, and other writing instruments at the signing of the Surrender at Appomattox.
From Ed & Lucy Faulkner’s ink bottle book, boxwood pocket inkwell, ca. 1864.
[Posted on L&P on Jan 27, 2013.]
I was blundering about online looking for copies of The Century Magazine that didn’t have their ads stripped out, but before I could get smart and give up on that, I found this mention of the scarcity of pencils, and pens, and ink, and inkstands, and traveling or pocket inkwells, and paper in the Civil War battlefield at the signing of “The Surrender at Appomattox”. As reported by Lt. Colonel Horace C. Porter, the signing took place in Wilmer McLean’s home, a brick house in “the little village of Appomattox Court House, with its half-dozen houses [on] its single street”.
“Lee felt in his pocket as if searching for a pencil, but did not seem to be able to find one. Seeing this and happening to be standing close to him, I handed him my pencil. He took it, and laying the paper on the table noted the interlineation. During the rest of the interview he kept twirling this pencil in his fingers and occasionally tapping the top of the table with it. When he handed it back it was carefully treasured by me as a memento of the occasion.
The pocket inkwell might also have been made of hard rubber, which, in its discolored form, can look like boxwood.
“General Grant then said: Unless you have some suggestions to make in regard to the form in which I have stated the terms, I will have a copy of the letter made in ink and sign it....
“He handed the draft of the terms back to General Grant, who called Colonel T. S. Bowers of the staff to him and directed him to make a copy in ink. Bowers was a little nervous, and he turned the matter over to Colonel Ely S. Parker, whose handwriting presented a better appearance than that of any one else on the staff. Parker sat down to write at the table which stood against the rear side of the room. Wilmer McLean’s domestic resources in the way of ink now became the subject of a searching investigation, but it was found that the contents of the conical-shaped stoneware inkstand which he produced appeared to be participating in the general breaking up and had disappeared. Colonel Marshall now came to the rescue, and pulled out of his pocket a small boxwood inkstand, which was put at Parker’s service, so that, after all, we had to fall back upon the resources of the enemy in furnishing the stage properties for the final scene in the memorable military drama.
“Lee in the meantime had directed Colonel Marshall to draw up for his signature a letter of acceptance of the terms of surrender. Colonel Marshall wrote out a draft of such a letter, making it quite formal, beginning with I have the honor to reply to your communication, etc. General Lee took it, and, after reading it over very carefully, directed that these formal expressions be stricken out and that the letter be otherwise shortened. He afterward went over it again and seemed to change some words, and then told the colonel to make a final copy in ink. When it came to providing the paper, it was found we had the only supply of that important ingredient in the recipe for surrendering an army, so we gave a few pages to the colonel.”
[Posted on L&P on June 16, 2007.]
Someone on a pen message board used the term “the eyedropper era”, and it got me thinking. What exactly constitutes the eyedropper pen era? And more to the point, when exactly did the eyedropper pen era start? In order to have an eyedropper era, you must first have an eyedropper. And not all pens capable of being filled with an eyedropper fall within this eyedropper era. For instance, all the Bion-type pens going back to 1650-1700 could now be filled with an eyedropper, but at the time they were made, they were filled either by pouring the ink in, or with a glass-tube pipette. What’s needed for the eyedropper era to begin is, first of all, the invention of soft, pliable rubber, and then, secondly, the invention of squeeze-bulb technology. The former didn’t come along until Nathaniel Hayward’s 1839 US patent for soft rubber, assigned to Charles Goodyear, and Goodyear’s own improved 1844 US patent for soft rubber, and Thomas Hancock’s 1844 patent for the same in the UK. But that’s not the beginning of the eyedropper pen era, yet. You still need the later squeeze-bulb technologies to be discovered and perfected and popularized before that potential is recognized and utilized and adapted for medicine droppers and ink eyedroppers.
