August 14, 2014

Wirt v. Wirt himself

, his own worst enemy, claiming capillarity all for himself and suing everyone else.

A later ad from Am. Stat., Mar 25, 1911, p.4, with lots of Wirt pens in it, and not a single overfeed among them.  Also not a single so-called “nib vent hole” since they proved with their overfeed that a vent hole was unnecessary.  Even though the overfeed was the foundation of the company’s early business, it later played no part in its “modern business structure”.

[This was posted on L&P on June 1, 2012.]
        I called this “The Wirt Fountain Pen War of 1895” on L&P, the third such fountain pen war, the first being the stylographic war of 1880, and the second being the Waterman v. Shipman war in the late 1880’s.  There was also another fountain pen war in the 1890s, the fourth war of Waterman v. Waterman, and like that case, the Wirt war was fought in the law courts rather than in the columns of
The American Stationer, but luckily it was all reported there.  [This time I’m going to let you all look up most of the references to the issues of the magazine yourselves at the above link.  They’re easy to find in Hathi or Google, but it’s a lot of hard work to create these links in Blogger.]  This war is all about the various Wirt law suits over the infringement of his 1885 overfeed patent.  It didn’t occur exclusively in 1895, but it did start up with a vengeance in that year, and it all culminated in 1898 with the end of his last court case.
        It was also a war, not just between two opponents, but between a series of opponents.  No sooner had Wirt patented his overfeed than there were many copycats stealing his invention.  And no sooner had they started infringing upon his patent than he started taking those offenders to court.  One of the first infringers of Wirt’s overfeed design was, yes, you guessed it, A. T. Cross with his “Peerless”, but then soon after Cross went on to copy Waterman’s underfeed.  James C. Aikin seemed to understand it well when he stated in Am. Stat., June 27, 1895, p.1147, that he had a desk drawer full of pens that he had examined in an investigation of the merits of the patents controlled by Wirt, and that “Every fountain pen made before Wirt’s was different and ill shaped, and now every pen on the market [except for the Waterman’s] is an almost exact copy of the Wirt”.  On May 16, 1895, p.883, the magazine reported on the Mabie, Todd & Bard settlement, and on June 13, 1895, p.1056, it reported that two more compromises were made with Fairchild and Aikin Lambert, and a third one was being arranged.  On June 20, 1895, p.1100, the number of settlements was said to be up to seven, on Sept 19, 1895, p.490, the subsequent settlements were said to be “numerous”, and on Sept 26, 1895, p.605, it said, “So far as reported, thirteen fountain pen manufacturers and jobbers have reached an understanding with Mr. Wirt”.  I guess that makes Wirt another type of patent troll.  Here’s a partial list I put together of the possible copycats and infringers of the Wirt overfeed that might have been in Aikin’s drawer full of pens.

Aikin Lambert, American Fountain Pen Co., American News Co. retailed the “Ready Writer”, “Black Diamond” by H. M. Smith, “Crown” by Crown, “Dashaway” by Caw’s, Davidson Rubber Co., Franklin, W. S. Hicks, Hoagland & Co., John Holland, Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro., Laughlin, Parker, “Pearl” by E. Faber, “Peerless” by Greenough, Adams, & Foster, Queen & Co., Rapid Writer, “Ready Writer” by Lapham & Co., “Rival” by Lapham & Bogart, “Rival” by Lapham & Co., Rowley, Shattuck, Steadman, “Swan” by Mabie Todd & Bard, “Tip Top” by Edward Todd, Tower retailed Caw’s “Dashaway”, “Unique” by Fairchild, “Victor” by Boston Pen Co., “Victory”, The Stanley”, and True Flowby Piaget & Co., “Ward” by Samuel Ward, A. A. Waterman made by Davidson Rubber Co., N. C. Whittaker & Co., “Yankee” by O. E. Weidlic
        There was a court case in 1887-88, “Wirt v. Lapham & Bogart” (thanks again, David), in which Wirt was prosecuting the “Rival” fountain pen.  When asked for his occupation, he listed two of them, first, as attorney, then as penmaker and seller, second, in that order.  In 1888, he testified that he had been making pens for only 3 years, since 1885, but that he “began preparation for making and selling them in the summer of 1884”.  He also said that he had been “experimenting” with fountain pens since “1880 or 1881”.  That was only 8 years earlier, and already the memory was getting foggy.  He said that his time in this early period had been “occupied more or less with fountain pens”, but that lately “all” his time was so occupied, and then added, “you might say”.  A series of patents for pens with overfeeds similar to Wirt’s overfeed, including the Marvin C. Stone patent, are presented as evidence against Wirt.  Later on, Wirt purchased the rights to the Stone patent and used it as evidence in his court cases, but in the 1888 case he argues against the Stone patent.  He says that the upper feeding plate “may not be called a feed any more than it may be called a reservoir”, and that it “differs from the feeding apparatus in my pen”.  This case taught him the worth of the Stone patent, and its similarity to his pen, and probably persuaded him to purchase the rights to the patent so that he could use it to his own purposes in future cases.  He even goes so far as to state that he does not claim broadly the exclusive right to the use of an upper feed.  “I claim no conflict with my device in providing an upper feed”, he says.  In fact, this case is not about the similarity of the Wirt and the Lapham & Bogart overfeeds, but about the similarity of the extensions of their overfeeds projecting into the ink reservoir.  He admits that if an upper feed does not extend beyond the section into the barrel, he would not consider it an infringement of his patent.  When asked whether he claims to be the first inventor of the overfeed, he answers simply, “No, sir”.  L. E. Waterman was called as a witness for Wirt, and was asked whether he made any agreements of any kind with Mr. Wirt”, “any arrangements with him of any kind relative to business or anything else”.  Waterman sidestepped this implication and denied the charge of collusion by answering that, “Mr. Wirt and I have had a great deal of talk at the divers times he has been in New York about the expediency of prosecuting our respective patents and rights, [and] as to what would be the individual expediency [for] each person, not with the idea of uniting or contracting together”.
        This was a strange series of court cases.  I thought they were about Wirt’s overfeed, and ostensibly they were, but they were about something more.  They were actually about Wirt’s claim to have invented capillary action.  It was also about the attempt to create a monopoly, and Waterman colluded with Wirt in this attempt.  There were other cases in the 1880s and 90s, but the suit against Mabie, Todd & Bard was actually started on Apr 25, 1891, and a curious statement was made in Am. Stat. around the same time.  The penmaker Franklin S. Cooley was asked by a stationer for his ideas on the subject of fountain pens, and his response was published in the issue of Apr 16, 1891, pp.802, 804.  Before he gets back to his subject, he makes an uncharacteristic, off-topic remark.  “Some day when you want to know about the man who first invented capillary action and other very interesting matters, to some of us, I will be glad to enlarge on this epistle.”  I think he is being sarcastic because I think he knows that capillary action is not something that can be invented and patented.  I think he is implying that capillary action is a scientific principle and a law of nature, and it is not something that can be claimed by any one individual.  That would be like trying to patent gravity!  Wirt was almost as silly as Waterman.  For the same reason that you cannot claim a basic geometric figure like a circle, you also cannot claim a scientific principle like capillarity!  But when L. E. Waterman was called as a witness for Wirt in the 1887-88 case, even he stated that all fountain pens feed by capillary attraction.  “The ink won’t get to the paper without capillary attraction”, he said.  Now, I don’t know Cooley’s intent for a fact, and perhaps he is claiming capillarity for himself, but what I really think he is saying, in a sly, snide kind of way, is that he thinks all of Wirt’s claims about capillarity are bogus.  But he doesn’t dare commit it to paper, yet, probably for fear of being sued by the very litigious Wirt.
        It all started with the Wirt v. Bard suit that was reported on in the May 16, 1895, p. 883, issue of the magazine, but it was otherwise known as the Mabie, Todd & Bard settlement. Bard was the only member of the company residing in New York, the district in which the case was being heard, so he was technically the only one named in the bill of complaint.  This action, and the various earlier actions, centered upon two patents owned by Wirt, Marvin C. Stone’s patent number 260,134, and Wirt’s patent number 311,554.  There were a few statements in the specifications of these patents that Wirt was to exploit in all his cases.  The former patent makes such statements as, “I make use of a body or reservoir wherein the ink is sustained mainly by atmospheric pressure, and feed the ink from said reservoir to the point of the pen or writing-instrument by the capillary action secured through the presence of one or more feeding surfaces adjacent to the pen”, and “The ink will be fed thence downward to the paper by the capillary action existing between the points or nibs of the pen, as usual”.  And the latter patent states, “This invention relates to fountain pens; and it has for its object to provide a device of this character in which the ink will flow freely and steadily by capillary attraction”, and “The shaft [feed] resting flat against the body of the pen, and its end lying over the nibs thereof, so as to draw the ink by capillary attraction”.

