July 27, 2014

MacKinnon v. Cross!

, the stylographic war of 1880, the first fountain pen war.

Am. Stat., Dec 30, 1880, p.29.

[This was first posted on L&P on Mar 6, 2012.]
        [Quite a few years ago, while doing research in British magazines from the 1800s such as Notes & Queries, it struck me that the letters to the editor and the exchanges between the correspondents in those old magazines resembled, and were even precursors to, our modern email and message-board discussions, except that it took a lot longer.  A note or query might be separated from a response by weeks, or months, or even years.  Well, here’s one such exchange from The American Stationer between the agents for the Cross stylograph and the makers of the MacKinnon stylograph.  And what’s it all about?  You guessed it, the same old battle about who came first.  However, the MacKinnon v. Cross war was not fought in the law courts, but rather in the columns of Am. Stat.  Luckily, it was all reported there.
        I call it the stylographic war of 1880, but it really started with a few exchanges, Ha!, I almost wrote “posts”, in 1878 and 1879 signed by their regular correspondents, “W.” from Cincinnati, and by “F. D. H.” from Detroit, and the “Trade Gossip” reporter in New York.  Please excuse any OCR typos and errors that I haven’t caught and corrected.  So first of all, here’s the preamble leading up to the debacle, the collapse, the rout of Cross’s reputation, Cross’s “Great Skedaddle”.]

[Inserted on July 16, 2013.]
        [So, how did this war really get started?  If you search for the word “fountain”, and the word-fragments “stylo” and “Kinnon” in the 1878 and 1879 volumes of Am. Stat., you find the early MacKinnon-related articles and ads, so let’s review the evidence.
        In Am. Stat., Jan 31, 1878, in the “Cincinnati Notes” authored by their regular correspondent “W.”, we first read about John Holland, who had a hidden part in all of this.]

Am. Stat., Jan 31, 1878, p.2
“Cincinnati, Jan 26, 1878
        “John Holland, the gold pen manufacturer, finds himself called on to keep his works at their full capacity.  Altogether the business is prosperous on all hands.      W.”

        [Hollands works had been at full capacity”.  But why?  In the “Cincinnati Notes” by “W.” on May 9, 1878, we learn that he had recently made a contract with MacKinnon.]

Am. Stat., May 9, 1878, p.3
“Cincinnati, May 7, 1878
        “John Holland, the gold pen manufacturer, reports trade in his department as quite brisk.  He has his full force fully employed.  He has recently taken a contract for the manufacture of the McKinnon [sic] fountain pen, and is now turning out large numbers of the article, with valuable improvements in the character of the material.  He uses iridium instead of silver [for the tip] and thus insures comparative freedom from wear.      W.”

        [If this is not a mistake, and Cross did in fact use silver for the tips instead of platinum in his early pens, then this might help to explain why so few of the Cross stylos have survived.  But even the switch to platinum, if it did happen, was not enough, since it wasn’t hard enough, either.  The Cross pens were thrown out and replaced, either with other stylos, or with fountain pens, instead of being repaired.  Holland was busy, the note goes on to say, with mass-producing gold nibs, the MacKinnon stylographs, and “magic pencils”, of which “the workmanship is exquisite, and may well challenge the admiration of the Old World manufacturers, who are by this time beginning to find that America is not altogether a howling wilderness”.]

        [Again from “W.” on July 11, 1878, we hear the praises of John Holland and the MacKinnon stylo, and the castigation of the Cross stylo, even though the latter two are not mentioned by name.]

Am. Stat., July 11, 1878, p.2

“Cincinnati, July 8, 1878.

        “A fair instance of a penny wise and a pound foolish policy is that pursued by the manufacturers of a new and popular fountain pen [Cross] that has had a remarkable run in this city.  The pen is of rather intricate construction and requires to be well made [and much maintenance] in order to write well and to continue to perform its work.  The penny wise policy consists in pushing on the public through glib-tongued agents a pen that in a few weeks’ use becomes practically useless.  The natural result is to permanently injure the sale of the pen.  John Holland, of this city, was employed to manufacture the [MacKinnon] pen, and his practiced eye at once enabled him to see the necessity for using iridium at the point where on the other pens platinum was used.  He made his pens that way at an increase of cost over the platinum pen of sixteen cents.  When so made, they are practically indestructible, as iridium is the “diamond” point of the ordinary gold pen...[while the cheaper type is] liable to become useless after a few weeks’ writing.  The agents prefer to make sixteen cents more on the cheaper pen, and the buyer does not know that there are two kinds, or that there is any difference, he buys the cheap pen, only to cast it away as a bad bargain when it wears out.  While by this plan the agent probably makes [many sales], he utterly ruins the prospects of anyone who should come after him.      W.”

        [The first ads for the Cross stylograph, Oct 24, 1878, p.16, do not mention the maker’s name, although we know it is a Cross from the name of one of the two selling agents, Charles W. Robinson, who claimed to have originated the name “stylograph” for pens.  In spite of that, there was an earlier and concurrent use by McDonald & Johnson for their “Letter Copying Book”, whose ads started appearing in Am. Stat. on Feb 28, 1878, p.19.]

        [Then in the “Trade Gossip” section on Nov 14, 1878, we find this note.]

Am. Stat., Nov 14, 1878, p.12


        “The stylographic pen is a writing instrument which is expected to effect a great revolution in methods of writing.  In convenience it is said to be unsurpassed, as a person can write with it continuously for a week without replenishing it with ink.  The writing point is made of iridium alloyed with platinum, and will last for many years [sic, months!].  The other parts are made of non-corrosive materials, gold, silver, and vulcanized rubber.  C. W. Robinson, 169 Broadway, is the general agent in New York for the sale of this pen.”
        [The first part is true generally of all stylos, but it turns out the writer is referring to the stylo sold by Robinson, whose “writing point” is now described as being “made of iridium alloyed with platinum”.  In fact, they were made of iridium chips soldered together with platinum.  It takes an enormous amount of heat to melt iridium, and to alloy it with other rare metals, and Cross had not mastered that technology.  Holland had figured this out, and he patented the invention, which is why his tips were so superior to Crosss.]

        [On Nov 28, 1878, we learn that Hollands order for MacKinnons pens was growing.]
Am. Stat., Nov 28, 1878, p.13

“Cincinnati, November 25, 1878.
        “John Holland has recently received an order for 100 pens daily by the New York agents for a patent fountain pen.  He has made large numbers of these pens already, but this last order makes a notable increase in the demand.
      W.”  [That’s about 36,500 pens that year alone.]

Am. Stat., Jan 23, 1879, p.3


“Cincinnati, January 20, 1879.
        “The average business, however, is very fair, and nobody is disposed to grumble, while some, as for instance, John Holland, report a busier time than usual.  He is still doing a large business in the manufacture of a fountain pen for Eastern parties.  Mr. Holland started last night for New York, to be absent a few days on business.      W.”

        [All of this finally goaded “F. H. D.”, the regular correspondent who authored the “Michigan Notes” from Detroit, into responding, and on May 8, 1879, he starts promoting the Cross stylo.]

Am. Stat., May 8, 1879, p.2


“Detroit, Mich., May 5, 1879.
        “In the E. B. Smith & Co. store,] I noticed a large case containing stylographic pens, J. T. Cross’ [sic] patent, as advertised in The Stationer.  This firm reports large sales of this useful pen, which is always ready for use when you want it, whether it is in five minutes or as year.  It is much better than the ordinary pen, as the necessity for dipping it into the ink is obviated, and the smoothness and shape of the point admit of a free passage over the paper, leaving a clear, uniform line.  As an office ruling pen, it surpasses anything else for that purposes, as a pocket pen it is perfect, being at once air-tight and always ready for use.  It combines all the readiness of a lead pencil and the durability of any pen.  Every person should possess one of these pens.  They are chased and gold mounted, sizes are 4½ and 6 inches long.
        “F. H. D.”

        [Then on June 26, 1879, he takes his hometown pride a little too far by standing up for the adopted Cross stylo sold by a local stationer, and championing it over the Cincinnati stylo, the MacKinnon, and directs his readers not to buy the MacKinnon pen.]

Am. Stat., June 26, 1879, p.3


“Detroit, Mich., June 23, 1879.
        “The growing demand by the public and travelers for the new writing instrument, “stylographic pen”, has caused me to send you a cut [an ad] for [this] issue of The Stationer, [p.19], to which I call the attention of our friends in the West and Dominion of Canada that they be not deceived into buying the “MacKinnon pen”, which resembles this in style, and is in four separate parts when opened to fill, while this is in two separate parts when opened for filling.  I shall be pleased to fill orders and send circulars from this office.  Try them and be convinced.

        F. H. D. [Drake & Co., Detroit, Mich.]”

        [The correspondent stepped across the bounds of business decorum by siding with one company over another.  And then D. MacKinnon & Co. further escalated the battle with its letter of July 3, 1879, criticizing the Cross stylo as “an imitation”.]

Am. Stat., July 3, 1879, p.14


“New York, July 2, 1879

“To the editor of The Stationer:
        “A correspondent of yours from Detroit, referring to the MacKinnon Pen, says: “It is in four parts when opened for filling”, and offers the trade an imitation of it, called the “Stylographic Pen”.  We wish to say that his representation of our pen and the imitation is utterly untrue, and that if he has on hand a stock of conical pointed pens (not the MacKinnon), he had best at once report the numbers and styles to us, so that his account can be settled amicably for the same, as we have the only patents in existence for such a pen.  We are aware that such pens are made, and are now prosecuting the manufacturers, not so much for selling our pen without our license as for making it soft-pointed and of use only for a few weeks, while our genuine pen is diamond pointed and lasts a lifetime.
        “Yours truly,
D. MacKinnon & Co.”