According to Mike Woshner’s book, India-Rubber And Gutta-Percha In The Civil War Era, the first squeeze-bulbs didn’t make their appearances until the late 1840s and early-to-mid 1850s. They were used for such purposes as artificial nipples, breast pumps, saliva pumps, various dental and medical pumps and syringes, enema pumps and syringes, and air pumps. There is even an 1856 pneumatic fountain inkwell with a squeeze-bulb, US patent no. 14,451. In the 1877 Canadian patent for Might & Taylor’s fountain pen, no. 7,617, and US patent no. 195,719 later the same year, in Fig. 3 in both, there is an illustration of an eyedropper, although it’s called simply an “ink filler”. Even as late as 1879, the Franklin Institute report on the MacKinnon Pen Co. stylographic pen, or ink pencil, or “Fluid Pencil” that I mentioned before in this blog said that the pen’s ink reservoir was “filled by an elastic syringe”. It still used an archaic term, not the word “eyedropper”. In fact, eyedroppers used to be known as Pasteur pipettes, named after Louis Pasteur, who used a variant of them in his research in the late 1800s. And the Random House Dictionary places the origin of the word “eyedropper” in 1935-40, which seems a little late to me, and places the term itself well outside the eyedropper fountain pen era. It’s probably a term for fountain pens that was adopted and popularized by pen collectors, and well after the fact of the eyedropper era. Before that, it was just called an ink filler that consisted of a pipette with an elastic rubber bulb.
In spite of all my efforts, I couldn’t find a patent for the eyedropper itself, but perhaps it was already common knowledge by the time the first eyedropper patents were applied for, and it was considered prior art, and unpatentable. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right title, or name, or search term. So the eyedropper probably dates to some time in the late 1840s to mid 1850s. In any case, the first “Medicine Dropper” patent that I could find wasn’t until 1868, US patent no. 79,487, and that one doesn’t fit into the Civil War era, so it isn’t included in the Woshner book. But it would make a great traveling inkwell. Even so, most of the pens of the period were still said to be filled “by pouring the ink in” rather than being filled with an eyedropper, US patent nos. 6,672, and 16,299, and 123,263, or filled with a funnel, no. 31,298. Has anyone else been able to find an early patent for the eyedropper, or medicine dropper? There are some US patents such as nos. 206,200, 256,206, and 296,963, for pens that incorporate a messy rubber filling bulb in the pen, and US patent no. 542,450 has one of the first US patent illustrations of an eyedropper being used to fill a pen. Another later “Medicine Dropper”, US patent no. 448,555, is merely a pipette with a hole in its side to release the pressure, like an Aerometric filler tube, and it has no squeeze bulb. The idea of the hole in the side of the pipette was also used in US pen patent no. 717,425, on its integral eyedropper stored in the end of the pen.
Olle Hjort suggested another earlier patent with a possible first illustration of an eyedropper being used to fill a pen, “US patent no. 5,789 from 1848 showing a separate eyedropper for filling the pen. The ‘india-rubber pump’ looks like an eyedropper but is used to force [or inject] ink into the pen instead of dropping it in”. He’s right. The illustration in patent no. 5,789 is probably the earliest representation of what may generously be called an eyedropper for a fountain pen, but it doesn’t look like one, and it isn’t referred to as such in the specifications. It’s called an “elastic pump”, and an “india-rubber pump”, and it looks more like a turkey baster that’s used to squirt the ink into the pen. It also looks sort of like a balloon on a wand, but not Lenny Bruce’s. ;~)
And the pen came in two versions. The other one had a rubber sac and could be filled as a finger-press filler. That makes two balloons!
Here’s one of my favorite images of a fountain pen, US patent no. 630,526, Sheet 2, actually a gravity filler being filled with a quirky, proprietary, custom-fit, large-mouth eyedropper.
, in the Franklin Institute.
