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.