        [W.” makes one last reference to Holland and MacKinnon on Oct 9, 1879, saying that he has a “great deal of work” for the MacKinnon Pen Co.]

Am. Stat., Oct 9, 1879, p.2
“Cincinnati, Oct 7, 1879
        “John Holland has a full force employed, and begins to feel nervous about orders that may yet come in demanding immediate attention.  He has a large order to fill in gold pens, &c., for the State of Wisconsin, and is doing a great deal of work for the MacKinnon Pen Company of New York.      W.”

        [But then on Oct 23, 1879, p.7, both D. MacKinnon & Co. and the makers of Caw’s inks started advertising in Am. Stat., so the editors had to start taking care of their advertisers, and the magazine had to present their side of the story as well.  On
Mar 11, 1880, p.5, the ad for the company, with the name changed to MacKinnon Pen Co., started to include the 1879 American Institute “Medal of Superiority” that they won, placing them ahead of all the other stylos, including the Cross, and it must have been hard on Cross’s larcenous pride.  And so the war of words began.]

[Posted on Mar 6, 2012.]
        [It really started in 1880 when someone named J. Franklin Riday, a journalist at the Am. Stat. office in Boston, thought he was righting some wrongs and straightening things out, but he only succeeded in rattling MacKinnon’s chain.  Here’s where the real dirt on Cross and MacKinnon begins.  But the gems that it reveals about the behind-the-scenes dealings between MacKinnon and Cross and Livermore are priceless.]

Am. Stat., Mar 4, 1880, p.2

“36 Bromfield Street,

“Boston, Mass., March 1, 1880. 

“To the Editor of The Stationer:

        “In my judgment right wrongs no men, and so I believe the truth of the following should be published and the stationery trade throughout the country educated to the fact that the A. T. Cross patent stylographic pen is the genuine, and not the imitation, which is deceiving many of our leading stationers.  I called upon one of the leading wholesale and retail stationers of this city today in regard to these pens, but he said that he never saw but one of the Crass [this is an OCR error, left uncorrected] pens, and exhibiting it from his pocket, said that the thing would not work.  I took the pains to have the pen examined, and experts pronounced it the imitation pen for which this stationer was agent, and acknowledged that he was deceived, as it was not a Cross pen; and so, sir, I believe that many stationers throughout the country are deceived, and are selling an inferior pen instead of the genuine A. T. Cross patent stylographic pen.  Every stationer should examine the pens he purchases to see that they are not so much mistaken as was the Boston stationer.

        “Respectfully, J. F. Riday.”

Am. Stat., Mar 11, 1880, pp.1-2


“New York, March 10, 1880. 

“To the Editor of The Stationer:

        “Much has been said of late in The Stationer about “imitation” stylographic pens; and that brings us to a sense of our duty, which is to lay bare the facts to your readers, so that intending purchasers may be permitted to investigate for themselves.

        “There are now three pens of the ink styles order in the market–the “A. T. Cross Stylographic”, which is the one that is creating such disturbance by crying “Thief! Thief!”, the [Livermore] “imitation stylographic”, and the “MacKinnon pen”.

        “It is rumored that other manufacturers are making strenuous efforts to bring forth still another pen of this description; but it will be time enough to deal with their offspring after they appear as competitors in the great work of revolutionizing the old writing system of the dark ages, by placing in the hands of every writer of every nation an implement that is in itself a complete tool chest, as it were, always ready and always reliable, without any of the annoyances attending the old-fashioned split-nib pens, the pencil or the inkstand.

        “The “MacKinnon pen” (named after the inventor, Duncan MacKinnon, a Canadian) is the father of all its rivals, present and prospective, and its only legitimate issue is the so-called “imitation” stylographic pen, manufactured by C. W. Livermore, of Providence, R. I., who was formerly connected with the “A. T. Cross Stylographic”, but, fearing prosecution for infringement, he sought and obtained refuge under MacKinnon’s reissued letters-patent, dated July 15, 1879.

        “The “MacKinnon pen” was introduced in the year 1875, but only a limited number were sold, in order to give the inventor an opportunity to study its defects, which he found to be wholly in the materials employed.  The greatest difficulty he encountered was in finding a suitable material to point his pen with.  After many experiments he settled upon platinum, which answered the purpose very well, except that after a few months’ use it would wear down and make the pen write coarse and scratchy.  Iridium was a well known metal that had been applied to the points of gold pens for years; but in order to use it on the points of the “MacKinnon” it was necessary to drill a hole through it–a thing that those most acquainted with the resisting power of Iridium pronounced impossible.

        “We were not to be turned aside from our purpose, however, by theorizing, therefore we set to work with a determination to exhaust every means known to the mechanical art to accomplish our purpose.  The result was that in less than a year after the first experiment was made we produced a pen-point capped with a bored grain of iridium, forming a tube through which protrudes the needle which acts as a feeder.  This needle is also tipped with iridium in the MacKinnon pen as now made, although it sustains but a very slight friction in writing.  A. T. Cross, who had up to this time pirated on every one of our discoveries, found the door closed to him at this “point”, as he did not have the mechanical skill to drill iridium.

        “But we see by some of his recent make of pens that he has imitated us so far as his skill will permit, by pointing the needle or feeder of his pen with iridium, while he still uses a soft amalgam on the outer tube which encircles the needle; and this he offers as an iridium-pointed pen [a very largely iridium-pointed pen].  Any person who will take the trouble to examine any one of these pens will perceive that the needle recedes in the act of writing, and the friction is brought on the end of the outer tube.

        “It is, therefore, quite apparent that the outer tube is the point of the pen, and that the so-called iridium-pointed pen of the A. T. Cross manufacture is a delusion and a snare.

        “The point of a pen is the important part of it, and when that gives out the pen is worthless, until it is repointed, which costs nearly as much as a new pen; therefore, our reason for taking so much of your valuable space is to prove two things for the benefit of the trade, of which The Stationer is the leading light: 1. That the “MacKinnon” is the only pen ever produced with a drilled iridium point. 2.  That every person offering a tubular-shaped fountain pen or pencil that does not bear the name of D. MacKinnon, with date of patent stamped on the barrel, and claims for it an iridium point is deceiving the public.
        “Very respectfully, MacKinnon Pen Co.”

        [Also take a look at the ad on p.5 of this issue, the one I linked to just above.  At the bottom of the ad there is a note that reads, “N. B.– For those who write but little, and do not wish to pay the price of our iridium-pointed Pen, we make a cheaper article, which we call the ‘Stylographic Pen’ to distinguish it from the MacKinnon”.  Not only did MacKinnon Pen Co. also make a cheaper version of their pen without the iridium tip, but they also called their cheaper pen by the same name that Cross used for their expensive, soft-pointed pen.]

        [And then the free-for-all commenced.  I’ll let them speak for themselves now.]

Am. Stat., Mar 25, 1880, pp.33-34


“Boston, March 19, 1880.

“To the editor of The Stationer:

        “Your space is valuable, but the interest of the trade in an article becoming a staple of very large consumption requires us to confirm the truth, correct the mistakes, and add a few needed facts to the letter of the MacKinnon Pen Company, in your issue of March 11.  To make our points clear without repetition, read our warning on page 16, also the special correspondence from the Boston representative of The Stationer, on page 2 of your March 4 issue.  The MacKinnon letter of March 11, which purports to be in answer to this warning, names the subject briefly at the start, and then devotes itself chiefly to stating what we never questioned without touching our charge of imitation.  We have printed and said nothing more discourteous about the MacKinnon pen than that “we liked the Cross pen, with writing spindle attached to air-tube, vastly better than their loose valve”.  We offered the MacKinnon Pen Company to maintain absolutely invariable prices and discounts on the two, thus putting them solely on their merits before the public, and we are quite satisfied with the results thus far where this has been tried.

        “But, dodging the subject with which their letter is headed, they discuss the MacKinnon and not imitation pens.  We yield the floor briefly, but shall then move the previous question, i.e. “imitation”.

        “First–The truth in their letter, which we endorse now as always.  We are the authors of the “Warnings against Imitations”.  We have coupled with this warning a constant “investigate for yourselves”.  The capital free advertisement of fountain pens, of course, suits us.  The MacKinnon is the older pen, and was manufactured largely by A. T. Cross before he invented and patented the Stylographic pen.  The MacKinnon is the only pen we know of with a drilled iridium-tipped tube.  We are happy to thus publicly and promptly verify these statements.

        “Now a little added light.  A. T. Cross was born to the business of making fountain-pens and similar goods, and has followed it faithfully and successfully all his life.  Most of the trade know of the reputation for good work of the Richard Cross & Son factory.  He has made altogether over twenty fountain pens, and has studied the subject in all its bearings, with the great advantage of all his own facilities for making new models and trying experiments.  Selected to make the MacKinnon pen, serious defects were found, as admitted in the letter.  Mr. Cross held these defects to be in construction, not in material, and in his own factory, on his own time (for he was making the pens by the gross and not on salary, as has been reported), and at his own expense he invented two improvements in the MacKinnon pen, which he patented.

