November 03, 2014

The Waterman’s #53?

  , just the facts.

      Here’s another obscure Waterman’s fountain pen.


No, those aren’t real pens.  The black one was cobbled together in Photoshop by Dennis Bowden and posted on L&P to stir things up, and the red one is just one that I made up out of the pic from Dennis and another I got from somewhere on the Web.  And although there is no artifactual pen, yet, this is definitely not fiction.
        Does anyone remember the Waterman’s #53 controversy on L&P?  In a thread about the Waterman’s color nibs, Rob Astyk wrote on June 8, 2005, “The #3 nib was dropped some time around 1910”.  And I wrote on June 27, 2005, “Do you mean only in the US, or everywhere else in the Waterman’s network of holdings as well?  I have a copy of a page from the 1925-26 Fall-Winter Eaton’s mail order catalogue with a lever-filling pen with a #3 nib offered for sale, ‘With pocket clip and No. 3 nib’.  How does this fit into your ‘Waterman’s By The Numbers’ scheme?”  I just thought that Waterman’s was using up some extra, leftover nibs.
        Rob Astyk wrote on June 27, 2005, “Everything is true until better information pops up”.  Well, actually nothing is true while we wait for better info.  Then he added, “I once thought that the #1 nib was entirely gone from the line-up about 1901-02.  Then #51’s started appearing….Thus I have no trouble in believing that the #3 nib remained in the line, too.  Therefore, to be clear about Waterman lever fillers let me note that…there would be 15 pens in the set as follows: 51V - 52½V - 52V - 54V - 55V - 56V - 52½ - 52 - 52X - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 58 - 20 PSF”.  But then Rob corrected his list of Waterman lever-filling models on July 14, 2005.  “51V - 52 1/2 V - 52V - 53V - 54V - 55V - 56V - 58V - 51 - 52 1/2 - 52 - 52X - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 20 PSF.  That would be a total of nineteen pens to complete a set, and a rather impressive one”.  He added the #53 in both of these lists, but then he denied its possibility later on that year.
        And then Dennis Bowden started a thread about the Waterman #13 on Oct 31, 2005, asking how common the #3 nib was.  Rob Astyk posted on Oct 31, 2005, that he thought they were fairly common.  He also wrote that, “There is even one reference that may well be to a Waterman 53 in the ‘Waterman’s color-nib chart’ topic, though that’s still uncertain and unconfirmed by either a pen or other references”.  And David just had to chime in on Nov 1, 2005 with this, “It is worth emphasizing that no #3-nib, screw-cap self-fillers have yet turned up, nor were they catalogued.  The existence of any specimens is purely speculative”.  Well, I wasn’t going to let that go unchallenged, so I wrote back on Nov 1, 2005, “Do you mean only in the US, or everywhere else in the world?  Here is a copy of a page from a Canadian Eaton’s mail order catalogue with a #53 pen offered for sale, a lever filler
“With pocket clip and No. 3 nib”.  This image happens to be from the Spr-Sum 1927 volume, but the same pens and nibs were offered between Fall-Wint 1925-26 and Spr-Sum 1928.  And you’re right, I’m still looking for one”.
        So David came back with, “We’ve already gone over that, George.  The catalog does not call the pen a “53”.  It does state it is a lever-filler with a #3 nib.  It is not an official Waterman catalog.  Most significant, no such pens have, to my knowledge, ever turned up”.  And I replied, “I know that we’ve already gone over that, David, but I didn’t bring it up again.  I also don’t dispute that it hasn’t been found in any official Waterman
’s catalogues, yet.  And I plainly stated that we’re all still looking for one, and that no such pens have as yet turned up.  But I think you’re in denial when you say that, although the catalogue states that it is a lever-filler with a #3 nib, that it’s still not a #53 pen because the catalogue doesn’t call the pen a “53”.  What is a lever-filler with a #3 nib except a #53?  And besides, the catalogue doesn’t use any of the other usual Waterman’s terminology or numbers for the other pens, either.  The catalogue uses its own item-number designations, and they probably didn’t want to confuse the buyer with a secondary model number.
        “Do you really think Waterman
’s would let a pen out of their factory that was marked #52 but with a #3 nib, or sold a pen with a #3 nib that was not marked at all?  I would guess that such things do happen, but only as one-offs, not as a large batch, or a run that extended for at least 3 years.  Variations of that catalogue listing did appear in at least 6 catalogues over a 3-year period.
        “We’ll have to wait until something turns up to prove it one way or another, whether it’s a pen, or an in-house catalogue, or a magazine ad.  But who knows, it may have been an Eaton’s exclusive in Canada.  We may never know.  As I said before, perhaps Waterman’s was just using up some extra, leftover nibs.”
