April 30, 2014

Waterman’s First RHR Pens

[Posted on L&P on Mar 14, 2013.] 
        On May 18, 2012, I wrote that the red hard rubber Waterman’s pens probably made their first appearance sometime between 1898 and 1907, and as an apology for that large span I cited the lack of evidence caused by the unfortunate gap in the volumes of The American Stationer online.  But then finally the following ad made its appearance in Am. Stat., Mar 23, 1907, p.29, and I used that date as the end-limit for the span of years.
        I cited the ad again on Mar 14, 2013, calling it the first Waterman’s red hard rubber pen ad, and narrowed the introduction down further, saying that the pens were probably introduced sometime around late 1906 and early 1907.  The #14 pen is curiously said to be, “This colored pen used largely for red ink”.  This phrase about the red ink is used in similar ads up until the ad on Aug 28, 1909, p.20.  Also notice that the #12 Plain pen, the #16 Filigree pen, and the over-sized #18 pen were also advertized as being available in Cardinal.  And beneath each nib there is a note that says “Also made in sizes listed”, which means that the whole range of pen sizes was available in Cardinal.  But why is it the only one to be used with red ink?
        The clue that gives it away as amongst the first of the RHR pens is this strange limitation of the pen’s use with a certain color of ink, as a type of color coding for the ink contained within, sort of like the Parker Nurse Pen with its BHR holder and RHR ends.  All of which makes it sound like the creation of the marketing and design departments at the time of the first introduction of the color.  Little did they realize that the color would take off and find a life of its own.  The customers will always tell the marketers what they think, and the buyers told the sellers that they would use whatever color of ink they pleased, and put the pen to whatever use they chose.
        There is a comparable ad aimed at the stationery trade in Am. Stat., Mar 24, 1906, p.11, that shows all the pen models and styles, but it mentions only “Plain and Mottled” colors.  Well, that’s a start, at least, because the mottled rod stock back then was almost half Cardinal.  The exact same ad appears again on Aug 18, 1906, p.42, so no new Cardinal yet.  The big new feature that the other ads from this period were touting was the new “Clip-Cap”.  Even the “Stock Assortment Blank” order form pictured in the cover ad on Feb 23, 1907 mentions the “Clip-Cap”, but doesn’t acknowledge the new Cardinal pens, yet.  It even lists two models of the Remex pen, the No. 100 and No. 101, but no Cardinal, not before the ad on Mar 23, 1907.  Unless or until someone finds an earlier ad, I remain adamantly resolved on a late-1906 or early-1907 introduction date.
        In reference to what I called a “strange limitation of the pen’s use with a certain color of ink”, it might be argued by some that cardinal hard rubber pens were chiefly marketed to bookkeepers and business people who wanted a visual cue for which pen held red ink for underlinings and rubrications in ledger entries. 
Now, it might seem like a strange limitation to me only with the benefit of hind sight, but if the red pens are just for bookkeepers and secretaries, why offer them in the larger and more expensive range of sizes and filigrees?  We might have been able to get access to better evidence, but the Google Books Am. Stat. time machine is on the fritz, and seems to work only in fits and starts, one gap at a time.  In any case, by 1909, within a couple of years, Watermans did stop using that ad line about red ink altogether.
         On July 17, 2013, I found a way to partially fill in the missing gap of Am. Stat. issues from 1898 to 1905 by substituting issues of another magazine found in the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine”.  It’s a monthly Canadian stationery magazine that went under a few different names over the years, including Bookseller & Stationer.  I searched for all the Waterman’s ads, and so far I’ve found around 150 ads and articles and mentions of Waterman’s in Canada in the period 1884 to 1922.  Some unique ads showed up, but here are the relevant ones for our purposes.
        In September 1901, this gorgeous ad showed up, but then nothing else until 1904, when Waterman’s opened up their first factory and offices in Montreal at different addresses.  Notice that the address in this ad is still the New York head office.  Five ads, articles, and mentions of Waterman’s show up in 1904, including an announcement that they were becoming the agent for Koh-I-Noor pencils in Canada, and in August 1905, the first ad with a line-up of pens shows up, but with no Cardinal pens mentioned, yet, only mottled ones.  Now, and hereafter, the address in the ads is the Montreal address.  A Christmas ad shows up in November 1905 with a group of pens bunched together, but no Cardinals.  One of those split-half-and-half ads shared with Koh-I-Noor shows up in December 1905 and January 1906, and there’s a line-up of pens in the Waterman’s portion, but still no Cardinals.  Most of the ads in 1906, including this June ad, were concerned with the newly introduced “Clip-Cap” clip, so if there were any Cardinals that year, they would have been a distraction and would not have been mentioned.  In March and April, this same small pen-line-up ad shows up without any Cardinals.  In October and November, the same large pen-line-up ad shows up, and it’s the last chance before Christmas, but still no Cardinals, only mottles.  The December ad is a Santa ad with room for only the plain pen from the line-up, and with one last chance for a “Last Minute Order”, and still no Cardinal.
        So here we are, back in 1907 again, and finally the Cardinals start to appear in the line-up ads, but this time we get to move the time frame back a little.  In my previous assessment, I said that the Cardinals first appeared in the Mar 23, 1907 ad in Am. Stat., but now we have to move that date back to
February 1907 with the first appearance of that same ad in Book. & Stat.  The same ad is repeated in October, and two new line-up ads with Cardinals show up in November and December.
        I wonder whether anything will show up somewhere else to help move the date back even further into 1906, or more.  What we really need are all the issues of
The American Stationer and The Pen Prophet online.  The nice thing about almost all of those ads geared toward the stationery trade is that they include a line such as, “Write us and we will send you a catalogue”, which means that they probably published a new stationers’ catalogue almost every year, and there is still a lot more out there to be found.

Addendum, April 24, 2014.
        Well, low and behold, more volumes of some other stationery magazines from the period 1897 to 1906 showed up on Hathi Trust, and they serve to corroborate some of the above dates.  Only three line-up ads from that period showed up, but they’re helpful.  The ad in the New England Stationer,
Dec 1900, p.7, is a line-up ad with nothing but black pens and fancy overlays, but no cardinals and no mottles.  The ad in Walden’s Stationer, Oct 10, 1903, p.13, is another line-up ad with nothing but black pens and fancy overlays, but still no cardinals and no mottles.  The ad in Walden’s Stationer, Nov 10, 1906, p.12, is another line-up ad, but this time, as well as the black pens and fancy overlays, the mottles finally show up, but no cardinals, which makes it highly likely that they showed up sometime between November 1906 and February 1907.

 George Kovalenko.