        “These improvements have been used in making that pen up to date, without license, or royalty.  The substitution of rubber for the metal case first used was the work of Mr. Hawkes, of New York, known through the Hawkes fountain-pen.  The drilled iridium tip was the work of John Holland, of Cincinnati, known through his gold pens.  The projection on the air cap for holding safely the point-cover, otherwise constantly being lost, was copied from the Cross pen, “after its great convenience to users forced us to adopt it”, to quote their own words.  The swivel-needle and adjustable screw in the point and the projection on the air-cap, from Mr. Cross, iridium point from Mr. Holland, and rubber from Mr. Hawkes, leaves a more limited field for the piracies of A. T. Cross from the MacKinnon pen.  The history of the Cross pen wherever shown in open competition, and the demand from those dealers who have tried both thoroughly, is our sufficient answer as to “lack of skill”.  The MacKinnon pen was brought out first with a drilled iridium-tipped tube; we know of no imitation.  Mr. Cross brought out first his pen with a solid iridium-tipped writing-spindle, setting his needle so that it could not recede entirely within the tube, but must take the chief wear.  It was and is for the public to decide which is preferable and which they will buy.

        “After Mr. Cross commenced using iridium-tipped spindles the MacKinnon pen adopted them also, i. e., Mr. Cross has never copied their iridium-tipped tube; they have copied his solid iridium-tipped spindle.

        “Till the adoption of the iridium tip, the MacKinnon Pen Company have extolled the iridio-platinum alloy used by them and by Cross as the most durable substance known for the tubes.  It seems hard on old friends to dub it now “soft amalgam”, and, in view of the actual date when brought out, it seems hardly ingenuous to speak of the Cross solid iridium-tipped pens as if very “recent”.

        “A new tube or point “costs nearly as much as a new pen”.  Retail price of our best pen $5; retail for new tube to same, 75 cents, the amount being, by the arithmetic quoted, nearly equal.

        “The MacKinnon Pen Company admit that most men in looking at the pen would call the part that projected farthest and was smallest and sharpest “the point”, i. e., the needle or spindle.  This we have always spoken of as the point.  The discussion is about as profitable as the old college question, “Which is the butt end of a goat?”  At the first suggestion which our company received that mistakes occurred from this cause, we volunteered at once to always speak of our pen as “solid iridium tipped writing spindle”, thus making the fruitless discussion of names quite needless.  The Cross pen is adjusted to run on the spindle, the MacKinnon to run on the tube.  We make no claim to iridium on the tube.

        “Now for corrections.  Our warnings were never directed against any pen made by C. W. Livermore.  We had never even seen one of his pens, but put them among the “strenuous efforts” to be attended to “after they appear as competitors”.  Their letter makes a scapegoat of C. W. Livermore, perhaps with his consent, as implied in the rest of the sentence, but it is interesting news that the man who, till a few weeks ago, was the most active and bitter opponent of the “imitation” pen should be thus coolly spoken of as its maker.  The announcement is equally amusing that he, who was so fearless and confident as long as he could obtain the Cross pen to sell, should be seized with such quakings immediately after his connection with it had been summarily terminated by Cross & Son.  Most mariners seek “refuge” during the tempest, and not, as in this case, in the succeeding dead calm.  If there could be obtained a copy of the little pamphlet which he prepared so carefully just before this change, it would shed some light on the question.  Readers of The Stationer have asked us for this, saying he promised it to them as a complete proof of the legal and moral rights of the Cross pen, and the naughtiness of its opponents, and that the courts must soon stop them.  One man, at least, saw this in proof–so it was put in type, and, we suppose, printed.  The suppression of this printed evidence, the alliance suspected and now made public with the other pen, the trifling sum paid as royalty for the use of the MacKinnon patent, and the prominence given by both parties to this license as evidence of right, will enable readers to weigh properly the fourth paragraph in the letter of March 11.

        “Now refer to previous advertisements in The Stationer–e. g., Page 25 of January 8.  After an eloquent MacKinnon advertisement, this line, without comment or explanation: “We offer big inducements on the Stylographic Pen. Correspondence with the trade solicited”.

        “The pen sent out on orders in answer to this advertisement was notoriously the “imitation”, at which our warning was aimed.  A strange commentary on their statement of “three pens in the market” is found on page 5 of the same number which contains their letter.  Read the last two lines, compare with previous advertisements, and note that for the first time the paternity of the pen is announced within four pages of their own exhaustive list in which its existence is ignored.  This seems a proper place to “lay bare the facts” a little.

        “There were two rivals in the market, the MacKinnon and the “Stylographic”.  As to their comparative success, the “Stylographic”, from its first invention unable to fill its orders fast enough, has no reason to complain.  With a mere trifle of the advertising accorded the other pen, this demand gained on all efforts to supply it.  After nearly two years of this great success, and after the name “Stylographic” had acquired a world-wide reputation, this line quoted above appears after the advertisement of the rival pen.  The inference was clearly that by exchange or otherwise they had secured a supply of Stylographic pens which they offered at special discounts, as we today have a supply of the imitation pen, for which we allowed about half price to a dealer who bought them unwittingly.  We appeal to the readers of The Stationer whether this was not their understanding; and to those who bought, how many of them thought they were buying the pen which had made the reputation of the “Stylographic”.  Mistakes were constantly made by both dealers and consumers, and we were kept explaining daily that it was not our pen that gave the trouble but an imitation.  At the request of several prominent dealers, who were undersold by parties offering the imitation, we printed the warning.  The imitation was offered in the dry-goods bazaars in some cases at $2.16 each at retail, and complaints were constant and bitter.  This new pen, which is under prosecution for infringement, and only waiting the tardy action of the courts, was sent out without the name of the maker on it or on the printed directions sent with it.  Still worse, the official directions sent out were not simply copied, but actually printed, engraving and all, from an electrotype plate obtained from a former agent of the Stylographic pens.  These pens, with these directions, were sold freely under the placards made and put up for the Cross pen, and we have had imitation pens returned to us for repairs in boxes which we had made and sold with genuine pens.  We add one of many aggravating examples.  One of the largest general agents of the Cross pen boasted of the number of weeks he sold this new pen without being detected by Mr. Cross or his manager.

        “We adopted the fuller name, “A. T. Cross Stylographic”, to indicate the genuine.  Immediately some of our patrons told us that agents had called and convinced them that the imitation was the genuine “Stylographic”, as shown by its unqualified name, and that the A. T. Cross pen was a new article, never before offered.  Did the extreme of business patience and courtesy allow us to longer withhold our warning?  This same honorable (?) former agent of the Cross pen, who boasted of his deception on both makers and public, acknowledged that he had over five times the trouble with imitation pens needing alteration or repairs than he had when selling the Cross pen.
        “If the MacKinnon Pen Company will answer a few simple questions, it will aid vastly in their attempt to “lay bare” to the trade the facts needed to “investigate for themselves”.

        “1. Did you make a pen, which none but an expert could tell from the genuine; advertise it widely simply as “the Stylographic”, as if it was a well-known pen; send it out without your name or anything to indicate that it was not made by A. T. Cross, and send with each pen directions printed from an electroplate made for and containing an engraving of the Cross pen, printed on similar paper, of the same size, and without the addition of your name or anything else to indicate that the pen sent with it was not the pen for which it was made?

        “2. Did your authorized agent go to the trade, who had never heard of but one Stylographic pen, offering to sell either MacKinnon or Stylographic pens, whichever was preferred?  Did he take orders for sample dozens of several large dealers in Stylographic pens who afterwards refused to buy more imitations at any price or to allow them to be sold in their stores?

        “3. Did you send about last August substantially the same pen you now make and call Stylographic to one of the factories where you contract out work, asking them to make a supply like the pattern sent?  Was the answer that the pen was clearly an infringement of the A. T. Cross patents, with a refusal to make it!  Did you reply that you knew another man who would make it?

        “We have more questions to ask if the answers to these are not enough.  We believe that each of these questions should be answered to the credit of the Cross pen.

        “Readers And Writers Economy Co., Sole Agents for the Stylographic Pen.”

Am. Stat., Apr 8, 1880, pp.20-21


“To the editor of The Stationer:

        “We very much regret having to trouble you with another letter at such a time of the year, as your ever-valuable space is necessarily in greatest demand by advertisers and for editorial work.  Our only excuse is, that the letter in your issue of March 25, over the signature of the “Readers and Writers Economy Company”, of Boston, demands an answer, or, in default, we are placed in all unfair light before the trade, with whom we do a large and pleasant business.  We will try, however, to be more economical of your space than the Economy Company.  We hope we shall he able to state the few simple facts required here plainly and forcibly, even if the truth demands that we handle the subject with less delicacy than was used by them.  Let it he understood here that we neither feel nor desire to show any bitterness towards the Economy Company; on the contrary, we would say that those of the company we know we hold in high esteem.