In an advertizing pamphlet published ca.1879 by the MacKinnon Pen Co., they mentioned that their pen was “hailed by The Scientific American in an exceedingly complimentary editorial”, which “gave the key-note to the press throughout the country, and the name of MacKinnon was heralded far and near”. The pamphlet also described the A. T. Cross stylo as “a delusion and a snare”, and that Cross was “wilfully or ignorantly deceiving the public” because they did not have the MacKinnon “weighted needle” and the “circle of iridium”. It also says that the pen “received a practical test for over six months in the hands of the able professors of [the Franklin Institute]”, which issued a report dated May 7, 1879.
The Committee on the Sciences and Arts constituted by the Franklin Institute of Pennsylvania, to whom the “MacKinnon Fountain Pen” was referred for examination, reported that, “This is one of the latest forms of pocket or desk pen for miscellaneous use. It resembles in general outline other contrivances for the same end. Its main body or handle is a hollow tube of vulcanized rubber. This tube is the ink reservoir, and is filled by an elastic syringe [eye dropper], which accompanies the pen. The point of the pen is actually a ring of iridium attached to a gold tube surrounding a delicate shaft of the same metal which protrudes through the tube in the manner of the famed Addison lead pencil of half a century since. The pressure of the writer upon the paper opens the supply aperture of the ink reservoir, which closes immediately on lifting the pen, thus preventing evaporation and other means of waste. It is at once tasteful and useful, and for the service rendered is not costly”.
And finally, in The Journal of the Franklin Institute, June 1879, p.432, there was a report of the proceedings at their May 21, 1879 meeting, which mentioned that one of the items on their agenda was “the MacKinnon Fountain Pen, the iridium ring of which was exhibited with the micromegascope on the screen”. The micro-megascope is described in The Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, 1883, p.171. There’s also a description in The Microscope and its Revelations, v.1, p.108, but no illustration. A picture of a similar demonstrating microscope on p.101 gives an idea of what it might have looked like, except the lamp-and-slide are replaced by the illuminated-object-and-mirror. Its purpose was to demonstrate small objects to an audience, or large group of spectators, and the microscope was converted into a telescope and a projector.
[Posted on L&P on Aug 2, 2006, and June 26, 2007.]
The First Ball-Pointed Pen isn’t what you think it is. You probably thought I was going to dredge up the old, familiar saw about Loud’s 1888 ballpoint in US patent no. 392,046 being the first ballpoint. But the patent I’m really referring to is Hezekiah Hewitt’s US patent no. 295,395. It was a steel nib with a curved point “to provide a smooth and flexible curved writing-surface”, or tip, and they were marketed under the name “Ball-Pointed Pens”. Also see Hewitt’s UK patent no. 429 in 1883 , and US trademark no. 32,598.
This also isn’t about the Biro, or the Bich, or the Reynolds patents from the 1940s and 1950s being the first ballpoints. One of the many “first” commercially successful ballpoints is not what you expect, if you’re American, that is, the Reynolds “Rocket”, but it is what you expect if you’re from Britain, or “the continent”. It’s the “Biro” in US patent no. 2,258,841. Biro preceded Reynolds by about 3 or 4 years, but there are many ballpoint patents that preceded the Biro, and many that came after it. However, in Europe “a Biro” has almost become synonymous with a ballpoint, in the same way that “an Eversharp” has become synonymous with a mechanical pencil in the US. The name was co-opted by the public in the same way that trademarked names such as Celluloid, Linoleum, Kleenex, and Aspirin were taken over. The capitol letter was turned into a lower case letter, and the companies lost control of their words. There’s an article about this in The American Stationer, Sept 25, 1920, p.22. “If the public chooses to adopt your trade name as a generic term to refer to all articles of the same sort, the public is pretty likely to have its way about it.” The name “Celluloid” was a coined-name trademark that was the exclusive property of the Celluloid Co., but “The dear public applied that name to the substance wherever it was found, quite irrespective of its origins. The public”, so to speak, “took the bit in its teeth and ran away with the whole load of apples”. Large-c “Celluloid” becomes small-c “celluloid”, and the company is at the mercy of the public, and has no say in the matter.