        Wirt was a lawyer, and he understood that in a law court there is no right or wrong, but only what you can get away with.  It’s whatever you can persuade a judge or a jury to believe.  His attorneys in these cases claimed on his behalf that these patents gave him the right to a fountain pen that worked by capillary attraction.  He actually claimed to have invented capillary attraction in fountain pens!  How’s that for a lawyer’s chutzpah?  It almost rivals that of A. T. Cross.  But some people knew better.  The article on May 16, 1895, p.883, states, “The defendants claimed that the patents were void on the ground that they were nothing new and had been in common use both prior and subsequent to their dates of issue.  The idea of the defense seems to have been that all pens previously worked by capillary attraction”.  Expert testimony was given by L. E. Waterman, pro Wirt, and by William W. Stewart, con.  In the end, Wirt and Mabie, Todd & Bard settled out of court, and as Stewart was quick to point out in a letter to the editor on June 6, 1895, p.1017, “Your article regarding the settlement between Mabie, Todd & Bard and Paul E. Wirt is misleading, as any settlement of a lawsuit out of court has no judicial effect; consequently it is not worth noticing by outsiders”.

        But in spite of that, this major settlement was reported on Sept 19, 1895, p.490, as having “caused consternation throughout the fountain pen trade of this country”, and on Sept 26, 1895, p.604, as having “fallen among the various manufacturers ‘like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky’”. Mabie, Todd & Bard was one of the richest pen companies, was long-established in business, both at home and abroad, and was a manufacturer with patents and experts of its own.  “The trade pinned their faith upon the result of the suit”, p.604.  When they caved in, all the other manufacturers followed.  Some even welcomed it. Before the settlement, the fountain pen trade was described this way.  “During the progress of the suit the whole fountain pen field was open to everybody. Pens were sold bravely and unstintedly.  The market was flooded.  Cheap pens and pens of a nondescript quality were manufactured and sold by thousands.  Prices, comparatively, seemed to be ruinously and ridiculously low, for pens could be bought for 25 cents.  Competition was keen and profits were much reduced.  Some manufacturers were more cautious than others.  Some manufactured less and others stopped altogether”, p.604.  “Others said on the other hand that no more disastrous thing could happen to the trade than to have the Wirt patents upset, because that would practically throw open the door to anybody and everybody, with the result that more cheap pens would be made, prices would be lower, competition sharper, profits less, and the trade more demoralized than ever”, p.605.  It was argued by still others that “the Wirt patents hadn’t much longer to live”, and that a better result could be attained “by waiting for the expiration of the Wirt and Stone patents”, p.605.

        Instead, what resulted was a localized monopoly, at least for a little while.  In the May 16, 1895, issue, p. 883, “A gentleman well posted in the pen business says that Messrs. Wirt and Waterman work together; that they aim to monopolize the fountain pen trade, and that he ‘guesses’ that they will practically do so, for the former controls the upper and the latter controls the lower feed in fountain pens”.  In the June 27, 1895, issue, p.1147, Edward Todd is quoted as saying, “Justice Hoyt H. Wheeler says that the Wirt patents cover all capillary feed fountain pens, and that the patentee is entitled to a full monopoly”.  An article in the Atlanta Commercial on Sept 18, 1895 that was quoted in Am. Stat., Sept 26, 1895, p.550, said, “Recent patent decisions render all but two fountain pens unsalable, of which the Waterman is easily the best”.

        Of all the makers of overfeed pens, American News Co. was the sole holdout against Wirt’s demands, and they challenged Wirt to take them to court.  The secretary of the company, Charles K. Willmer, said in an interview on Sept 19, 1895, p.490, that there was little money in the fountain pen business, that it played a very small part in their business, and that rather than have any fuss over them they would throw them all out and have nothing to do with them at all.  “We have never signed an agreement with Mr. Wirt and never shall.  There is not enough money in the world to hire us to do so.  If we have been selling a pen which infringes upon Mr. Wirt’s we will stop selling it when Mr. Wirt secures an injunction restraining Mr. Lapham from manufacturing [the pen], but we shall not stop selling it simply upon Mr. Wirt’s saying so, any more than we would stop handling the Wirt pen if Mr. Lapham should ask us to stop doing so, simply because he said that it infringed his pen.  We shall not discriminate between rich and poor in this matter.  We are impartial.  We sell whatever pen there is a demand for.  Until he [asks for an injunction] we shall not bother ourselves about it. ‘Do not trouble trouble until trouble troubles you’, is our motto.”

        And that is exactly what Wirt does.  He starts a “legal battle” that “promises to be one of the fiercest in fountain pen history”, Jan 9, 1896, p.56.  The article stated that Stone assigned, or basically sold, his patent to a William Nichols on Nov 8, 1882, and that he in turn “sold all of his interest to the plaintiff”, Wirt, on June 13, 1888, which was quite late, and after the Lapham & Bogart case was argued.  Wirt had by then already been in litigation against quite a few infringers upon his own patent.  He bought this patent to bolster his own weaker, later patent, and eventually based his law suits solely upon the Stone patent, not his own patent.  This article also mentions the bill of complaint sworn by Wirt that mentions his previous injunctions in 1888 against Lapham & Bogart and against William S. Hicks.  It also mentions the opinion written by Judge Hoyt H. Wheeler in January 1891 where he went on record and upheld the validity of both of Wirt’s patents.  He wrote, to his discredit, “Stone invented and patented the capillary feed and Wirt the extension from the feed into the reservoir in fountain pens.  Neither invented mere improvements on these parts.  Each by his patent became entitled to a full monopoly of what he had so invented and patented”, p.56.  I think he misunderstood.  What he meant to say was, “He invented the overfeed”.  And capillary action is how all feeds work.  Capillarity was not what was invented, and what was being patented.  In their answer to these charges, the defendants denied that Stone was the true, original, and first inventor of the claims and improvements set forth in his patents.  The alleged discovery was long known prior to Stone’s patent. A. F. Warren’s patent number 16,299 from Dec 23, 1856 was cited as a precedent.  It was another early over-and-underfeed.  “In view of the state of the art existing prior to the dates of the alleged inventions by said Stone and Wirt, they did not amount to patentable inventions or discoveries, or require the exercise of inventive skill to produce them, but only mere, ordinary, mechanical skill and judgment of workmen familiar with the art”, p.56.

        At the next hearing reported on March 19, 1896, p.509, L. E. Waterman was again called as an expert witness testifying on behalf of Wirt, stating that the pens of the complainant and defendant both worked by “capillary attraction”.  At this hearing the complainant’s case was altered to be based on the Stone patent exclusively.  Wirt’s council asked the court to “amend the bill of complaint by striking out the allegations in reference to the Wirt patent”, p.56.

