, made by Hawkes, sold with an E. S. Johnson nib and box.
[Posted on L&P on July 17, 18, 28, Aug 13, 15, and Dec 1, 2, 3, 2005.]
Lex Villines found a pen with an E. S. Johnson nib in an E. S. Johnson box and posted some photos of the pen, the box, the nib, and the shutoff valve on various pen message boards. But I didn’t think the pen was an E. S. Johnson pen. At first, I thought the pen was a George F. Hawkes pen that had been placed in an E. S. Johnson box. See his US patent no. 50,470 from 1865. It may have been sold in that box originally, but it wasn’t a Johnson pen. It may have been made by Hawkes for Johnson, or Johnson may have merely been the agent for the pen company, or a dealer selling the pen brand. Hawkes started off as a gold nib maker, and then branched out as a dealer of others’ fountain pens, but then went on to invent his own fountain pens. He even received a medal for his gold nibs at the 1853 New York world’s fair.
Rob Astyk wrote, “In the days when this pen was sold one could have the maker install any nib one pleased. I would fully expect that Johnson, as a gold pen maker and vendor, would install his own nibs in the stock he sold”. He then suggested that rather than a Hawkes pen it was a late-production Prince’s Protean by John S. Purdy. And he was right, at first glance it looked like a Prince’s Protean outfitted with a Johnson nib. But then there was that shutoff valve.
David Nishimura wrote, “Note the pen is unmarked save for the nib, and the two-step section, and the very simple feed design. Incidentally, I remain uncertain about the identity of the pen shown in Lex’s pictures. I have a Hawkes flyer that shows a very Protean-like ink shutoff on the feed, even though such a feature doesn’t seem to appear in Hawkes’ patent drawings. I’ve also been trying to figure out for some years why another very Protean-like pen is shown in the form of a drawing in the Pierre Haury book with the name “Johnson” and a date in the 1860s. It does not appear to come from the Cantor Lectures, nor from any patent I’ve been able to find. I also wonder if others may have stepped in and copied once the Prince patents expired, which would have taken place sometime in the 1870s.
“I do have one other pen that is securely a Protean, as it is imprinted faintly on the hard rubber, and carries an original Prince nib. But I also have yet another that is unmarked, though very similar in form and construction.”
And I wrote, “David, thanks for the clue in the Pierre Haury book. This pen is definitely not the Hawkes pen in patent 50,470, and neither is it one of the Prince pens in patents 8,399, 12,301, or 13,995. I started looking in the 1860s patents right away, and within a few minutes found the answer, I think. Lex’s pen is a Hermann Madeheim patent pen. Madeheim had three US patents, 57,162, 220,483, and 293,759, all for various types of piston fillers with ink-shutoff valves in the feeds, and a slot in the end of the cap to facilitate turning the cock valve. Neither the Hawkes patent nor any of the three Prince patents has this ink-shutoff-valve feature. The Hawkes patent has a slot in the end of the cap to facilitate removing the feed for filling, and the Prince pen may have used the Madeheim valve through a licensing arrangement. Depending upon what type of piston Lex’s pen has, it’s probably one of the two later Madeheim patents. The first patent has a sleeve piston, the second patent has a hollow piston rod, and the third patent has a detachable piston rod. I’d say Lex’s is based on the second Madeheim patent.
“I then went to the Haury & Lacroux book and looked for your reference, but I didn’t find just one drawing with the caption “Johnson”. I found two. Just to make sure that we’re on the same page, I found the two drawings on p.33 of the English translation by Fred Gorstein. Neither of them is dated in the 1860s, and neither of them is a Johnson patent, or Johnson assignment. One is dated 1855, and the other 1856. Luckily I didn’t see those dates first, and start looking in the 1850s to start off with, otherwise I might not have found the Madeheim patents. I think the 1855 drawing is of the second Prince patent, and the 1856 drawing is the one to which you’re referring. I think that date might be a misprint for 1866, the date of the first Madeheim patent, but the drawings are less-sophisticated versions of his third patent from 1884, the one with the detachable piston rod. Also, the Prince patents may have expired sometime in the 1870s, but John S. Purdy was the agent for the pen from the 1870s up to at least the 1880s, and perhaps as late as the 1890s.