        “Apt scholars though they be, the history of stylographic pens is even yet so little understood by them, that we wonder that men so jealous of their good reputation should have made the blunder of attempting to write it.  Having been, until a few weeks ago, disinterested outsiders, and having had their knowledge of the subject since from a very much interested manufacturer, who, very evidently, has withheld all the dangerous facts, their knowledge of the subject they attempt to handle cannot be supposed to be very accurate, and that it is not, we will now attempt to show.  In the first place, we deny that “Mr. Cross was born to the business of making fountain pens”, there being no evidence, six years ago, that he ever made a fountain pen, while he is at least five times that age.  But, if “born to the business”, &c., means that he made many kinds of successful fountain pens, then again the statement fails; since it cannot be shown that he ever made a pen even partially successful except his present attempt at stylographic pens, and his longest possible limit of even partial success in that pen is two years.  This is capable of overwhelming proof.  Now as to “imitation pens”.  We shall proceed briefly to dispose of them as follows:

        “In the year 1875, D. MacKinnon invented and patented the first of this class of pens, and, after having had quotations for prices from other manufacturers, got the same from Richard Cross & Sons, of Providence, who were finally elected (not “selected”, as say our opponents), to be his manufacturers.  The business grew steadily for over a year, but Mr. MacKinnon’s health failed so that he could give but partial attention to it.  To add to his embarrassment he discovered that Mr. Cross had applied for a patent on another adjustment of the needle, using a spring for Mr. MacKinnon’s weight.  At first suspecting that unfair dealing was intended by Mr. Cross, Mr. MacKinnon asked the meaning of this application, and having had the assurance that no interference was intended, the matter was dropped.

        “Soon afterward, however, Mr. MacKinnon found his worst fears realized in the fact that Mr. Cross was selling on his own account the very pen he was hired a year and a half previously to make for Mr. MacKinnon.  The only thin and cold covering he had for his treachery was that he had obtained a patent on another way of adjusting the needle in the MacKinnon pen.  This excuse was as just and reasonable as if a man appropriated Mr. MacKinnon’s horse because he hit on a handy kind of a halter with which to catch him.  With the exception of the diamond point and the valve (which give the MacKinnon its great value over the Cross pen), the two pens are identical–size, shape, construction, combination, effect, and materials are alike, and the MacKinnon pen was made and patented a year and a half before Mr. Cross applied for a patent on what he calls his “improvement”.  This is the man and this is the pen in the interest of which all other pens (ours included) are called “imitations”, and all other makers dishonest.

        “Mr. Cross has never yet obtained any other patent which he has made useful in fountain pens than this one on an adjustment of the needle of the MacKinnon pen, and this is capable of as many variations as he has fingers and thumbs, and each variation is as patentable as his, and does not show a particle of the genius of an inventor.  It could honestly be of no value to him unless purchased by MacKinnon.

        “Now, as to narrowing or “limiting the field for the piracies of Mr. Cross”, &c., mentioned by the Economy Company, we have to say that their information is entirely at variance with the facts.  Mr. Hawkes’s first and, as far as we know, only attempt at making such pens of rubber was under the direction and pay of MacKinnon & Co.  The first “drilled iridium point” ever made was under our direction and paid for by us.  The projection for holding the point cover is an old device, and not the property of any one maker.  The swivel [spring] needle and adjustable screw, by Mr. Cross’s own sworn testimony, was jointly an invention of both himself and MacKinnon; but Mr. Cross having had the management of the patenting, the patent came out in his individual name [only] somehow.

        “We are sorry to still further flatly contradict the chain of assertions in this “narrowing” process by saying that Mr. Cross did not “first bring out his pen with a solid iridium-tipped writing spindle”.  Our largely advertising our iridium-pointed pen and the great popularity gained by it on account of this change, first drew the attention of Mr. Cross to the subject of iridium-pointing, and the pointing of our tubes with this metal was undertaken by us long after we had tried diamond-pointing the needle and pronounced it a failure, which it ever will remain while the writing-tube is made of soft metal, as are all other pens but the MacKinnon.  One word here while speaking of diamond-pointing.  To all the patents issued to us and in the specifications written by Mr. Cross while applying for patents on his improvements (?), the point tubing is described as the “writing point”, while the needle is mentioned as a “spindle”, or “needle-valve”, showing that Mr. Cross himself, as well as all others connected with such pens, including the Patent Office, believed the point of the tube to be the writing point.  Still Mr. Cross sells some of his pens as iridium-pointed pens, while he knows that the part so pointed by him plays but a very subordinate part in the work of writing, inasmuch as the needle recedes into the point-tubing on being pressed on paper, letting the wear come on the end of the tube.  A pen constructed in any other way would write about as comfortably as a pin.  The only successful pen must have both the writing-point and needle-point tipped with iridium, and the “MacKinnon” is the only pen so made.

        “We would also mention here that a very small proportion, indeed, of the Cross Stylographic pens have even the needle pointed with iridium, and that for those so pointed $1 extra is charged.

        “The Economy Company seem to be displeased with us for advertising that “we offer big inducements on the Stylographic Pen”, and the reasons they give for their displeasure are that Mr. Cross called the pens he made “Stylographic” for two years before we did, and that the pen we call Stylographic resembles the pen made by Mr. Crass. [This is another OCR error, left uncorrected.]  A gentleman once said of his wife that “She was called Misthress Mulrooney, and the rayson they called her Misthress Mulrooney was because that was her name”.  The Patent Office first called these pens “Stylographic” both in our patents and Mr. Cross’s, and “that was their name”.  We, to be sure, did not use that name for some time, while Mr. Cross did, and associated it with a cheaper make of pen, which was identical in exterior appearance with our MacKinnon pen, and the interior differed only in that he substituted a spring for our weight, which change was anything but beneficial.

        “We are now lectured by the Readers and Writers Economy Company for doing the same thing–but in a different manner–so as to be able to accommodate the few who wish a cheap pen.  This disposes of the remark in their letter that there were two rivals in the market–the MacKinnon and the Stylographic.  The fact is, they are both equally stylographic, both essentially MacKinnon pens; but the cheap Imitation made by Mr. Cross was allowed the almost entire monopoly of the name Stylographic; so that during its existence it should not be confounded with the better quality of pen–namely, the MacKinnon.

        “As we said in the beginning, the Economy Company could not have been aware of these facts or they certainly would never have risked their reputation by preaching from such a text.  Any fair man who will take the trouble to examine the patents on Stylographic fountain pens will say with us that instead of our doing Mr. Cross an injustice by trading on the reputation made by him for this pen “during two years of success”, that we did ourselves a very great injustice by allowing him to make a day’s reputation or a day’s profit out of it.  This is not the only way we can satisfy the trade and the public, but we can refer them to men of unimpeachable veracity and excellent social and financial standing, to whom Mr. Cross admitted that he knew MacKinnon’s patents covered the pen he (Cross) made, but he was going to continue making it till stopped by the law.  Having had (as we still have) all the business we could attend to, we preferred not giving attention to lawsuits, otherwise we would long since have settled the question with Mr. Cross.  We have now, however, decided to divide our attention between our present business and our future interests, and have instituted proceedings against the ablest agents of Mr. Cross for infringement of our rights.

        “As to the charge that “complaints were constant and bitter” against the “imitation”, as our Stylographic, low-priced pen is playfully styled [by the agents for Cross], we will only say that we have no doubt of it; we have been warning the public against these alloy-pointed pens for two years, for then we found out what we did not know before, that they did not last, and could not, therefore, give satisfaction.  In answer to demands that were made for a cheaper pen than our diamond-pointed pen, we made it, advertised its materials, calling the points alloy, and selling them one dollar each cheaper than our diamond-pointed pen.  What we do most emphatically deny is that our Stylographic pen gave less satisfaction than the Cross stylographic.  Why should it?  Let us see.  We made the cases of vulcanized rubber.  So did Cross.  Mountings 18 karat gold.  So did Cross.  Point and air-caps rubber.  So did Cross.  Needles platinum and gold.  So did Cross.  Springs all gold.  So did Cross.  These are all the parts of both pens and these the materials.
        “We are told that the pens were made so nearly alike that “none but an expert could tell them apart”.  We need never be ashamed to compare workmanship with Mr. Cross.  Then, in the name of goodness, where is the trouble?  Why should our Stylographic not give as good satisfaction as Mr. Cross’s Stylographic pen?  We answer, the trouble is purely a production of our competitor’s imagination–nothing else.

        “Here let us say that the very best evidence of which pen gives the best satisfaction is furnished by the dealers in Cross’s Stylographic pen, since, besides the large time and space given in Providence to repairing the thousands that are returned there, they have lately had to establish large branch repair shops in Boston, which were heralded by a three-quarter page advertisement in The Stationer, as a happy refuge for afflicted Bostonians, while the repairs of the MacKinnon–of which thousands more were sold–are carried on in one corner of a small 14x16 room.  The fact of it is that, unless used by ladies, those alloy-pointed pens would require a branch repair shop in the corner of every office in which one is sold.
        “Now we conclude by answering three questions asked by the Economy Co.

        “No. 1. We did not “make a pen which none but an expert could tell from the Cross Stylographic”.  The pen we have always sold under the name stylographic was copied after the MacKinnon, as are all pens of this class; like the Cross pen, any difference made between it and the MacKinnon in construction or materials was for the purpose of cheapening it, but the alterations are entirely our own and covered by our patents.  Our directions were not “printed from an electrotype made for the Cross pen”.  They were written expressly for our own use, and given to a printer who followed our written copy.  We frequently omit our name from all our directions at the request of dealers who prefer their own instead.

        “No. 2. We cannot say what representations were made to the trade by agents, but believe they carried out our instructions.  They carried with them our business card, with price list of the MacKinnon and “Improved Stylographic Pens”; the pens sold on all their orders were sent from us direct, billed on our ordinary invoice paper.  We know of no such dealers as are mentioned in the second paragraph of question No. 2.