        And then what happened?  William W. Stewart sued the American News Co. as well for infringing upon his patents.  He filed two complaints against them, one for selling Lapham’s “Ready Writer”, which infringed his patent number 378,986, and the second one for also selling Paul E. Wirt’s overfeed pens, which infringed his patents numbered 237,454, 253,953, 351,518, and 378,987.  The two courts cases were reported on in the issues of Aug 20, 1896, p.295, and Nov 5, 1896, p.761.  In their answer to the suit, p.295, the defendants rolled out a long list of patents that anticipated the Stewart patent.  This time, p.761, Judge Henry E. Lacombe issued an injunction restraining the American News Co. from selling the Wirt pen.  “[The] suit [was] judicially decided in favor of Mr. Stewart and practically against Mr. Wirt”, p.761.  The magazine went on to call it “this triangular fight”, p.761, with everyone suing everyone.
    Now, here’s the funny part in all of this.  In the article on Nov 12, 1896, p.811, they reported that “Wirt offered to defend the American News Co. in that suit”, even though, “The American News Co. themselves have been sued by Mr. Wirt for infringement of his patents”, p.812!  In another letter to the editor on Dec 8, 1896, p.937, William W. Stewart wrote, “In the case of Wirt against Bard, I testified that the Stone patent was worthless.  Two experts corroborated my testimony.  The only well-fought case was the one before Judge Lacombe.  When Wirt asked for an injunction against Bard, Judge Lacombe’s answer was an emphatic No!  The decision in my favor is a continuation”.  After all, Stewart’s patent number 253,953 preceded both the Stone and Wirt patents, and reads in part, “I have invoked a physical principle.  That physical principle is capillary attraction”.  The case is further reported on in the issues of Jan 14, 1897, p.53, and Apr 1, 1897, p.521.  On May 6, 1897, p.717, the magazine reports that Judge H. E. Lacombe has handed down a decree in favor of the plaintiff in the case against the Lapham pen.  And here’s the best piece of all.  It’s a full-page ad by Stewart on May 6, 1897, p.733, with a message “To The Trade” crowing about having won the two court cases against Wirt.  “My rights under my various patents are now sustained by two decrees in my favor, the first against the structure called the Paul E. Wirt pen, and the second against the “Ever Ready” pen”, p.733.  There’s a lot more legal jargon there for those who like that kind of thing, a whole page of it in fine print.  I guess it all depends upon which judge you get.

        And then silence.  The volumes of Am. Stat. on Google Books run out just before 1898 when most of the remaining cases were finally decided.  That’s the large gap from 1898 to 1905 that I told you about before.  Stay tuned in case these missing volumes ever show up.  What we do know is that Wirt won the battles, but lost the war.  Wirt had a localized monopoly, at least for a little while.  He put most imitators out of the overfeed-pen business by forcing them to pay license fees, and he succeeded in turning everyone else away from the overfeed-pen idea with all his threats of litigation.  By the end of the 1890s and into the early 1900s, everyone had abandoned the overfeed idea and switched over to the underfeed pen.  After all the court cases were over, “every fountain pen on the market was an almost exact copy”, not of Wirt’s, but of Waterman’s pen.  Customers simply preferred the look of an exposed gold nib, and it also provided another surface upon which a pen company could advertize its name, or its logo without physical obstruction.  Eventually, even Wirt switched over to the underfeed with his patent no. 706,140.
          One of the interesting disclosures in the “Wirt v. American News Co.” lawsuit appeared in the response to Wirt’s complaint, or the defendant’s answer, which was reported on in the article in Am. Stat., Jan 9, 1896, p.56.  As well as having alleged that the improvements and discoveries in Marvin C. Stone’s patent no. 260,134 from 1882 were long-anticipated and preceded by Almon F. Warren’s patent no. 16,299 from Dec 23, 1856, the defendant also alleged that the improvements claimed in Stone’s patent were also known by Joseph U. Gerow as early as 1856.  Gerow later went on to run his own company that made gold nibs, and pen & pencil cases, but in November 1856 he had made “a full and working drawing of a fountain pen and a full and complete working model of the same”, and that he had “showed his drawing and working model to others in New York after the application”.  Aside from its relevance to the court case, this is all very intriguing because there is no patent record for such a pen.  Gerow went on to receive another patent in 1875 and a design in 1880 for pen & pencil cases, but there is no trace of this 1856 fountain pen.  Perhaps it never made it past the application stage because there was prior art, or perhaps it was patented under another’s name.  Perhaps Gerow worked at the time in the shop of Almon F. Warren, and the Gerow pen was in fact the Warren pen.  And perhaps someone to whom he showed his pen stole the idea and patented it.  I think the patent applications, both successful and unsuccessful, still survive somewhere in the records of the patent office in Arlington, Va., if someone were so-inclined and well-situated to undertake such a search.
        On June 28, 2012 David Nishimura posted an addendum to help fill in some of the gaps in 1898 and 1899 from the issues of The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review.  Here is
my list of the volumes, which are also available on Hathi Trust, and in David’s list from Google Books.  [Again, I’m going to let you all look up most of the references to the issues of the magazine yourselves at the above links.  They’re easy to find in Hathi or Google, but it’s a lot of hard work to create these links in Blogger.  Just ask David.]  An article on Feb 23, 1898, p. 18, reports that a recent decision in favor of Wirt against the American News Co. and sustaining the Stone patent, wherein the ink is drawn to the nibs of the pen by capillary attraction between feed plates and the nib, and the Warren patent.  The judge, to his shame, said the Stone patent “appears to be valid”.  In the issue of Mar 2, 1898, p. 37, we see the ad that W. W. Stewart placed in the Circular.  He issued an open challenge to the experts who testified for Wirt to make a pen according to the Stone patent that actually worked.  He doubted their claims about the Stone pen, and offered a $25.00 reward, if they could “make an operative pen”.  In the article on Dec 7, 1898, p. 15, we learn that Wirt obtained a perpetual injunction against the American News Co. and recovered judgment for the amount of profits on the pens already sold and the costs of the action.  Then on Dec 14, 1898, p. 22, W. W. Stewart’s Dec 11th letter titled “Some Early History Of Fountain Pens” is published.  He mentions his own Calligraphic fountain pen “of which thousands were sold before Wirt was known”.  He also says, “The theory of ink running down by capillary action was hammered into every mind, and a worthless patent was resurrected that had been a failure.  The Wirt pen was not made according to the preferred drawing, which would require a force pump or steam engine to force fluid to the pen”.  “The Stone patent says there must be a separate and distinct vent for air.  The Swan fountain pen teaches that capillary action is a ‘union of ink and air’, and there can be no separation.  We have studied this matter for years and…the Stone patent is inoperative, and consequently void”.  On Jan 4, 1899, p. 26, we learn that Wirt recently made settlement with American News Co. of the profits and damages awarded by the decree.  On Feb 22, 1899, p.18, we learn that after Wirt settled with the American News Co., other settlements were made with Hoagland & Co., Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro., O. E. Weidlich, the maker of the “Yankee” fountain pen, American Fountain Pen Co., N. C. Whittaker & Co., Greenough, Adams & Foster, Davidson Rubber Co., who made the pens sold by the A. A. Waterman Pen Co., and the Thorp & Martin Co., jobbers of the fountain pens of A. A. Waterman & Co., all of the parties acknowledging the validity of the Stone and Wirt patents.  On May 24, 1899, p.10, we find this desperate statement from Wirt.  “The fountain pen trade recently received from Paul E. Wirt, who controls the Stone patent on fountain pens, a communication relating to the status of the pen trade after this patent expires, June 27.  Mr. Wirt informs the trade that his rights as to the exclusiveness of this type of feed bar or shaft, will in nowise be weakened by the expiration of this patent, and the decision in the courts as heretofore rendered, if looked into carefully and intelligently, will prevent any controversy on the subject.  Mr. Wirt goes on to say that the impression that at the expiration of this patent anyone will be free to make or sell any kind of fountain pen is a great mistake, and he will endeavor to protect the trade and himself as fully after the release of the Stone patent as it is possible to do.”
        What an enormous, wrong-headed mess Wirt created with all his litigation.  The best parts of all of this are the W. W. Stewart and F. S. Cooley letters.  They were the only ones back then who saw through Wirt’s ruse and dared to say so at the time, basically saying “No” to stupid.  And Stewart was the only one who won a suit against Wirt.  I guess he got the right judge.  In his letter on Dec 14, 1898, p. 22, he says that he “will, in the near future, illustrate with a cut why the Stone patent is inoperative”, but I couldn’t find that illustration in the Circular in the next couple of months of issues.