But here’s the goofy thing about almost all of these leaky, smudgy, undependable, early ballpoint pens, the ones with the ink that wouldn’t dry. The patents for almost all of them refer to the instrument as a “Fountain Pen” in the title of the patent. They sometimes even refer to the ball-tip as a “nib”. Now, that’s really quaint. Yeah, and annoying, too. It was such a new thing that they didn’t know what to call it yet, in order to differentiate the ballpoint from the true fountain pen, so they used the same old name for it. It leads to such bastardizations as “Fountain Pen Of The Ball Point Type” in US patent no. 2,592,406. The problem was compounded by the fact that most of these early ballpoints filled directly into the barrel like fountain pens, instead of having their own proprietary refills. This went on from 1941 until well into the 1950s, when the problematic ballpoint finally became more dependable and quite ubiquitous. Then, finally, it got its own name, usually “Ball Point Writing Instrument”, or “Ball-Point Pen”, or “Ball-Tipped Pen”, or some variation on that. I call it simply a ballpoint, simply and unceremoniously and with no respect. You see, this is what a “Fountain Pen Ballpoint” should look like, US patent no. 2,487,340, maybe. The nib looks like the nose of a proboscis monkey.
Edward Howland posted on Sept 15, 2011 that he was listening to a vintage radio program, an episode of Dragnet from the early 50’s, and a certain piece of evidence in the case was referred to as a “ball point fountain pen”. It caught his attention, and he wondered just what sort of writing instrument they were talking about. “The characters apparently saw nothing unusual in the terminology”, he added. That usage is a nice find. It occurs in just the right era for this kind of early, mixed-up terminology, a time when the consensus of opinion hadn’t yet finalized the terms and settled upon those with which we are now familiar. It’s too bad that all those early radio and television show scripts have not been digitized and placed online in a word-searchable form, otherwise a lot more of those kinds of gems would be turning up.
But I’ll have no truck with the ballpoint. As the character Peter Engel in Monique Genuist’s novel Racines de sable also says, “The ballpoint pen has killed the art of calligraphy in everyday handwriting”, meaning that it has killed the calligraphic quality of everyday writing. This is what the ballpoint should have been called, “Writing instruments of the ball tip type”.
, and the aerometric-type fillers.
[I started an “Aerometric Fillers” thread on L&P on Nov 30, 2005 that was somehow deleted and lost inadvertently, but on Aug 1, 2006, I wrote, “Well, ‘Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles’, look at what I found, almost a year later. The missing “Aerometric Fillers” thread turned up on Google, which somehow archived the thread, after all, and saved it in their cache. And I wasn’t even looking for it. Thank goodness for the vagaries and redundancies of the internet!”. So, it was restored in its entirety, and here it is, again, in a distilled version of the best bits, along with an additional thread from Sept 20, 2006.]
In my timeline and taxonomy threads, I characterized the vacumatic Parker 51 and the aerometric Parker 51 as very distant cousins in the total scheme of pens, even though they look very similar on the outside. Now, some might take exception with my characterizations, but these two pens use two totally different types of technology on the inside. Elsewhere, in another thread, Olle Hjort was talking about another filling system, the capillary filler, but what he said applies here, too. Every inventor, he wrote, “also got his ideas from somewhere. Few inventions come out of nothing. It’s just more or less difficult to find the source”. Well, I think the aerometric filler has its origins in the thumb filler. In the former, the whole barrel must be removed from the pen in order squeeze the bladder, and in the latter, the barrel stays on the pen to squeeze the bladder through an opening in the barrel. I’ve had to reappraise and revise my timeline a few times with regards to the aerometric filler after finding US patent nos. 991,520 and 798,655. These patents help to place the aerometric, not in the 1940’s, but in the age of the thumb filler, and thus force me to throw the baby out with the bath water. I guess the aerometric type of filler was a lot earlier than I thought it was. It now dates to May 9, 1911 and Sept 5, 1905. I think I may even find an earlier precursor in the 1800s.