        “No. 3. No manufacturer ever refused to make our Stylographic Pen for any reason whatever.  On the contrary, we have been solicited by three prominent gold-pen makers for the work of making these pens for us.  We shall be glad to give the Economy Company, the trade, and the public any further facts necessary to a proper understanding of the whole controversy between ourselves and Mr. Cross, every step of which we are prepared to prove incontestably, and shall be glad to accept the popular verdict.

        “Very respectfully, MacKinnon Pen Co.”

Am. Stat., Apr 15, 1880, pp.20-21


“To the editor of The Stationer:

        “A word or two of correction, please, to the letter on page 20 of your last number:

        “1. Top of second column–Mr. Cross never sold a MacKinnon pen on his own account, but has 128 for which MacKinnon refused to pay, and kept in his safe for two years rather than offer for sale.  The writer of the letter says he meant only that Cross sold stylographic pens, but he should have put it a little plainer to prevent misunderstanding.

        “2. The horse referred to was wild and unmanageable.  Mr. Cross invented a halter by which he could easily be tamed and made to work.  As the scores of previous pens of this general style (all failures) testify, Mr. Cross did not take MacKinnon’s horse.  He simply discarded MacKinnon’s halter, and with his own, as implied, caught the horse.

        “3. We never called the MacKinnon pen an imitation.  This is the same line adopted in the first letter.  We attack their imitation stylographic and they defend vigorously their genuine MacKinnon, which we always treat with the utmost courtesy, and can afford to, as we do not tear its fair and open competition and it appropriates none of our reputation by which to sell itself as does the imitation stylographic.

        “4. Cross has been selling, very largely iridium tipped needles since October 18, 1878.  By reference to their own circulars and announcements, it will be seen when the MacKinnon Company began to advertise and furnish these.  They claim that they tried them as an experiment before Cross made them–an immaterial fact if granted.  Cross first brought them out, and later they adopted them–a fair statement as long as the MacKinnon Company claim to have done nothing more than experiment.

        “5. The many thousand Cross pens sold at $1 extra with this tip answer the statement that such a pen “would write about as comfortable as a pin”.

        “6. The statement that proceedings have been commenced against the Cross pen is all Cross or any of his agents know about it.  The only proceeding thus tar is the suit brought by Cross for the notorious Infringements of the imitation pen.  At this writing not even a form of answer has been attempted by the MacKinnon Company, and the time for filing it, with an extension, has expired.

        “7. The Cross Stylographic pen is the best fountain pen ever made–our statement, as endorsed by many thousands of users.  See end of page 20 for their statement that their Imitation Stylographic pen is worthless.  Top of page 21 note their proof of the exact imitation.  Why is not theirs as good?  Because not made as well and because of the slight change, which prevents proper working and made under plea of improvement, but in fact to dodge Cross’s patents.

        “8. As to repair shops.  We quote facts.  A record in our shops kept for two weeks shows that over 70 per cent of the Stylographic pens brought or sent for repairs to us were the Imitation made by the MacKinnon Company.  These had been sold since October by a very few dealers.  The genuine had been sold two years by nearly all dealers.  Natural inference from facts and figures–unhappy day when the MacKinnon Pen Company throw down the gauntlet about repair shops.  We are doing a fine business in altering over their pens into Cross Stylographic.  Orders filled in rotation as fast as we can catch up.

        “9. The three answers at the end of their letter.  Refer to top of same column to their own statement of the exact copy they made of the Cross pen.  See the directions themselves (still sent out, we believe, with their pens), compare the picture with the two pens, noting the number of rings at the top.  If the same plate was not used, we have the still graver charge to prefer, that a counterfeit was deliberately made.  The fact is scattered wherever their pen has been sold.  Argument is useless when all may see for themselves.

        “10. Finally, we urge that those interested read the three letters of this correspondence together, and note how ingeniously our best points are let alone, and how most of our claims are indirectly proved by internal evidence from their own letters.  If read alone this may escape attention.  We can safely rest our case with our jury, the trade.
        “Our rivals complain of the cheap character of our pen compared with theirs made in two grades, of which they say their own stylographic is almost worthless.  Compare for a moment the Cross with their best pen, the MacKinnon.  Retail prices the same as ours.  They give a handsome morocco case free with each pen.  We give nothing.  They give 30 per cent. more discount on 72 pens than we on 200, terms the same other wise.  We challenge them to put their discounts the same as ours and put the pens on their merits, except that they may give the morocco case free.  In spite of the greater discounts, by far our largest customers are those who have sold their pens more or less, and who are persistently urged to sell them again.  Their pen has been advertised vastly more than ours, but with increased facilities we shall advertise much more widely, and the verdict of the public will then prove comparative merits.  Our orders were never so large as now, but we have finally enlarged the factory till we can fill all promptly.

        “In view of these facts, hasn’t the writer of the last letter made a mistake somewhere about the Cross pen being anything but the best.

        “Readers And Writers Economy Co.”


Am. Stat., Apr 29, 1880, pp.18-19


“To the editor of The Stationer:

        “We have no doubt both you and your readers have had enough of the controversy between ourselves and the Readers and Writers Economy Company; but as they still seem inclined to resent our chastisement by a series of squirms and wriggles, we fear they will come to life again; so we proceed to dispatch them as quietly as possible.

        “In the first place we would remark that it is a pity they got so excited as to speak so much without waiting to think, and we would remind them that when people descend to giving the place of that valuable commodity called truth to reckless statements, such as are contained in their last effusion in your issue of the 15th inst., they show a weakness that is pitiable.  We will not take time or space to notice individually each squirm, wriggle, writhe and contortion which, for the sake of convenience, they number from one to ten, but will just hold up one of them–No. 6–as a sample.  Here it is: “The statement that proceedings have been commenced against the Cross pen is all Cross or any of his agents knows about it.  The only proceeding thus far is the suit brought by Cross for the notorious infringements of the imitation pen.  At this writing not even a form of answer has been attempted by the MacKinnon Company, and the time for filing it, with an extension, has expired”.

        “To this we give the answer that applies to almost every paragraph in their letter, viz., that there is just enough truth in it to prevent the possibility of our branding the whole fabrication as a deliberate falsehood.  So ingeniously has this little truth been woven in that it would appear plain that the only object of its being found there is to give strength to the delusion that was the object and intent of the letter.  We prefer, however, to believe that there was no such base object aimed at, and that the condition of the statements is due to accident or want of proper deliberation.

        “It is likely true that at the date of writing their letter our answer to Mr. Cross’s complaint was not filed, but the fact is immaterial.  It is not true, however, that the time for filing an answer had expired.  Our answer was in proper time and in the regular way, and for, proof of this we refer those interested to the records of the United States Circuit Court, Southern District of New York, Second Circuit, or to Mr. Cross’s own counsel.  The truth in the first part of paragraph No. 6 is that as a company they were not actually served with legal documents for infringements of our rights, but we can prove beyond possibility of contradiction that the President of the Readers and Writers Economy Company had reliable information fully two weeks before his letter was written, to the effect that action had been taken by us in the matter, and not only so, but that the Readers and Writers Economy Company were the parties attacked.  That such attack was made, and that the Economy Company have been served with proper and unmistakable papers in the case, all can satisfy themselves who take the trouble to apply to the proper party in the office of the United States Circuit Court in the city of Boston.

        “We own that there was some delay in making the service, but we will quote our attorney on the cause of this delay.  He writes: “We found that the Economy Company is one of those institutions “not at home” when required to answer for a violation of the rights of others.  If you wish to trade with them, go to Boston; but if you wish to call them to account for the unlawful character of their trade, they are not at home in Boston.  They forsooth belong to Connecticut where there is not a vestige of the company, except a sheet of paper.  This is accomplished by organizing the corporation in Connecticut and keeping their legal existence there, where there is not a cent’s worth of property to lay your hands on.  So, after a long search, we found them timidly crouching behind the State line and far away from the scene of their piracies.  Their ingenuity in avoiding responsibility left us no choice but to go to Connecticut and sue a shadow, or go to the ground of their depredations and catch such of their officers as we could find.  This we did. The parties sued are the President and Treasurer of the Readers and Writers Economy Company”.

        “We do sincerely hope the Economy Company will be wise enough to allow this matter to repose until the courts decide who is right and then we will be glad if they herald the result to the four corners of the earth.

        “We wish the trade to understand that the legal actions above referred to are to determine our right to make the Stylographic pen mentioned at the foot of our advertisement on another page and Mr. Cross’s right to make the A. T. Cross Stylographic pen.  We would advise all responsible dealers to obtain legal advice before selling any more of either of them.  There is no controversy on the MacKinnon pen.

        “Yours truly, MacKinnon Pen Company.”


Am. Stat., May 6, 1880, pp.18-19


“To the editor of The Stationer:

        “We sent you last week the matter which appeared on page 16, with a request to print it as an advertisement–not as a letter–as we believe the reading columns of The Stationer should not be given up to mere advertisement.  To our surprise there appears on page 18 a letter on the stylographic pen question, in which the first half column would hardly pass a critical editor of the advertising pages, much less for reading matter.

        “We stated simply facts in our communication, in a straightforward manner, and endeavored to remember that a corporation might be gentlemanly.  As our opponents devote theirs not to answering our facts or arguments, but to insulting imputations, the self-respect which a corporation may feel, as well as an individual, compels us to close the correspondence.  In so doing we call attention to the letters themselves in proof of the frankness with which we have admitted all that was true, and the entire freedom from the quibbles or evasions imputed to us.  We only ask a careful reading of the letters from the MacKinnon Pen Company to see if we have been met in a similar straightforward manner.