        The funniest part was in the article on May 24, 1899, p.10, when Wirt tried to scare off all the other penmakers and tried to get them to believe that he still would have the exclusive rights he won in his various court cases after the expiration of the Stone patent a month later, on June 27th.  Well, he would have had to have sued them all over again and fought all his battles again, but this time without the benefit of the Stone patent.  He also stopped using his own patent to defend his case, so he had no patents to use in his self-justification.  In his last lawsuit, he removed his own patent from his argument because it probably didn’t help his case, so it probably wouldn’t have helped him in the future, either.  But by then no one cared about his overfeed anymore, and instead they all moved on to develop their own underfeeds.

        Did you notice a certain theme in all these fountain pen wars?  I got the title for these posts from this statement in Am. Stat., Aug 15, 1895, p.266, “Readers have not forgotten the recent fountain pen war”.  But it is also variously styled as a “fountain pen litigation”, and a “fountain pen imbroglio”, and a “fountain pen controversy”, and as “fountain pen gossip”.  And Wirt’s agents and lawyers are described on June 20, 1895, p.1100, as being “on the warpath”, again.

George Kovalenko.


[Addendum, Dec 17, 2014.]

“The Over and The Under Feeds” [originally posted on L&P on July 5, 2007.]
        And here’s a real reversal of methods from two of the top penmakers of the day, an overfeed from Waterman, patent no. 607,400, and an underfeed from Wirt, patent no. 651,735.  It’s almost as if it were done by mutual agreement.
        A “top feed” from Waterman’s is a technological step backward for him, and just goes to show how conservative they really were.  They were hedging their bets.  Meanwhile, Wirt stuck it out with the overfeed for a long time, but he finally relented.  Various versions of an underfeed are illustrated, one with a single ink channel and a separate “T-shaped air-duct”, but also an underfeed with one common air-and-ink channel, thus showing that he understood the true workings of a modern underfeed.  If the father of the overfeed switched over to the underfeed, you knew that the overfeed was no longer at the cutting edge of the technology, and that the underfeed was now the new state of the art.

August 07, 2014

Waterman’s v. Waterman

, the fountain pen war of 1897, and an already distant family is torn even further apart.

The front page of a 2-sided ad in Am. Stat., Nov 4, 1897, p.728a, pasted in between pages 728 and 729.

[This post is not about the difference between the earlier and later versions of the name of the
L. E. Waterman Co.  I like to differentiate between the earlier Waterman’s and later Waterman companies by spelling their names differently.  The later company was owned by the French BIC company, and they removed the apostrophe from the the name ‘Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen’.]

[These two parts were posted on L&P on Apr 20, 2012 and June 14, 2012.]
Part 1, Early A. A. Waterman History.
        Some of this may be common knowledge to pen historians and collectors, but some of it is new to me.  It was already known that A. A. Waterman’s first name was Arthur, and Michael Fultz had found out that the second “A” in his name stood for Allan, so his full name was Arthur Allan Waterman.  But did you know that
early on he published a magazine?  He established A. A. Waterman & Co. as a bookselling and publishing firm at 36 Bromfield St., Boston, Mass., and published the magazine Waterman’s Journal between July 1889 and 1890 before he sold the magazine to someone else.  I saw a few issues sell on Ebay over ten years ago, but since then quite a few references have shown up on Google, and Google Books.  Here’s a short reference in History of American Magazines: 1885-1905 in Google Books.  And if you do a Google search for “A A” and “Waterman’s Journal” you find a few more early references to the magazine.
        But here’s the best bit.  Did you know that he was a traveling sales representative for the L. E. Waterman Co. for about ten years, from around 1886 to 1897?  There’s a short summary of an interview with A. A. Waterman in The American Stationer from
May 31, 1894, p.1021.  At that time, he was still singing the praises of Waterman’s “Ideal” Fountain Pen.  Another short item about A. A. Waterman from the Am. Stat., Oct 4, 1894, p.610, shows he is still a sales rep for the L. E. Waterman Co.
        Between 1894 and 1897, A. A. Waterman continued with the L. E. Waterman Co. as a traveler working out of his Boston office.  His new additional territory was out in the West, and he also set up the various Waterman’s displays at expositions including the ones in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans.  In the article on
Feb 6, 1896, p.244, we learn that at the latter exposition, A. A. Waterman was assisted by Steven J. Meyerpeter, who recently established the Waterman’s office in New Orleans.  By 1896, A. A. Waterman was considered indispensable to the Waterman’s company.
        In the article on
Feb 13, 1896, p.288, F. D. Waterman is talking about his customers in the West, although he really seems to be talking about the salesmen who travel into the West.  But what he really appears to be doing is describing A. A. Waterman.  “There is a peculiarity about the people in the West.  They become not so much the customers of the [company] as of the traveler, and if he should [switch to another company], he would carry his trade with him.  It is the man, not the goods, which they seem to look at.”  He said he knew of an instance where a salesman took a similar position with another company and took every one of his customers with him to the new company and held them for years.  In the Apr 2, 1896, p.596, article, A. A. Waterman is described as “meeting with his usual success” out in the West.  “[He] is so closely identified with the pen and the company he represents that it is difficult to determine to which is due the success of this pen.  He is good at selling fountain pens.”
        But in 1897, things changed drastically.  A. A. Waterman left the L. E. Waterman Co. and turned his old company, A. A. Waterman & Co., into a pen company, A. A. Waterman Pen Co., at his same old address, 38 Bromfield St., and once also the old L. E. Waterman Co. regional office.  So he must have left the L. E. Waterman Co. sometime in early 1897, and the L. E. Waterman Co. lost its star traveling salesman.  Consequently, we learn on
June 3, 1897, p.872, that Frank D. Waterman had to go to Boston to move the office to 19 Bromfield St.  E. L. Gibson left Mabie, Todd & Bard to become a partner in A. A. Waterman Pen Co., and to run the New York office at 181 Broadway Ave.  A. A. Waterman even persuaded the clerk at the L. E. Waterman Co., Nellie J. Fuller, to leave and switch over to his new company, but she was already the clerk and personal secretary in his Boston office, any way.  Take a look at the articles on June 10, 1897, pp.912-14, and June 24, 1897, p.997.
        I always wondered why there was so much animosity between the L. E. Waterman Co. and the A. A. Waterman Pen Co.  Well, this is why.  L. E. and F. D. probably felt personally betrayed by this defection, and by this encroachment upon their territory and upon their name.  Maybe they felt that he blindsided them, and caught them completely by surprise.  It wasn’t just the similarity of the company names.  It was more personal than that.  They resented the fact that they had lost a salesman who was “favorably known to almost every dealer in the country”.  The way they saw it, they helped to create him, not the other way round.
        After a series of co-partnerships, A. A. was seemingly forced out of his own company by his then partners Frazer & Geyer.  And who was Steven J. Meyerpeter?  He also eventually left the Waterman’s company and helped to run a series of other pen companies, including Resevo, and Modern Pen Co., the later incarnations of A. A. Waterman Pen Co. after A. A. was forced out of the company, so the story goes.
        Roger Wooten asked on Nov 13, 2012, “What happened with A. A. that he decided to make his own pen?  The work situation at L. E. Waterman Co. must have been negative enough, probably matched with an opportunity with Gibson, to make him try his own hand at pen making.  Not just that, though, as we see he sticks it to L. E. by calling it A. A. Waterman, since he could have called it Gibson, or anything else to avoid a confrontation.  And A. A. doesn’t give up using Waterman, either, so it became a real point of principle with him.  L. E. died in 1901, so it wasn’t just the old man that hated A. A., and I do think they hated him.  Certainly L. E. was formidable, since other companies and people associated with A. A. actively hid from L. E. to make the Colonial pens”.  Well, one reason he called it A. A. Waterman & Co. and not Gibson, or anything else was that he provided all the patents, and the expertise, and probably most of the funding.  Although L. E. died in 1901, the new owners of both companies inherited all the animosities of their founders.