Sterling Picard also suggested another patent very much like the aerometric 51, US patent no. 1,247,169. But I class this patent with the thumb fillers because the mechanism is still covered by a sleeve on the barrel, and the whole barrel is not removed to expose a section-and-filler unit. Neither is the squeezing mechanism attached to the section. It’s merely strapped to the bladder.
Rob Astyk wrote, “The point that you make in distinguishing this patent from more standard thumb fillers is much like the USPTO’s Classification system. Each taxonomist has to decide simultaneously how broadly and how narrowly he will define each category. We can’t have every item in its own class because that is so narrow as to defeat the purposes of grouping things in classes in the first place. Nor can we have things as different as a brush, a railroad spike, and chewing gum in the same class, either, because that broadens the group to the point of meaninglessness. So the taxonomist selects, as objectively as he can, items that have some characteristics in common to create each Class and Sub-class”. Earlier he had said that, “There isn’t a whole lot of difference between aerometric and thumb fillers”, and I was going to let that sleeping dog lie, but this and other posts in this thread sent me scurrying back to reread patent no. 991,520 more closely, and I found this statement in the specifications. “My improved device for self filling fountain pens obviates the necessity of providing the barrel of the pen with an opening through which the bag compressing device may be manipulated.” That is the definition of a thumb filler, a pen with an opening in the barrel to gain access to the bladder, and it makes this pen an aerometric-type. That’s the crucial distinction that we talked about before, that is, that the barrel must be removed completely with an aerometric filler. Now, the name “Aerometric” probably dates to the Parker 51 era, but the pen in patent 991,520 is most definitely an aerometric-type filler. Large-a “Aerometric” becomes small-a “aerometric”, and the company is at the mercy of the public, and has no say in the matter. I admit that it’s a subtle distinction, and that the two types of fillers are not-so-distant cousins. They are, after all, two of the various types in the same, large, bladder-and-pressure-bar subgroup. All I am saying is that the precursor to the aerometric filler now dates to at least the same era as the thumb filler.
When two pen collectors duked it out in a thread on Pentrace regarding aerometric fillers and cartridge-convertor fillers on Sept 20, 2006, well, all I could say to myself was good luck to both of them in their beliefs. Sometimes it’s impossible to “convert” a fountain pen believer from either camp. Sorry for the pun, but I have to put both of them in the group of believers, and not converts, because I see nothing that resembles collegiality, or peer review in some of the flaming online arguments.
Pen collectors can agree to disagree about their definitions of the aerometric, and perhaps that makes them all as pedantic as the next one, though I prefer to call it pen poindexterity. But I do have to agree with those who say that the second hole in the side of the breather tube in the aerometric Parker 51, US patent no. 2,612,867, is totally unnecessary, and overly complicated. There are many patents for aerometric-style fillers and finger-press fillers without any breather tubes at all, let alone ones with holes drilled into their sides. Here are just two of them, the Waterman’s and the Le Boeuf finger-press fillers, and they function just fine without any breather tubes. There are also some patents for aerometric fillers with breather tubes, but with no second breather hole drilled in their breather tubes. There’s even one patent for an aerometric filler, 2,749,883, issued to Eversharp just one year before it was taken over by Parker, that has a breather tube without a breather hole drilled in its side, so you could almost say that even Parker later had to admit reluctantly that they were wrong. In fact, even though the breather tube is illustrated, it isn’t given an illustration number, or even mentioned in the specifications.