        “The Cross pen came into our hands by contract, signed December 11, 1879, at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. of the same day Mr. Cross sent his attorney to New York to commence suit against the MacKinnon Pen Company for their notorious infringements.  Our counsel advised us that just as the time for answer was to expire an attorney called to ask the courtesy of an extension, which was granted on the ground that he had not been consulted before.  This extension expired and another was granted; before the end of which second extension an answer has at last been filled, reaching us some two weeks after out letter was written.  The beginnings of the counter suit referred to were first known to us last week.  For lack of prophetic instinct to know what might be done weeks in the future, we are berated in your columns for evading the truth.  That our president had information two weeks before that suit was to be commenced tells only half the truth.  We have had every day or two since commencing the business equally reliable information from agents of the rival pen that suit had already been commenced, and that our factory was about to be closed, &c., ad nauseam.  Past experience hardly justified suspension of business on the strength of a fresh report of the same character.  The trade in general can vouch for the frequency and reliability of these reports so often resorted to, with extra inducements in the effort to sell other pens than the genuine Cross Stylographic.  Our statement that Cross and his father before him were fountain pen-makers was denied because the MacKinnon Pen Company do not know the fact.  It is courteous, at least, to believe the direct statement of honorable people unless one knows to the contrary.  The elder Cross made fountain pens thirty years ago.  It is not conclusive evidence of our untruthfulness because the MacKinnon Pen Company were not aware of the facts we state, though they assume their ignorance to be such proof.

        “We received notice of the new suit on Monday; sent word to Mr. Cross by first mail; he came by the next train and went directly to the best patent lawyers of Boston and placed the case in their hands.  They immediately filed an appearance. Contrast this with the nearly five months consumed by the MacKinnon Pen Company in getting in an answer for their infringement.  But the trade wish nothing beyond full protection and the best pen.  Any one interested can easily find out which party to this controversy can afford him the fullest protection.

        “The sales of the Cross pen since this new line of competition has been adopted have increased steadily.  The evidence thus afforded the trade that others are unable to compete with the Cross pen on its merits, but must scare dealers from buying it, has resulted, as we expected, in an increased demand.  No dealer has the slightest fear of damages for infringement on goods bought of us, and the new attack on the Cross pen has proved its best advertisement.

        “We may add, as crowning evidence, that the whole attack is for advertising purposes solely, that both the lawyers of the MacKinnon Pen Company live in Providence, at the door of the Cross pen factory, filled with machinery and costly stack, yet they pass over the responsible manufacturers on the spot, and with ample property, to attack the selling agents in another State!

        “To their last words, “There is no controversy on the MacKinnon pen”, we submit that, as long as they continue to use two of Mr. Cross’s patented improvements thereon, there is a decided controversy.

        “In closing this controversy, which has so much increased the sales of the Cross pen, we beg to offer freely to all applicants a set of our letters to The Stationer on this subject, and we challenge the MacKinnon Pen Company to thus furnish a similar set of their own to be read in connection with ours by those desiring to hear both sides.

        “Respectfully, Readers And Writers Economy Co.”


        [Then this self-advertizing article for Livermore appeared.]

Am. Stat., May 20, 1880, p.6


        “Now that Stylographic pens have been so largely adopted for general use it is proper that a paper devoted to the interests of the stationery trade should give the different manufacturers an opportunity of presenting the claims of each new invention of the kind and to invite investigation of the merits of articles of so much public importance.

        “The application of the word “Stylographic” to pens is said to have been first made by C. W. Livermore, of Providence, R. I., a manufacturing jeweler of over thirty years’ experience, who is known to the trade throughout the country as a man who has been active in introducing the Cross Stylographic pen to the notice of the public from the very first up to a recent date.  In the position of manufacturer’s agent for that pen he came in direct contact with the large purchasers of the pen and heard every suggestion made by them.  Having superintended repairs upon Stylographic pens in his own shop, he studied how to improve them and the result has been that he has produced the “New Stylographic Pen”, which is said to obviate the difficulties which he experienced.  The pen is so constructed as to admit of its different parts being substituted in case of repairs being needed, so that it is not necessary to send the pen to the factory.  This is a great improvement, for after anyone has become accustomed to writing with a stylographic pen he does not like to be deprived of its convenience for even a brief period.  Another advantage which is claimed as a feature of the new pen is that it is no infringement upon anyone’s rights.  Mr. Livermore, recognizing that there could be no satisfactory Stylographic pen without an air tube in the fountain, pays a royalty to the company owning that patent.  The new pen is, therefore, said to be entirely free from legal complications.

        “The New Stylographic Pen, illustrated in the drawing herewith, is, therefore, presented as the very latest improvement, and its manufacturer asserts that it is superior to all others.  The trade and the public generally are invited to examine and test its claims, which the proprietor confidently expects will be cheerfully allowed.

        “The Stylographic Pen Company has large facilities for the manufacture of the New Stylographic Pen at its factory in Providence, R. I. Offices have been established in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, and arrangements are being made for doing a large local and export trade.  Communications can be addressed to any of the offices.”


        [And this self-advertizing article for John Holland.]

Am. Stat., June 10, 1880, p.21


        “A recent visit by a reporter of The Stationer to the factory of John Holland, 19 W. Fourth Street, Cincinnati, proved of decided interest.  The establishment makes gold pens, pencil cases, ebony and gold penholders, and the MacKinnon fountain pen.

        “For gold pen making the metal (16 k.) is cast, thirty to one hundred ounces at a time, in ingots 8x2x¼ inches, and this is rolled into a sheet 8 or 9 feet long and ¼ inch thick.  From this the flat blanks are punched out; they are then tipped with iridium, the hardest of noble metals and most infusible of all; then repunched, stamped with the maker’s name and then given the curved form by striking between two vertical dies and then pressing up the sides by two side dies, as gold is elastic and needs this last pressure, unlike steel, which, during the process of manufacture, is “dead” or inelastic.  The slits are sawed by a tiny circular saw only ¾ inch in diameter and 1/250 inch thick, revolving 3,000 turns per minute.  Each pen is tested before going to the salesroom.

        “For pencil cases and penholder barrels the metal is drawn through steel dies and over steel mandrels to the desired bore and thickness, then chased with a diamond tool which rules continuous parallel lines, except when lifted by a pointer which passes over projections on the periphery of a steel pattern barrel.  Mr. Holland has over 4,000 mandrels for drawing tubes of various sizes–from the diameter of a pin to an inch across.

        ‘The MacKinnon pen requires for its manufacture the most skilled workmen and several special processes and appliances, particularly in obtaining the ring of iridium for the point.  To get this, a flat piece of this rare end marvelous metal is drilled by a diamond drill making 3,000 turns a minute and then by a copper point, emery fed, making 5,000 turns.  It takes 15 minutes to drill one.

        “The tiny needles are filed to true taper by deft touches of “dead smooth” Swiss files.  For sawing the hard rubber, ebony, gold, brass, iridium, &c., a large number of high-speed saws are used–most of them made by Mr. Holland from imported steel.

        “The tiniest of these has been selected as the subject of an illustration in the second edition of “Grimshaw on Saws”, as the “Smallest Circular Saw in the World”, being nearly one-third smaller than the one shown in a previous edition, and then believed to be the smallest used for any purpose.  The business occupies four floors and two floors of the adjoining building, and there are 60 to 62 hands employed.”


        [It all started with Drake on Cross’s side, and it ended with Drake on Livermore’s side, which is the same thing as MacKinnon’s side.]

Am. Stat., Aug 26, 1880, p.7


        “The Livermore Stylographic pens are meeting with much favor in all Western cities.  They have a cap over the spring to prevent it from getting corroded by acids, or inks not suitable for these pens.  F. H. Drake & Co., of Detroit are the general agents for Michigan [originally the agents for the Cross stylo].”


        [And here’s a self-advertizing article for the MacKinnon Pen Co.]

Am. Stat., Aug 26, 1880, p.55

        “It is many years since the first fountain pen was invented.  John Holland, of Cincinnati, has been making fountain pens for twenty-five years, and is acquainted with all those introduced during that period; and he as well as others says that, until the Introduction of the MacKinnon pen, all attempts at producing a suitable article had failed.  The reason assigned for the claim that the MacKinnon pen is superior to any other fountain pen, arises from the fact that the old fountain pen was made in connection with the split pen, which imparts ink very irregularly, as its traces vary according as the writer leans heavy or light upon it; whereas in the MacKinnon pen the orifice is always the same, whether the person who uses it presses heavy or light.  Duncan MacKinnon, after whom the improved style of pen is named, is said to be the first manufacturer of fountain pens to depart from the old custom, and he adopted the method used in the MacKinnon pen, and which has proved to be most successful.  Since then, it is said that other manufacturers, have copied this invention and infringed on the patent, but owing to continual improvements in the MacKinnon pen, it still holds its own.  The principal difficulty attending the success of this pen when first made was the wearing down of the point.  It was, however, overcome by an important discovery made by John Holland, by which be was enabled to drill holes as small as the point of a cambric needle in blocks of iridium.  It may be here mentioned that iridium is the hardest of all substances except the crystallized diamond, and has also the valuable quality of not being oxidized by any acid or fluid–that it is, in fact, indestructible.  Mr. Holland’s discovery is patented and is used exclusively in connection with the MacKinnon pen.  There are two patents, one for the drilling, and the other for the application of the iridium, and both are owned by Mr. Holland, who employs thirty men on the manufacture of this pen exclusively.  These men have become so expert at the drilling process that each can now drill thirty per day, and even yet the firm is scarcely able to supply the steadily growing demand for this popular article.  A few months ago it was thought that the supply of iridium would become short; but Mr. Holland, having since secured a quantity from Russia, has now on hand a stock sufficient for half a million of pens.  In addition to the claim that the MacKinnon pen is constructed on the only true principle of a successful working fountain pen, it is said that none but the finest materials are used in all its parts.  As to its growing popularity it is advanced that parties who two years ago would not write with this form of pen, for the reason that it had a round, rigid point, now prefer it to the split nib or shading point.  Among those who were more wedded to the old-fashioned pen than any other class, and who now acknowledge the superiority of the MacKinnon, are bookkeepers.  They see that cleanliness, convenience and uniformity in writing, as well as durability, which are special features of this article, are more to be considered than shaded lines, which are all they lose by the absence of the old pen.  The progress made by the MacKinnon Pen Company in the introduction of this writing instrument is unprecedented, and the indications are that, before many years, it will occupy the same relation to the split nibbed pen that the steel or gold pen occupies to the quill.”