But the second side of the ad, Am. Stat., Nov 4, 1897, p.728b, is the more interesting one.

Part 2,  The Waterman War of 1897, the company versus the man.
        And what’s the outcome of the A. A. Waterman story?  Yeah, you guessed it.  All that animosity between L. E. Waterman and A. A. Waterman caused another fountain pen war. But why did A. A. leave the L. E. company in the first place?  Did he branch out on his own because he felt under-appreciated, and felt as if he stood no chance of advancement within the ranks of the nepotistic Waterman’s company?  Did he have his own inventions and ideas that he wanted to put into production?  Did they fail to appreciate him and give him credit for his suggestions for fountain pen improvements?  He was the prodigious and prodigal stepson, and that’s what caused the fourth great fountain pen war.
        Let’s just review a little.  In the
May 31, 1894, p.1021, issue of Am. Stat., A. A. Waterman says he has been with the L. E. Waterman Co. seven years or more, and on Oct 4, 1894, p.610, A. A. Waterman is said to make Boston his headquarters when not on the road, and is said to be “thoroughly conversant with the fountain pen business, and is favorably known in all of the leading cities of this country and Canada”.  On Jan 17, 1895, p.114, A. A. Waterman is quoted as saying that even though “some failed at first to appreciate its advantages, the new style ‘Ideal’ [fountain pen] holder is a success, and this holder is the leading make of the company”.  On June 13, 1895, p.1044, it says that those handling the new style Waterman’s fountain pens “do not have to be advised; they know the pens and they know Mr. A. A. Waterman”.  On Feb 13, 1896, p.288, F. D. Waterman seems to be describing A. A. Waterman when he says, “There is a peculiarity about the people in the West.  They become not so much the customers of the [company] as of the traveler, and if he should [switch to another company], he would carry his trade with him.  It is the man, not the goods, which they seem to look at”.  On Apr 2, 1896, p.596, A. A. Waterman is said to be “so closely identified with the pen and the company he represents that it is difficult to determine to which is due the success of this pen.  He is good at selling fountain pens”.  On Sept 3, 1896, p.362, L. E. Waterman, Jr., is said to be visiting A. A. Waterman in the Boston office of the company, and “While L. E. is in town, he will join with A. A., and arm in arm see old trade friends together”.  Unbelievable.  Unbelivable!  And this was still in late 1896.
        But then the next thing reported is on
June 3, 1897, p.872.  F. D. Waterman was in Boston with the new Boston office manager, Edward J. Kastner, attending to “the removal of the Boston branch to new offices at 19 Bromfield Street, located heretofore at 38 Bromfield Street”.  L. E. Waterman Co. had just lost its best salesman and its old business address in Boston.  On June 10, 1897, p.912-14, it reports that on June 1, Edward L. Gibson, “for some eleven years southern traveler for Mabie, Todd & Bard”, became a partner with A. A. and was in charge of the New York office, so A. A. stole a MT&B salesman as well.  It also says that it had long been in A. A.’s mind to “utilize his extensive knowledge of fountain-pen devices and his experiences in the trade”, p.912, and that, “He understands the fountain-pen business and is favorably known to almost every dealer in the country”, p.914.  On June 24, 1897, p.997, A. A. Waterman is called “for many years the chief salesman of the L. E. Waterman Company”, no less.  The first A. A. Waterman Pen Co. ad in Am. Stat. appeared on July 15, 1897, p.87, but that page is missing from the online copy of that volume in Google Books.  It gets worse later on, but don’t worry.  It’s probably the same ad as the one on July 22, 1897, p.127.  It doesn’t have an image of a pen in it, but the ads after the ad on Aug 5, 1897, p.207, all feature images of an A. A. Waterman “Standard” pen bordered by a fringe of sun rays, or flames, a motif used in much of the company’s early advertising.
        And then what happened?  Oh yeah, the fourth fountain pen war started.  An article titled “Waterman Versus Waterman” on
Sept 2, 1897, p.361-362, says that the L. E. Waterman Co. “has again shown its determination to protect its patent rights by beginning another suit”.  It goes on to say, “This latest fountain pen suit is likely to be as interesting, at least, as any which has hitherto attracted the attention of the trade”, and that the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. had “expected that the L. E. Waterman Company would, to use a slang expression, ‘jump on it’”.  Again in the Sept 2, 1897 issue, on p.406, the “A. A. Waterman—that is the Boston Waterman—of the A. A. Waterman Pen Company”, is reported, in retronymic fashion, as preparing for a trip to New York to deal with the suit for infringement, but he also says, “We are filling orders as fast as possible, and the orders are coming to hand as fast as we can handle them”.
        Then the reporting of the formal suit begins.  In an article on
Sept 16, 1897, p.457-459, the title “A Breezy Complaint Filed This Week” was a polite, but disapproving way of saying that it was a “long-winded” complaint.  It’s a report of the opening arguments in the L. E. Waterman Co.’s formal bill of complaint, and Am. Stat. seems to be taking sides with A. A.  One of the complaints, among many, is that the defendant’s nibs “are made in the closest possible imitation of [the plaintiff’s], the shape and the form being almost identical”, p.457.  L. E. Waterman Co. seems to be grasping at straws when it says that its gold pens “are distinguished particularly by having a circular opening at the head of the slit”.  For goodness sake, L. E. even complained about A. A.’s nibs, and the style of the nib imprints!  It gets even more petty.  “The complainant asserts that the defendant rented from under it its former place of business in Boston, i.e., 38 Bromfield Street, and defendant not only did this, but it also hired away from it the clerk [Nellie J. Fuller] whom it had employed there”, p.459.  And then L. E. asked the court for $10,000 in damages!  The Am. Stat. article ends by reporting that L. E. has also brought three other suits for infringement, another one against A. A., one against Frazer and Geyer who made the “Lincoln” fountain pen, and against a stationer who was selling the Parker fountain pen.
        These must have seemed to Am. Stat. like nuisance complaints by a rich company trying to corner the market by putting all its competitors out of business and trying to create a monopoly.  On
Sept 23, 1897, p.495, it reported that A. A. Waterman was in N. Y. “all of last week” to deal with the suits, but he left for home, and that “His business has shown a satisfactory growth so far”.  But then on Sept 30, 1897, p.528, a little gem of a report appears.  It starts by saying A. A. Waterman Pen Co. “reports a big business”, but then it relates two interesting stories.  The writer had looked over the “office appliances” at the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. offices and found two interesting A. A. Waterman originations.  The first is a “new stock case” that the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. “had made for its use”.  “The case is on the order of a cabinet, and has a dozen wide drawers, each drawer so fitted that every pen is separated one from the other and held in a certain position.”  This is the first reported use of a cabinet such a map case converted to holding pens, such as the type used by many pen collectors today.  One collector even referred to his storage case as a Tardis.  The second is a smaller variation upon this idea.  “This rare idea is introduced into the company’s mailing boxes, so that a dozen pens are firmly held in separate cloth-lined grooves, and cannot come in contact with each other.  When so mailed, the pens cannot become injured.”  When I participated in the Parker factory tour on May 29, 30, 1992, our splinter group was toured through the facility by the woman in charge of the Centennial Duofold assembly line.  She took a shine to us for some reason, maybe because we asked interesting questions, but in any case she gave us all sorts of gifts along the way.  We got Centennial Duofold lapel pins, injection-molded parts from ballpoints, hot off the machine, paper strips from the Jotter refill writing-test machine, and best of all, all the terry-cloth lined Parker shipping boxes that we could carry away.  The Centennial Duofold parts were made in England, and shipped in these boxes to be assembled in the US, and then the empty boxes were thrown away.  So this is another idea that survives until today, and A. A. Waterman was the first to do it, according to Am. Stat.  And here’s the best bit.  The last line in the article is, “Great head, Mr. Waterman!”  Someone seems to be taking sides, although that last bit of praise means something quite different these days.  I think they meant to say, “Great mind”.  ;~)
        On Sept 30, 1897, p.537, a short report is given of the defendant’s rebuttal of the charges.  “Several affidavits from members of the trade throughout the country” were offered as evidence.  These included affidavits from 15 stationers, including Scribner’s and American News Co., and penmakers such as David W. Beaumel, Dennis Parrington, James C. Aikin of Aikin-Lambert & Co., William H. Sembler of W. S. Hicks’s Sons, and Rhodes Lockwood of Davidson Rubber Co.  In the same issue, on Sept 30, 1897, p.554, the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. trademark is illustrated, and the heraldic devices utilized in the trademark are described and explained.  One of the infringement charges was that this trademark resembled an L. E. Waterman Co. show card, but there is no resemblance at all.