        And then Rob and David piled on, and started making things up.  I don’t understand why, not one bit.  Rob Astyk on Nov 2, 2005, wrote that he thought the Eaton’s catalogue listing was “simply an error” by the copy editor, and they really meant a #4 nib, and that they were reusing burned printing plates from one catalogue to another.  And David on Nov 2, 2005, wrote that the price differential “supported Rob’s hypothesis”.  However, John Chapman wrote on Nov 2, 2005, in defense of the facts.  He found it interesting that the catalogue listing appeared in at least 6 catalogues over a 3-year period.  “If it was a mistake, was it a mistake that nobody noticed for 3 years?  No complaints from customers about [the typo]?  It seems odd that it wouldn’t get corrected.  Does the listing appear later on with a #4 option?”.
        And I wrote on Nov 2, 2005, “Whoa! You guys are writing fiction rather than history.  Where do you get these assumed errors and reused burned plates?  Are you just pulling them out of thin air?  Yeah, sure, they are possible, and so might the moon be made of blue cheese.  But until they’re proven, what David calls ‘hypotheses’ are just guesses and beliefs and fabrications and fictions.”
        I went back to my July 15, 1994 notes on the catalogues and found that the pen-with-a-#3-nib appeared in 6 catalogues in that 3-year period.  My notes showed that there were ads for the pen in the major “Spring-Summer” and “Fall-Winter” catalogues for those years, but the ads did not appear in the Christmas “Wish Books” in those years.  Also, my recollection was that different cuts and ad layouts were used in the various issues of the catalogue, but my memory was hazy.  I knew that there were at least two different layouts, because I remembered choosing to scan the more compact layout, the one in the above link.  I went to the library the next day and checked the microfilm again, and after I got back, I posted this on Nov 4, 2005, nine years ago less a minute.
        “I looked at all the Eaton’s catalogues from 1920 to 1935, and here are some facts to fly in the face of all your fabrications.  First of all, I found that all of the catalogues used different ads and different layouts.  There were no reused burned plates.  They are all unique, and there are no mistakes.  They are all on purpose.  The six catalogues that feature the lever-filler-with-the-#3-nib are the following.
        “Fall-Wint 1925-26, p.376
        “Spr-Sum 1926, p.281
        “Fall-Wint 1926-27, p.284
        “Spr-Sum 1927, p.236
        “Fall-Wint 1927-28, p.184
        “Spr-Sum 1928, p.257
        “Each of the Spr-Sum pen sections is a one-page layout, and each of the Fall-Wint pen sections is a two-page spread.  Now, the microfilm copies are quite crude, so when it came to reproducing one of the ads, I chose to digitize the fourth one because the archive where I work has a copy of this catalogue, and it would reproduce the best.  Well, it just so happens this is the only one of the six catalogue layouts that advertises the pen with #2 and #3 nibs only.  The other five all advertise the pen with a #4 nib as well.  The catalogues list the following four pens and prices, in Canadian dollars, of course.
        “Waterman’s Self-Filling Pen, No. 2 nib, without pocket clip, $2.50
        “Waterman’s Self-Filling Pen, with pocket clip, and No. 2 nib, $2.75
        “Waterman’s Self-Filling Pen, with pocket clip, and No. 3 nib, $4.25
        “Waterman’s Self-Filling Pen, with pocket clip, and No. 4 nib, $5.25
        “I think we can now safely call the first two pens #52’s, and the third one a #53, and the fourth one a #54.  And here’s the clincher.  The ad on p.246 of the next catalogue, the Fall-Wint 1928-29, is the first one to leave out the #53 pen from the layout, but the #54 pen is now described as a ‘Self-filling type, chased barrel and screw-on cap with pocket clip, holds more ink and has a large No. 4 nib’, and with the reduced price $4.25.  They finally ran out of the #3 nibs, and then they started promoting the #54 pen.”  As John Chapman had asked by chance, the listing had appeared all along with a #4 nib option.
        And those are the facts.  But Rob and David continued going off on a tangent with their fictions, so I’m not going to repeat them here.  Finally out of frustration I posted this on Nov 11, 2005, quoting an email from Rob from a year and a half before.
        “This whole episode started way back on Mar 17, 2004 when I sent Rob an email message.  I told him that while looking up something else in my library of pen-company images, I found something he might be interested in.  The university library here is very well stocked with books and other materials, and they have all the Eaton’s mail-order catalogues on microfilm.  This store was the Canadian equivalent of Sears in the US, and they always had a great pen department.  Well, in 1994, while I was looking for the Duofold ads from the 1920s, I found these Waterman’s catalogue listings along the way, and I noticed that the #3 nib hadn’t died out till 1928, at least not in Canada.  In 2004, I asked Rob whether that jived with his records.  I also told Rob that in 1999, Peter Markman phoned me out of the blue from New York when he was researching the article “Waterman in Canada” that he co-wrote with Joan Geschlecht for Pen World, Vol. 13, No. 2, Nov/Dec 1999, and that I had mentioned the #53 to him as well.  Peter included that tidbit as an aside in their article.  And Rob wrote this to me in his reply on Mar 18, 2004.