        [And lastly, here’s a self-advertizing article for Francis C. Brown’s “Fountain Ink”, and “Caw’s Ink”, and the new Caw’s ink bottle and filler for fountain pens.]

Am. Stat., Nov 18, 1880, pp.58-59

        “Of course, a peculiarly good ink is necessary for writing with the fluid pencil.  The term fluid pencil, applied to stylographic pens, exactly expresses the idea of the useful instrument and the nature of the medium required for giving expression to the forms traced by the pen.  It follows then that a writing fluid designed for this use must be the most acceptable to use.  The “Fountain” ink, so called, has been perfected for this purpose–especially with the MacKinnon pens.  Ink intended to be used in these pens ought to flow freely, be pure and free from sediment, and be so prepared that, if the point-covers or caps of the pen be left off, the action of the air on the ink will not cause it to dry and refuse to flow when next the pen is used.  The fountain inks are said to be perfect in all of these particulars.  They will write a brilliant color at first, flow freely, will not fade or mold, and a pen may be left without point-cover for weeks, and yet remain ready for instant use–flowing perfectly free when wanted.  They are put up in glass bottles of elegant design, as shown in the illustration, with neat label, and the arrangement of the stopper used in two sizes is very convenient.  The No. 1 size, holding about an ounce, has a hollow cork with a wooden plug, which can be taken out; and the regular filler that accompanies almost every fountain pen may be inserted in the hole thus left.  The wooden plug serves as a finger hold for the stopper when the inks are used with steel pens, so that this size is quite popular for general use.  No. 2 is twice the size of No. 1, and has a new device for filling the pens, which keeps the bottles always corked and free from dust, even while open and ready for use.  The arrangement consists of a rubber bulb, which, when pressed, forces up just ink enough to fill one pen.  The Fountain ink is manufactured by the Fountain Ink Company, manufacturer of Caw’s black fluid Inks, 200 Broadway, N. Y.”

[Posted on Sept 4, 2015.]
        Here are a few more ads and an article in the stylographic war of 1880.  The first is a textual ad on
Feb 19, 1880, p.16 from the Readers And Writers Economy Co., the shills for the Cross Co.  The second is another shorter textual ad on Apr 29, 1880, p.16 for the Cross stylo.  Both of the ads desperately try to put across the notion that they came first, not the other way round.  Next is an ad-article on Dec 2, 1880, p.8 and an ad on July 14, 1881, p.51 for an “Improved MacKinnon Pen”, one that’s “made to close in a very compact manner”, in other words, it was a precursor to the “longshort” pens.  It’s also the first stylo to look like it has a regular fountain pen cap and barrel.  Its design looks like a precursor to the Frank Holland pen, and the first Waterman’s “Ideal” pens, and the Thomas De La Rue “Anti-Stylograph”, all of which came after it.  And almost two years later, on Sept 21, 1882, p.460, Cross finally stole that idea as well, but then, in his defense, all the pen companies had to imitate one another in order to compete, but still, MacKinnon was first.


[Posted on Mar 6, 2012.]
        I always wondered why the MacKinnon company, “the father of all its rivals”, went back briefly to using a spring in its stylos.  Well, that question is answered by these exchanges.  They felt entitled to use the spring because Duncan MacKinnon worked together with Richard Cross in the experiments on and in the development of such a spring.  His mistake was to trust Cross to place his name on the patent as a co-patentee.

        There are some other real eye-openers there as well.

        –Although Richard Cross claimed to have made over 20 different fountain pens over a period of 30 years, it cannot be shown that Cross made a single fountain pen before 1880 that was even partially successful, and . . .

        –Cross never obtained a fountain-pen patent that he had made useful in fountain pens before 1880, the year of the writing of these criticisms, but I would say the 1890s, or even the 1930s.

        –Cross admitted in sworn testimony that the spring needle was a joint-invention with MacKinnon.
  As Mark Twain wrote in a letter to Helen Keller on Mar 17, 1903, “He added his little mite–that is all he did”.
        –Hence Cross’s spring patent could honestly be of no value to him unless he sold it to the MacKinnon Co.

        –Instead, although Cross admitted that he knew MacKinnon’s patents covered his pen, he also admitted he was going to keep making it till stopped by the law.  That makes Cross a patent troll.  He found patents to improve upon, and then he imitated and co-opted them.
        –The early history of Livermore and his relationship to both the Cross and MacKinnon companies is all laid out there.

        As stated in the above exchange, MacKinnon’s health failed, and he sold his company to Alexander M. Sutherland and Francis C. Brown in 1878.  By the time of this war, he was no longer involved with the company.  All these dealings sound more like the doings of F. C. Brown.

        By the middle of 1881, Cross took Livermore to court and lost.  Cross’s iridium-tipped needle and spring-loaded needle patents were especially brought under sever challenge and ruled as invalid.  And then ironically, Cross proceeded to take MacKinnon to court and won in 1882 because he didn’t place MacKinnon’s name on the patent.  And it was all about that silly spring that MacKinnon himself had helped to develop, and which was doomed to fail any way in the acidic ink of the day.  MacKinnon passed away a few weeks later on Mar 18, 1882.  Late in 1881 and early 1882, the MacKinnon and Cross stylo ads dwindled down to almost nothing.  Livermore was the only one of the three who kept up his advertizing campaign.  It’s not so curious to see this dwindling, since it coincided perfectly with the appearance of more and more ads for nibbed fountain pens.  One of these pens is especially interesting, the one by Thomas De La Rue & Co., Oct 27, 1881, p.666, because it’s called the “Anti-stylograph”, which almost sounds like the Anti-Christ, and is advertized as “Carrying a Pen with Ordinary Nibs”.

        The MacKinnon pen received the 1879 “Medal of Superiority” for stylographic fountain pens awarded by the American Institute, in New York, so I guess one might say that the war was ultimately won by the MacKinnon pen.  The medal starts appearing in the MacKinnon ad in the Mar 11, 1880 issue, p.5, and it’s the same medal that appears in the December 1880 ad.  MacKinnon’s pen, apparently, was the superior fountain pen, well, at least until the Waterman’s “Ideal” pen and other fountain pens started coming along.

[David Nishimura wrote on Mar 6, 2012.]
        Maybe I read too quickly, but is there anything from the Cross side of the exchanges in the way of an admission that MacKinnon contributed to the spring-loaded, adjustable needle’s development?  Or is this asserted solely by the MacKinnon side?

[And I replied on Mar 6, 2012.]
       Yes, you read correctly, David.  There isn’t any admission in Cross’s side of the exchanges, but there also isn’t anything in the way of a denial of the fact that MacKinnon contributed to the development of the spring-loaded needle
.  It is said to be “sworn testimony”, so it’s either from the court case with MacKinnon that Cross won, or the court case with Livermore that Cross lost.  We really need to see the transcripts of those two court cases.  There are probably a lot more gems in there!


[Posted on May 16, 2012.]
        Oh, irony of ironies!  In the ultimate vindication of Duncan MacKinnon and his “MacKinnon Stylograph” with its gravity-operated needle, Greenough Adams & Cushing, the makers of the Cross stylographs with their spring-operated needles, actually came out with what they called a “Gravity Stylo”!  See their ad in Am. Stat.,
Aug 20, 1896, p.295.  Unbelievable!  If it weren’t true, we’d have to make it up and believe it.  They silently and unknowingly conceded victory to MacKinnon and created their own version of his stylo with a gravity-operated needle.
  Vindication is always sweet, but this one is especially sweet.
        And vanity of vanities!  They actually had the gall to say these things about Cross in an article in Am. Stat., Sept 3, 1896, pp.392-3.  Also see the article titled “New Gravity Pen” in a later issue of Geyer’s Stationer, Jan 3, 1901, p.6.  “This latest improvement is the result of long study by A. T. Cross”, and “A principle unique in this class of writing instruments is introduced, and valves, springs, air tubes, and adjusting devices are discarded”.  Yeah, sure, after a long study of the MacKinnon stylo, Cross discarded all the ideas in his earlier stylographic efforts, and finally ripped off MacKinnon’s “unique” idea as well.  Why do I say “as well”?  Because he ripped off everyone else as well, and in all of his pens, whether fountain or stylographic.  He would come out with his own versions of others’ patents, versions that were just different enough to pass the scrutiny of the Patent Office, but all of them were clearly based on the ideas of others.  He even had an overfeed pen, until Wirt put a stop to it.  Then he went on to rip off Waterman’s underfeed pen.  He was a totally spineless person who didn’t have an original bone in his body.