Oct 7, 1897, p.561-562, a longer, more-considered report is given of the defendant’s affidavits and the plaintiff’s brief.  First of all, the snide title of the article is “That Fountain Pen Suit”, but the article is full of great details from the court case.  Among other things, L. E. Waterman claimed to have used the names “Reliable”, “Old Reliable”, and “Standard”, and sought an injunction to restrain A. A. Waterman from using those names for his pens.  A. A. Waterman starts his affidavit with a short history of his involvement in the fountain pen trade.  He was a traveling salesman for L. E. Waterman Co. at different times between 1886 and 1892, and was continuously in its employ from May 1892 to February 1897, when he left the L. E. Waterman Co. and established his own company, A. A. Waterman Pen Co.  About May 1897, he began making his own pens, and on June 1, he became a co-partner with Edward L. Gibson.  He said that he had been since 1886 familiar with the business of the L. E. Waterman Company, together with the fountain pen trade”, and that in all that time L. E. Waterman Co. had never made, sold, or advertized pens named “Reliable”, “Old Reliable”, or “Standard”.  They always used the names “Ideal” and “Waterman’s Ideal”.  L. E. Waterman was just making stuff up.  The article on Sept 16, 1897, p.457, states that the L. E. Waterman Co.’s complaint clearly says that it used the word “Standard” only since February 1897, after A. A. Waterman had left the company, and it used the word only in the form of a pictorial, color show card, a part of the design of which is a globe on which is printed the slogan, “Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen, Standard of the World”.  It’s not a true model name, and it doesn’t resemble the A. A. Waterman trademark at all.  In fact, it could be charged that once L. E. Waterman Co. was aware of the use of the word by A. A. Waterman Pen Co., they started using the word to try to steal it away from them, and tried to establish priority and to pre-empt the use of it by A. A. Waterman, and so that they could later try to use it in a lawsuit against A. A. Waterman.  To the complaint that he was imitating the plaintiff’s nibs, he stated that they are similar in shape and design, but “both are in common use, [the aperture] having been adopted from the original dip pen of commerce, which has been in use many years”, and “that their pen apertures are wholly dissimilar”.  On A. A.’s pens, they are circular on the $1.25 pen, but cone-shaped on his more expensive pens, while L. E.’s pen apertures are either heart-shaped, or horse-shoe-shaped at the slit with a circular aperture above the slit.  He also goes into the design of the caps, and the placement of the holes.  “The vent holes in the plaintiff’s caps are in the side, while those of the defendant are in the end of the caps.”  By the way, and as an aside, you’ll notice that the hole in the nib is said to be “adopted from the dip pen”, and is called a “circular opening at the head of the slit”, and a “pen aperture”, but never a “vent hole”, or a “breathing hole”.  Only the holes in the cap actually do any breathing and are worthy of being called “vent holes”.  If the apertures in fountain pen nibs had been adopted from the common steel nib, then the aperture is not a breathing hole because the dip nib does not need to breathe.  But again, I digress.
        As for the charge of taking over the L. E. Waterman Co. address for fraudulent purposes, and to confuse people into thinking the defendant’s company is that of the plaintiff, he states that he leased the office at 38 Bromfield St. only “after the expiration of plaintiff’s lease”, p.562.  In fact, A. A. had already been using that address previously for his other business ventures, such as the publication of his magazine, and as his home base during his traveling salesmanship.  The landlord states in his affidavit that he terminated L. E. Waterman’s lease and offered the space to A. A. Waterman “because he had known him for many years, and was personally agreeable to him, and because he preferred him to a stranger”, p.562.  L. E. Waterman claimed that A. A. Waterman even persuaded Nellie J. Fuller, the clerk at the L. E. Waterman Co. office in Boston, to leave and switch over to his new company, again for the purpose of deceiving the public.  Well, the full truth is that she left “because her wages had been reduced one-third, so she terminated her employment with the plaintiff and offered her services to the defendant and was employed by it on account of her skill and experience in the fountain-pen business”, p.562.  Also, A. A. Waterman was her brother-in-law.  In spite of all this, the plaintiff claimed that it was “entitled to a most sweeping injunction, restraining each and all of these fraudulent acts”, basically that the “defendant corporation has adopted a name containing the name of a predecessor or rival in business”.
        The next issue of Am. Stat.,
Oct 14, 1897, p.601-602, continues the dissection of the lawsuit by taking up 5 points in A. A. Waterman’s case so that its readers “should therefore be able to form an unprejudiced and individual, though not judicial, opinion as to the merits of the present controversy”.  It’s a real shame, but this volume of Am. Stat. is really ragged, and the final page of the article, p.602, is missing in Google Books, and only the first three of these points are enumerated and fleshed out.  There is a detailed comparison of the ads of the two companies by the counsel for the defendant, and at one point in the brief he sums up by saying, “The allegation that some of the defendant’s advertisements are very close imitations of the plaintiff’s show card is simply ridiculous”.  In general, he states, “Moreover, certain of the allegations of the complaint are calculated to mislead the court”.  In dealing with the nibs, he says, “As a matter of law it will be seen later the plaintiff can acquire no exclusive right to use particular shapes of pens and holders, and as a matter of fact the gold pens used by both the plaintiff and the defendant are almost identical in shape with the ordinary dip pens of commerce, which have been in use for years, the only difference being that the pens are made smaller so as to fit the holders, and the holders used by both plaintiff and defendant are the ‘standards’ in common use”.  The counsel for the defendant refers to the plaintiff’s ads, circulars, catalogues, letter heads, business cards, and signs as “materials furnished by the plaintiff itself to refute its own contentions”.  And as for any similarity of their trademarks, “the trademark of the plaintiff is ‘Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen’ and nothing more”.  But that’s all, because p.602 is missing.
        The case was settled in 1898, but the next volume of Am. Stat. is missing as well, so we don’t get to read about the outcome.  But still, some other interesting things show up before the 1897 volume peters out.  On Oct 21, 1897, p.674, [not only is this whole volume scrambled, but for some reason this page appears in Google Books only, and not in Hathi Trust, so I can't link to it] we learn that L. E. Waterman Co. is also suing W. S. Hicks’ Sons because they manufactured the gold pens for the A. A. Waterman Pen Co.  The plaintiff’s counsel is quoted as saying, yet again, “The circular opening in the A. A. Waterman pen, made by W. S. Hicks’ Sons, is substantially the same form, and is a pretty close imitation of the circular opening in the L. E. Waterman Company’s pen, and is used by no one else”.  Really?  L. E. Waterman Co. seemed to be claiming that all circles looked alike!  And that they had the exclusive right to use a “circular opening”.  Now, how silly is that?!  Waterman was almost as silly as Wirt.  For the same reason that you cannot claim a scientific principle like capillarity, you also cannot claim a basic geometric figure like a circle!  On Nov 4, 1897, p.728, we learn that L. E. Waterman Co. is now suing the Boston stationer Thorp & Martin Co. for selling A. A. Waterman’s pens.  “The suit is one of a series already brought by the plaintiff company against those who are concerned in the sale or manufacture of the A. A. Waterman Pen Company’s pens or its parts”.  One of the complaints seemed to be that up until then they had the roost all to themselves, and that only “L. E. Waterman pens were generally known to the trade as Waterman Pens”, and that now they had to be differentiated from the other Waterman pens, retronymically.  A further complaint is that the defendant has had a man in their store window writing with their pens, and “that said man in said window would write verses to [rhyme] with the name ‘Waterman’; that furthermore, this man would also write the words ‘Over a million in use’; that this statement was false and misleading; that there are not over a million pens made by the said A. A. Waterman Pen Co.”.  L. E. Waterman Co. also commenced a suit against Davidson Rubber Co., makers of the holders for the A. A. Waterman pens.  There’s a vindictiveness in all of this, and it’s almost as if L. E. were using A. A.’s list of affidavits as a hit list for these nuisance lawsuits.
        Next is an ad for “A. A. Waterman’s Standard Fountain Pen” from the same issue,
Nov 4, 1897, p.728a.  The 2-sided, color-insert page is pasted into the magazine, and for that reason it is unpaginated, but it fits in between pages 728 and 729.  The first side repeats the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. trademark three times in red and black.  But the second side, Nov 4, 1897, p.728b, is the more interesting one.  First of all, it illustrates the “Standard” and “$1.25” pens, and the workings of the middle-joint eyedropper filler is shown in a cutaway illustration.  And second, the ad copy extolls the benefits of the middle joint, which it calls the “double joint” because of the double set of threads.  But third, and best of all, it reads in part, “Ideas as to the holder beveled at both ends to receive the cap, advocated by A. A. Waterman in 1891, were reluctantly adopted later by a manufacturer, one of whose skilled employees improved the first suggestion, but kept the old and faulty idea as to the ink joint [under the finger grasp]”.  This is astounding!  A. A. Waterman not only claims to have come up with the idea for the cone cap in 1891, and that the “old fogeys” at L. E. Waterman Co. “reluctantly” put the idea into practice only in 1894 with its new second style of holder, but also that they did so without giving him credit for the idea.  Perhaps they rewarded him by giving him a full-time job as a traveling salesman in 1892.  It’s okay, because in the next five years he learned the trade even better, and established a lot of good will with his future customers.  He also claims, either that he offered his middle-joint idea to L. E. Waterman Co., and they refused it, or he is simply rubbing their own ink-blotted fingers in their faces with the fact that they were still using the “old and faulty idea of an ink joint at the fingers.  As late as 1903, Waterman’s was still patenting ideas for ways to cover up “the old and faulty idea as to the [leaky] ink joint”, mentioned before in this post.  It’s also ironic that the man who came up with that Waterman’s patent to cover up the leaky ink joint is Edward J. Kastner, the man who L. E. Waterman appointed to cover the Boston office after A. A. Waterman left the company in the lurch in 1897, and then came up with the middle joint idea.