Let’s do a fountain pen thought experiment. Take a Sheaffer “No Nonsense” pen section with a full cartridge of ink. Hold it with the nib down, and push a pin into the end of the cartridge. As long as the pin stays in the hole, nothing happens. But what happens when you pull the pin out? As quick as you can say “Dickie be damned”, the ink empties itself out of the pen. If you want to try it on a real pen, do it over an open bottle of ink. It doesn’t need a second hole in the side of the cartridge tube. One hole at the bottom of the cartridge is quite sufficient to turn a closed system into an open-ended tube and to empty it of ink. So I think the second breather hole in the aerometric Parker 51 breather tube is totally unnecessary.
It’s possible to convert any pen into an aerometric filler, even a Parker 61 capillary filler, but it is not possible to convert any pen into a cartridge-converter filler. For that, the pen requires a nipple, the piercing tube with a feed-tube inside it, for seating the cartridge, or converter. That would be hard to engineer and manufacture from scratch for a pen that didn’t already have such a mechanism, but a pensmith might be able to adapt such a nipple-feed from an existing pen. Just such a feed as can be found in the Sheaffer “Skripsert” and “No Nonsense” cartridge pens, but the older hard rubber “Skripsert” feed is better. Glenn Craig has pioneered the use of these feeds in other pens, and adapts such feeds to fit any diameter of section bore by using pieces of large plastic “Slurpy” straws as sleeves over the feed.
[Posted on L&P on June 23, 2007.]
Here’s a patent for an early precursor to the crescent filler, or rather the first patent for a crescent filler, US patent no. 125,291, and another interesting George F. Hawkes pen.
Take a look at part H and try to deny that it’s a crescent filler before its time. And here are another couple of early US crescent filler precursors, 397,053, and 442,644. They surely are crescent fillers in everything but name. At least, they certainly seem like steps on the way to the crescent filler. There’s also John Raynald’s US patent 438,895 and the patent that Roy Conklin later purchased, John Oliphant’s US patent 448,360.
How can you tell that I’m not that crazy about crescent fillers? In Mark Twain’s endorsement of the Conklin crescent filler pen in the January 1904 ad in Century Magazine, he joked about preferring the pen because it was “a profanity saver; it cannot roll off the desk”. It’s such a beautiful pen, except for that silly, “anti-swearing” filling mechanism. Even Parker ridiculed the pen in its ads that introduced its new button fillers. In Cliff & Judy Lawrence’s An Illustrated Fountain Pen History, on p.84, there is an unidentified Parker ad from June 1914 that reads, “A New Idea In Self-Filling Fountain Pens. No humps, bumps, or outside projections to interfere with your grip or writing”. And in a couple of Parker ads in The American Stationer leading up to the introduction of the Duofold, you’ll find more ad lines about unsightly and unwieldy humps by claiming that their own pens had, “No slots in the barrel. No projections of self-filling devices”, May 14, 1921, p.6, and “No ‘do-jigger’ on barrel”, July 9, 1921, p. 6. Well, the Parker “do-jigger” was well-hidden under an unsightly black hard rubber blind cap.
And did you notice that the borders of those two ads were made up of little button-filler pens?
[Posted on L&P on July 26, 2006.]
Have you ever wondered where the Vacumatic filler idea came from? It just seems to spring full-blown on the pen scene in 1933 with Parker’s “Vacuum-Filler”, their own precursor to the “Vacumatic”, and it just seems to come out of nowhere. Well, that’s how it seemed to me at first, until I saw what else was happening on the scene. Sometimes all those other patents don’t seem to be related, but they’re there in the mix, and they exert subtle influences where you don’t expect them to have any effect at all. This post isn’t about Dahlberg, and about such patents as US patent no. 1,980,508, and all the other Parker patents for the “Vacumatic” as produced. It’s about the Ur-Vacumatics, the pre-Vacumatics. The Vacumatic patents are a foregone conclusion and a dead issue here. This is about the Vacumatic precursors, the “ex-parrots”, so to speak, of the ex-precursors, the Vacumatics.
US patent no. 208,219 is for an early ink-flow valve for priming the nib, but the pen could also conceivably be filled with this sort of crude vac-filler device employing a short piece of conical rubber tubing as a diaphragm. US patent no. 825,442 employs a piston to inflate and deflate the bladder-diaphragm, but it’s not attached to the bladder, and it has no breather tube because it fills in one stroke. US patent no. 1,287,556 is for a crude bulb filler with an attached button that turns it into a vacuum filler, but it has no breather tube and no blind cap to protect the button. US patent no. 1,596,811 finally supplies the blind cap, but still no breather tube. US patent no. 1,634,618 is another one with piston and detached bladder, and no breather tube required. The piston acts like a blow filler, so I call it a Piston-Blow Vacuum Filler Hybrid. I’m sure that Parker knew about this patent, because he assigned one of his previous US patents to Parker, no. 1,486,246, an improved button filler for the Duofold. US patent no. 1,647,882 has a small, diaphragm-like bulb under a blind cap, so it seems like it’s a simple bulb filler, but it also has a breather tube, so that makes it a sort of external “Vacumatic” without a button. I call it a Finger-Press-Bulb Vacuum Filler. That brings us to US patent no. 1,706,751, a simple twist filler with an attached external button, and it doesn’t seem to belong here, but it’s assigned to Abraham Schlosser and forms the basis for his US patent no. 1,910,907, a Twist-Bulb Vacuum Filler Hybrid. So that’s where the “Vacumatic” came from! It was the logical consequence and natural outgrowth of the evolution of the twist fillers and bulb fillers with breather tubes.
Now, I’ve distilled this to just a few examples, but there are tens and twenties of these twist-filler and bulb-filler copycat patents out there, and they all help to make the transition from bulb to diaphragm much smoother. But there’s one more pertinent one, US patent no. 1,917,568 for an accordion bulb-diaphragm vacuum filler with a breather tube. And guess who it’s assigned to? The Parker Pen Co.!
, some more obscure pens.
[Posted on L&P on Aug 6, 2006, and cross-posted to Pentrace.]
who was the first to come up with a snorkel filler? Sheaffer was the
first to call it such, but was it first to come up with the tube-filler
idea, or the “Don’t get your nib dirty with ink” idea? Well, take a
look at US patent no. 1,548,502,
the first snorkel-type filler, or rather a precursor to the Sheaffer
Snorkel Filler. The patent specification reads in part, “One of the
objects…is to provide…a self-filler having the peculiarity or
characteristic of filling…itself without requiring a dipping of the pen
proper [nib] into the ink. Another object is to provide a filling
channel independently of the supplying channel for the [nib]”. The
snorkel is called a “filling tube” in this patent, but it’s definitely a
snorkel, even before Sheaffer’s snorkel. The only original thing that
the Sheaffer Pen Co. contributed to the snorkel filler was the name. If
you don’t know your own history, you’re doomed to repeat it, or maybe
they did know it, and stole the idea.
And then there’s US patent no. 2,603,189, another Snorkel precursor in which the snorkel is called a “filler needle”. It was issued on July 15, 1952, then re-issued as US patent no. RE23,683, on July 7, 1953 and assigned to the W. A. Sheaffer Pen Co., to buy out the competition in the business. Check out the interesting replacement of all uses of the word “pen” in the patent by the word “nib” in the re-issue. And then there’s the snorkel piston filler that Herbert Anders created for Wahl-Eversharp and that Len Provisor found, and that Fultz wrote about in Pen World, and which may never have been patented. And then there’s the snorkel-like vanishing point that William E. L. Bunn created for Sheaffer, and which may never have been patented. Len Provisor posted on Pentrace that Sam Fiorella found the 1959 industrial drawings for the pen, and wrote about it in The Pennant, Winter 2004. Len noted that the Pilot Capless Vanishing Point pen was not introduced until 1963, and that this Sheaffer pen was a cartridge filler and did not have a working snorkel feature. The nib slid in and out like a snorkel tube, and was shaped like a snorkel. