov 21, 1843, and granted on May 30, 1844.

The third [improvement] is, immersing the caoutchouc [latex rubber] in melted sulphur or mixing it with sulphur in any way whatever, and submitting it to high temperatures, and thus changing the nature of the rubber completely.  The heating is by oven or by water or steam under pressure.  The result may be stated to be no longer affected by temperatures or by the usual solvents for ordinary [elastic] india rubber.  Other things may be blended in the caoutchouc with the sulphur and the “change” effected by heat.  The temperature from 300° to 400° varies with the nature, quality and size of the material to be changed; at first the rubber is elastic, but by higher temperatures, or by longer keeping in high temperatures, the caoutchouc gradually changes until it ultimately becomes black “and has something [of] the appearance of horn, and may be pared with a knife similarly to that substance”.  This process is known by the term “vulcanizing,” and the article produced is said to be “vulcanized”.
And the material is called “vulcanite”.  The process was named after Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire and metalworking.  It is also sometimes called ebonite because it resembles ebony, the black-colored wood.  But “change” and “heat”, those are the active principles at work here.”

        John Chapman wrote on July
13, 2007, “Since the subject of early Prince’s Protean pens was raised here, let me add a tidbit I just stumbled across from the New York Times, May 11, 1853.
GOLD PENS.—Important To Commercial Men, Editors, Lawyers, Reporters, Engineers, and all who write little or much.—THE SPRING FOUNTAIN PEN!  Prince’s Patent—the ne plus ultra of Gold Pens, just perfected—are easily adjusted, and simple in their combination, and, with one charging, will hold ink enough to write a whole day!  The public are invited to call, examine and test the article at THOMAS BLAKENEY’S Gold Pen Manufactory, Nos. 42 and 44 Nassau St., upstairs, near the Post-Office, where a general assortment of Pens and Pencil Cases may be had at the manufacturer’s prices.  Pens repaired.
So they were commercially available in the Spring of 1853.  This is probably one of the earliest ads for Prince’s Protean pen, and the first mention of the word “fountain pen” in the N. Y. Times.”

        And I wrote, “It looks like the ad also doesn’t use the name “Protean”, yet, named after Proteus, the Greek god who had the unique ability to change his form.  Instead, it calls it the “Spring Fountain Pen”.  And by the way, this is probably the earlier US Prince patent no. 8,399, not one of the later ones from 1855”.  And Jan added, “There is another mention of the Prince pen in 1853 in the catalogue for the World's Fair held in Bryant Park in New York, the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, which also describes it as a “Spring fountain pen containing reservoir and spring for supplying ink”, in the entry for Prince’s pen.”

        Then Antonios wrote on June 2, 2009, “Let’s add one more early reference here, one from the Manitowoc Tribune, Apr 19, 1855, p. 1.

A MAGIC PEN.—Of this new invention the Independent says: “We hold in our hands a pen which allows our thoughts to flow from its point as freely as they list, without the interruption of dipping into ink every alternate moment.  Indeed, our thoughts sometimes dry sooner than the pen.  Our readers may judge something of its capacity when we inform them that we can write six columns of this journal, or twenty pages of a sermon, or for five hours on the stretch, with one filling of our fountain pen.  It is light, graceful, easily regulated, and in all respects a complete and well-finished article.  The pen feeds itself without any care from the writer, who only needs to busy himself about his words.—To the merchant or clerk in taking orders, the accountant in making long entries, the editor in scribbling paragraphs, the lawyer in drawing instruments, the copyist in transcribing, the minister in writing sermons, and the traveler in jotting down items, it will be alike serviceable in the economy of time and the freedom from the annoyance of ink-dipping, blotting, and wiping.  It may be had of the trade generally, under the name “Prince’s fountain pen”.  This admirable article is sold by Folleys and Wells for Three Dollars, and may be sent prepaid by return of the first mail to the post-office in the United States.

George Kovalenko.