An L. E. Waterman’s advertizing brochure, ca.1906, pp. 1 and 9.  And now that we have done laughing at the old fogey, L. E. Waterman, let us proceed to discuss the merits of the A. A. Waterman fountain pen.
        And lastly, on Nov 4, 1897, p.730, there is a short mention of A. A. Waterman.  “He reports that business generally is good wherever he has traveled, and that in respect to the business of his own firm that it is several thousand pens behind in filling orders”.  And then silence, because the next 16 volumes of Am. Stat. are missing.  But until someone finds the missing pages and missing volumes, or until someone finds the court cases in LexisNexis, there is a tantalizing clue in the issue of Mar 19, 1910, p.8.  This time the court case being reported is Chapman v. Waterman Co.  Isaac E. Chapman and William I. Chapman were the acting owners of A. A. Waterman & Co., and they were seeking restraining orders to stop L. E. Waterman Co. from interfering with their retailers and bringing suits against them for selling their pens.  The Chapmans lost, but here’s why.  The judge’s decision reads in part, “The present plaintiffs [the Chapmans] were not parties to the decree in the action of Waterman vs. Waterman and therefore are not entitled to the benefits accruing thereunder”.  So A. A. Waterman must have won some concession in the first case, after all.  That is, he won the 1897-98 battle, but the successor company eventually lost the 1917 war.  Here’s how it happened.
        A. A. Waterman formed a co-partnership with Edson E. Dewey in May 1899, but the co-partnership was dissolved in December 1900.  All the assets of the company were assigned and transferred to the Colonial Pen Co. to satisfy a debt, and Waterman formed a new company in 1901, the Modern Pen Co., but he continued using the name A. A. Waterman Pen Co.  He should have learned his lesson by now, but he entered one last, and fatal for him, co-partnership with Frazer & Geyer who also owned the Lincoln Fountain Pen Co.  Waterman received 5 patents between 1897 and 1904, but was ostensibly forced out of his own company, Modern Pen Co., by the other directors, and Frazer & Geyer took over in 1904 or 1905, or so the story goes.  The company passed through a series of owners and a series of court cases brought against them by the L. E. Waterman Co.  Then on June 29, 1912, p.18, we read that the Waterman injunction was made more severe, and they now had to imprint their pens “Not connected with the L. E. Waterman Company”.  But the real outcome of that case was that the L. E. Waterman Co. shot themselves in the foot, and the A. A. Waterman Co. finally got its wish and was allowed to put the name “L. E. Waterman” on its pens!  Stephen J. Meyerpeter, another former L. E. Waterman Co. graduate, was a later part-owner of Arthur A. Waterman & Co., so he stole yet another valued employee from them.  Then in 1917, the Chapmans went to court against L. E. Waterman one last time, but lost and were forced to stop using the name “Waterman” altogether.  They had to change the company name back to Modern Pen Co., but they continued to use the letters “A. A.”  In the end, that was all that was left of A. A. Waterman’s pen company name.
        On July 1, 2012, David Nishimura posted an addendum to help fill in some of the gaps in 1898 and 1899 from the issues of Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review.  Here is
my list of the volumes, which are also available on Hathi Trust, and in David’s list from Google Books.  An article on Feb 16, 1898, p.10, reports that injunctions were granted against the A. A. Waterman Pen Co., one restraining them from using certain names for their pens, the names “Standard”, “Reliable”, and “Ideal” that were claimed by the L. E. Waterman Co. as trademarks, and a second one restraining them from using the name “Waterman” in a way that might confuse their pens with L. E. Waterman’s pens.  They had to make a plain designation that their pens were not the product of L. E. Waterman, “the original fountain pen company using the name Waterman”.  Another injunction also restrained the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. from selling the L. E. Waterman Co. pens that had come into their possession.  In the article on Mar 9, 1898, p.23, we learn that the action to “restrain the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. from using the name Waterman in a way that will confuse their product with that of the L. E. Waterman Co.”, and to restrain them from using the words “Ideal”, “Standard”, and “Reliable” was continued.  On Mar 16, 1898, p.31, we learn that the court, reversed the injunction restraining the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. from selling the L. E. Waterman pens that had come into their possession.  The other action to restrain the A. A. Waterman Pen Co. from using the name Waterman, and to restrain them from using the words “Ideal”, “Standard”, and “Reliable” was continued over.  On Apr 13, 1898, p.31, we learn that the L. E. Waterman Co. applied to make their allegations more definite in their complaint to restrain A. A. Waterman Pen Co. from purchasing and selling their fountain pens at less than list price, and that their motion was granted.  On Sept 14, 1898, p.31, we learn that L. E. Waterman entered a judgment for costs amounting to $293.04 against A. A. Waterman, and on Apr 26, 1899, p.27, we learn that A. A. Waterman satisfied the judgment for $293.94.  On Mar 15, 1899, p.18, we learn from A. A. Waterman that “on Feb 1 the partnership previously existing between him and Edward L. Gibson, doing business under the name A. A. Waterman & Co., was dissolved by mutual consent”, and that his pens will be stamped “A. A. Waterman, Maker, Boston”.  On 
 May 10, 1899, p.27, the L. E. Waterman Co. sued to restrain A. A. Waterman from purchasing 