        To prove the point, the article repeats itself by saying, “The mechanism of this pen is very simple, springs and complicated parts being discarded, so that there are no parts to get out of order”.  “Complicated”?  They’re describing his earlier patents!  They admit that his earlier stylos were not successful.  That’s why there are so few of them that survive.  They had to be constantly brought back to the shop to be repaired, and as was said in a post above, it cost almost as much to repair one as to buy a new one, so they were thrown away.  Q.E.D!!!!

        Oh, how I love a good paper trail.

David Nishimura wrote on May 17, 2012.]
        “Imitation is the sincerest form of theft.”

And I replied on May 17, 2012.]
        LOL!  Right on.  I truly did laugh out loud.  We’re definitely on the same page there.
        [Actually, quotation is the sincerest form of theft.  Without citation and shared authorship of the spring, Cross’s “tiny mite”, his plagiarism is simple, outright theft.]

[David Nishimura wrote on June 9, 2012.]
        Although Livermore was a tangential player in the conflict discussed above, I’ve taken an interest in his operations after belatedly realizing that his Providence factory stood very close to my home.  That building was still standing up until at least the 1950s.  What I’ve found so far, I’ve
posted here.  I’ve also posted a picture of the 1879 “Medal of Excellence” awarded to Livermore by the American Institute.  Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing it specifically mentioned in Livermore ads, though most every other penmaker prominently trumpeted any medals won.

And I replied on June 10, 2012.]
        Thanks for the link to the article “Livermore in Providence” on your blog, David.  It was also nice to see the picture of the 1879 Medal of Excellence from the American Institute.  And here’s the reason we haven’t seen it specifically mentioned in the Livermore ads.  It’s almost the same medal that MacKinnon received, except his was the gold medal, and it was inscribed “Medal of Superiority” instead of “Medal of Excellence”.  MacKinnon started featuring his medal in ads in Am. Stat. on Mar 11, 1880, p.5, and continued using it in his ads throughout 1880 and into 1881.  It’s pictured in the December 1880 ad.  Livermore received his patents in July 1879 and March 1880, and didn’t start advertizing in Am. Stat. until an article on May 20, 1880, p.6, and an ad on p.9.  Livermore’s and MacKinnon’s ads appeared on the same page, one above the other, starting on July 8, 1880, p.3, and throughout the rest of July and August.  On Sept 2, 1880, p.18, and thereafter MacKinnon’s ads appeared on the same page as an ad for Caw’s ink, and they featured the ad line, “The only pen in the world with a complete circle of solid iridium around the point”.  Not even one Livermore ad in Am. Stat. featured his medal for these reasons.  Livermore probably didn’t want to advertise his bronze medal on the same page as and in comparison with MacKinnon’s gold medal.  Since Livermore’s pen had a softer tip of platinum alloy, he also didn’t want to draw attention to being third best.  So, I wonder who got the silver medal.


[Posted on July 5, 2012.]
        [And here’s the coda to the stylographic war in The American Stationer in 1880.  It’s the outcome of the court case in 1882 as reported by both sides, again in their own words.]

Am. Stat., Mar 16, 1882, p.374


        “In the suit of the MacKinnon Pen Company against A. T. Cross, the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York this week decided in favor of the defendant, Cross.  This suit has been pending for about three years, and decides a very important question in the manufacture of stylographic pens.
        [This is full of inaccuracies, but it will be corrected in the next few pieces.  But also on the same page and in the same column appears this little curio.

        “Ward & Gay, 178 Devonshire Street, Boston, [just a few doors up from the Cross Pen Co.] are offering manifold books, scrap books, rubber bands, &c., bought at the sale of the stock of the late Readers and Writers’ Economy Company at low prices.  See advertisement [on p.383].”

Am. Stat., Mar 16, 1882, p.383

WARD & GAY Advert.

        “Recently purchased at a great sacrifice of the late READERS AND WRITERS’ CO. of Boston, are offered by us at far less than Manufacturers’ Prices. Some of the most desirable styles still unsold.”

        [Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but this was the company that took the role of prosecuting the MacKinnon Pen Co. so vigorously within the pages of Am. Stat.  I don’t know whether it’s related, but apparently they went out of business.]

Am. Stat., Mar 30, 1882, p.439


        “The statement made last week that A. T. Cross had secured a judgment in his favor in the United States Circuit Court in an action brought against him by the MacKinnon Pen Company was incorrect, the MacKinnon Pen Company not being interested, as is alleged, in the suit referred to.  The facts, briefly stated, are these: Mr. Cross brought an action against Duncan MacKinnon and others for an infringement of his patent for an improvement in fountain pens, the principle distinctive feature of which is a spring working between the vibrating writing pin and the air tube, to project the pin and restrain the flow of ink, when the pen is not in use, and yield to the pressure of the point of the pen and make room for the flow of ink when the pen is in use.  The MacKinnon Pen Company, it is stated, is not connected with Duncan MacKinnon or any of the defendants to this suit, and was not and is not a party to the action either as plaintiff or defendant.  Upon this showing, it will be seen that the claims of the MacKinnon Pen Company are not affected by the adjudication above referred to.”

Am. Stat., Apr 6, 1882, p.475


“To the Editor of The Stationer:

        “The statement made in The American Stationer under date of March 30, 1882, that the MacKinnon Pen Company was not interested in the decision of the case of A. T. Cross v. Duncan MacKinnon & Co., is incorrect.  D. MacKinnon & Co. were the manufacturers of the MacKinnon pen and the holders of the MacKinnon patents when Mr. Cross’s suit was brought.

        “D. MacKinnon & Co. sold out to the parties composing the MacKinnon Pen Company.  The suit was defended by the MacKinnon Pen Company and its attorneys; repeated efforts were made by its officers to compromise or settle the case.  The decision affects the MacKinnon Pen Company so far that it prevents it and every one else, except the Cross Pen Company, from making or selling a stylographic pen with air tube, spring and needle combined.  This includes the MacKinnon Pen Company’s so called American stylographic pen and all the two-part stylographic pens in the market.  If the MacKinnon Pen Company intends to seriously dispute this fact, will it publish over its signature a statement of the number of American stylographic pens it has made during its existence, or a statement that it has sold a single pen of this kind since the decision in Cross v. MacKinnon was rendered?

        “The Cross Pen Company.”

Am. Stat., Apr 13, 1882, p.508


“New York, April 12, 1882.

“To the Editor of the Stationer:

        “Referring to a statement of the Cross Pen Company in your issue of April 6, disputing an item in your news columns March 30, you are authorized to repeat those allegations.  No Judgment has been recovered by Mr. Cross against the MacKinnon Pen Company, nor against any one whose interests that company represents as successors or otherwise.  You are further authorized to say that although the MacKinnon Pen Company does not propose to publish details of its business, it is selling stylographic pens, and has been doing so since it commenced.

        “MacKinnon Pen Co.”

New York Times, Mar 26, 1884


        “The MacKinnon Pen Company, manufacturers of fountain and stylographic pens, late of No. 192 Broadway, has been placed in the hands of William H. Ricketts, as Receiver, on the application of S. A. Whitney, a judgement creditor for $2,493.  The company had virtually ceased to do business, its trade having gradually dwindled down for some time past.  The annual statement filed Jan. 17 showed liabilities amounting to $34,000.  The company was incorporated Jan. 12, 1880, with a capital stock of $48,000, and was reorganized in September, 1881, at which time George W. Carleton became president.”
       [So back and forth it went, even after the court case was over.  The MacKinnon Pen Co. was giving back the Cross Pen Co. some of its own medicine, that is, “to continue making it till stopped by the law”.  But the law suit was basically between A. T. Cross and Duncan MacKinnon, not their respective companies, and by that time Duncan MacKinnon had nothing to do with the MacKinnon Pen Co., which had passed to new ownership, so as they said, they were “not an interested party” in the case.  The case was decided on Mar 8, 1882, and MacKinnon passed away on Mar 18, 1882.  The death certificate stated that he died of “chronic pneumonia”, but it was probably caused more by stress and worry and a broken heart.  He probably caught his chronic pneumonia 6 years before in Providence, R. I., while dealing with Cross, and he never got over it!] 


[Posted on July 16, 2013.]
        And lastly, there’s a serendipitous and amusing typo, or mistake in the Canadian magazine, Bookseller & Stationer.  The magazine is really like a Canadian version of Am. Stat., so much so that I would like to call it Can. Stat., but instead I call it Book. & Stat. In an ad in April 1885, on page 145, the name of the pen was unintentionally, but also ironically and quite appropriately, misspelled as
“Crass”.  And also, theres another “happy accident”, thee definition of serendipity.  Concerning A. T. Cross’s Canadian patent no. 17,448 for a stylograph, issued on Aug 10, 1883, the patentee was listed in the index of the Canadian Patent Office Record, Sept 1883, page 348, as 
“A. F. Crass”.  One mistake is an accident, but two is a “very happy accident”!  There are also those above two OCR errors from Am. Stat., two more happy accidents.

George Kovalenko.