What you say about the #53 in Canada jives with the information that I have that the Canadian and English Waterman branches operated under a different set of rules from the US company.  I had no knowledge of a #53 before your message, or if I did, it was trapped in some Bermuda Triangle section of my brain.
      The Canadian and British Waterman Divisions were the personal property of the Waterman family and, specifically, of Frank D. Waterman.  That’s why the hallmark for factory nibs for the UK is “F.D.W.”  The corporate directors in the US, including the Days, set policy for the US operation.  Frank could set policy more autonomously in those other divisions.  Thus the operations in the British Commonwealth were different, and oddities, from my insular, American point of view, occur with some frequency.
      The fact is that the #1 nib was relegated to low priced pens (Remex, Penanink) early on (ca. 1900).  The #2 & #3 nibs were never that different in size or price, so at some point around 1910, the #3 was dropped from the American line, and the original #7 was dropped, too.  The #9 nib is the rarest of all.  I have seen only 1 example in a #20 that Pier Gustafson owns.  I believe on, admittedly, VERY slim evidence that the #9 nib was in the line for only a few months, and not more than 2 years certainly, right after Waterman acquired Aikin-Lambert.
        “And that’s all he wrote, just the facts, no fictions.  If he had left it at that, a simple statement of the facts, none of this would have transpired.  I never understood why Rob and David had taken the stance they had, but in light of everything they said, I tried to stay out of the way of the proverbial fan that they kept trying to point my way.  I thought I was just being helpful by pointing out a curiosity, but I just kept ending up in the way of their fan.”
        I’m not proud of some of the things I said back then, things said in hasty response to things that the others said, and I don’t know whether the others aren’t proud as well, so I am not going to repeat those things here.  But I stand by the things written here.  These are, I hope, just the facts.

        And by the way, while I was looking at the 1930-35 catalogues, I found some Canadian listings for the Parker depression pens, including one for the “Thrift-time”, which got me thinking about those pens as well, and I thought maybe I’d take up that topic again in a post here,

George Kovalenko.


Addendum, Apr 22, 2019.
        It’s in a tantalizingly irrelevant picture, and it’s not in a lever-filling pen, but just the same, it’s an Eaton’s #3 nib in an Eaton’s pen, so let’s see what else turns up.  ;~)