“But here’s the best clue of all. The second Madeheim patent was assigned to George F. Hawkes, so Hawkes may have been the maker of the hard rubber parts for your pen, and E. S. Johnson may have been the maker of the nib and the one who marketed the pen. And most tantalizing of all, perhaps some of the so-called Prince pens are actually not Prince pens, if Prince didn’t license this ink-shutoff feature from Madeheim, or Hawkes. The ones with ink-shutoff valves are either Madeheim, or Hawkes, or Johnson pens, and the only true Prince pens are the piston pens without any ink-shutoff valve at all. However, the pen in this earlier post probably, and almost certainly, was an early Prince’s Protean. So, David, does your “Protean”-imprinted pen have an ink-shutoff valve?
David wrote, “My marked Protean is not imprinted “Protean”, but rather “Prince’s patent”. All of the Proteans I have seen have the ink shutoff valve under the nib, and so do my two pens”.
“We’ll get this figured out yet! A remaining question in my mind is how the Haury illustrations ended up with the Johnson caption. Random error? Or reflective of some source that brought together all these players? I’ll have to get pics up of the Hawkes flyer I mentioned, and of the Prince’s patent pens. If I recall correctly, both have the ink shutoff and matching slotted cap-top. One is actually imprinted and has a Prince nib; the other is unmarked and came nibless.”
And I wrote, “Could the 1856 drawing possibly be an illustration from a British, or French, or German patent for the pen, if there were one?
“In the meantime, here’s another Hawkes and Madeheim connection, with the two of them as co-patentees on US patent no. 223,644 for a piston-filled stylograph.”
“With all the online databases out there, it’s quickly becoming a golden age of research. And good-quality, detailed pictures without any Photoshop bells-and-whistles enhancements are one of the best tools of the researcher in the age of the Web.”
Various participants in the thread posted pictures of Prince and Hawkes pens and ads. Here’s a Hawkes ad for his improved pen. And here is the portion of another Hawkes flyer that lists Prince’s pens in two sizes, but not his own pen.
And then I wrote, “Just rambling, but isn’t it curious how all pens from a certain era always resemble one another? Look how similar the Prince, Hawkes, and Madeheim pens are. It’s as if there were an unspoken agreement, or all the penmakers conspired and decided that was the form all pens should take. Or maybe one style came along, and everyone else imitated it as a model, in order to compete with it. Just look at the MacKinnon stylograph from the 1870s-80s, imitated exactly by the Cross, Livermore, Foley, and Dunlap stylos. And the Frank Holland pen from the early 1880s, imitated by L. E. Waterman and by everyone else. And the A. A. Waterman slip-cap eyedroppers from the 1890s, imitated by L. E. Waterman. And all the Duofold look-alikes from the 1920s. And the streamlined pens from the 1930s. To take a much more recent example from 1985 to 1995, just look at the rings on the caps of the Pelikan 800, the Parker Centennial Duofold, and the Waterman Le Man 100, all desperately trying to imitate the Montblanc configuration of three cap rings, but without infringing the two Montblanc trademarks. Here are the US design patents for the Le Man 100 and the Centennial Duofold, D280,737 and D330,217.
Ron Dutcher wrote, “My thinking was that the earliest fountain pens and stylos were trying to mimic the common, telescopic pen cases and magic pencils that preceded them. I wonder what these early manufacturers would think, if you handed them a modern Krone?”
And I wrote, “Yes, and it’s also the point of the taper cap on a pen like the Waterman’s #24. It’s meant to make a fountain pen look and feel like a penholder, or dip pen, or straight pen.”
David wrote, “Style, fashion, or whatever you want to call it, has its own considerable momentum. Nor can one isolate pens, or other writing instruments. Each time and place has its own formal preferences. Think of how pen design correlates to automotive design, for example.”
Rob Astyk wrote, “Much has to do with what sells in this look-alike syndrome. Parker sales shot up after the Duofold was introduced, and suddenly, every penmaker had to have a red hard rubber pen with black ends.”