L. E. Waterman fountain pens and selling them below list price and a demurrer was interposed by the defendants on technical grounds, and on the appeal from the decision dismissing the demurrer, the decision was again reserved.  Big deal.  On May 24, 1899, p.10, we learn that the appeal by L. E. Waterman against A. A. Waterman selling L. E. Waterman’s pens at less than catalogue or list price was affirmed, but that A. A. Waterman was given “leave to withdraw his demurrer and file an answer within 20 days, on payment of costs”.  Even bigger big deal.  And on Aug 23, 1899, p.31, we read this big news.  “Edward L. Gibson, formerly a partner in the A. A. Waterman Pen Co., and later with their successors, the Sterling Fountain Pen Co., died from pneumonia Aug. 15, at his home, 572 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, N. Y.  Mr. Gibson was a well known figure in the fountain pen and gold pen trades, starting first as an employe [sic, an archaic spelling of the word ‘employee’] of Mabie, Todd & Bard, New York, in 1885.  He remained with them for 12 years, and latterly represented them on the road in the south.  In June, 1897, he formed a partnership with A. A. Waterman, Boston, under the name of the A. A. Waterman Pen Co., or, as the style finally became, A. A. Waterman & Co., fountain pen manufacturers.  When the business of A. A. Waterman & Co. was taken over by the Sterling Fountain Pen Co., Mr. Gibson joined that company as traveling salesman.”
        All of this information about A. A. Waterman & Co. helps to remedy the gap situation somewhat.  It looks like A. A. was a real thorn in L. E.’s side, trying to sell L. E.’s pens at cut-rate prices.  It was something that A. A. himself expressly argued against in a previous Am. Stat. article,
Jan 30, 1896, p.188, while he was still a traveling salesman for L. E.  Was he himself now selling at less than list price in order to get back at L. E.?
        What all of this really highlights is the need to get access to the full transcripts of the court cases.  One prime example of the use of original transcripts is the very thorough article written by Daniel Kirchheimer about the
“Sheaffer v. Featherweight” court case.  Reading the original court transcripts is the only way to completely remove all ambiguity.
        These reports in the Circular are very sketchy, and nowhere do we ever read the actual outcome of the case.  We are told that some minimal costs were paid, but we are not told the decision on the so-called Waterman’s trademarks, and the use of “Waterman” by A. A. in his company name.  All this legalese, this court-case talk of appeals, and demurrers, and overruling this, and affirming that, is very confusing, and then on top of it all, no decision.  The best thing of all is the Gibson obituary on Aug 23, 1899, p.31.  It’s packed with new information about A. A. Waterman.
        But the most frustrating thing in all the digitization of magazines by Google Books, not just the
Circular, or Am. Stat., is the incompleteness of the runs of the magazines.  One really can’t come to any conclusions until the full runs of the magazines are placed online.  All the work Google has done so far is tantalizing, and much-appreciated, but really frustrating.
        On Feb 12, 2014, David Nishimura posted on his blog about the
Waterman genealogy book, The Waterman Family: Descendants of Robert Waterman of Marshfield, Mass., from the Seventh Generation to Date, by Donald L. Jacobus and Edgar F. Waterman.  It is a book in 3 volumes published in 1939, 1942, and 1954, but the second volume is the most useful one for Waterman pen history.  It is also available at the Internet Archive, and here is vol.2.  David mentions the sections concerning L. E. Waterman on pp.46-47, and Frank D. Waterman on pp.48-52, but I posted these comments on his blog.  “Did you also notice this?  On pp. 83-84 Arthur A. Waterman is listed as the ‘first inventor and manufacturer of a middle joint fountain pen’, and that he later moved the company to Chicago ‘where he carried on the business until his retirement about 1919’.  So as this more recent research has shown, he was only ostensibly forced out of his own pen company in 1905, but instead carried on until his retirement around 1919.  His family also claimed ‘it was purely a coincidence that two Watermans were making fountain pens at the same time’.  There is a deep genealogical tie between L. E. and A. A.  They are both related to the original Robert in the title of the book, who died in 1652, and his son John, who died in 1718, but then their genealogical lines diverged.  They were related as cousins about 5 or 6 times removed”.  David wrote, “Interesting that the A. A. Waterman family lore left out the fact that A. A. worked for L. E. before striking out on his own”.  What’s also interesting is that A. A. claims that he was an owner of his company all along till his “retirement about 1919”.  This is one of those instances of A. A. “actively hiding” that Roger Wooten mentioned earlier.  He only pretended to be forced out of his own company in order to hide from the L. E. Waterman Co.
        In effect, the company lost its name in four stages.  First, the outcome of the court case in 1898 required them to place “Made by A. A. Waterman & Co.” on their pens.  Second, in 1910, they had to change the company name to Arthur A. Waterman & Co., and they had to place “Not connected with the original Waterman” on their pens.  Third, in 1912, they had to imprint their pens “Not connected with the L. E. Waterman Company”.  And fourth, in 1917, they were forced to stop using the name “Waterman” altogether, and to change their company name to “Modern”, but they could continue to use “A. A.” as a trademark.
        And here’s the coda to this history of the A. A. Waterman Pen Co.  In the Am. Stat.’s “Information Bureau” question No. 6369 on
Mar 25, 1922, p.22, the “Bureau” was asked for the address of the A. A. Waterman Pen Co., but they gave the address of the L. E. Waterman Co. instead of giving the address of the Modern Pen Co., even though the Modern Pen Co. was still an active advertiser in Am. Stat. at the time, and was still in business at least as late as 1925.  The company was either forgotten by the “Bureau”, or the “Bureau” was sucking up to one of the magazine’s major advertizers.  It exposes the true nature of the “Information Bureau”, not as factual information, but as advertizing propaganda.

George Kovalenko.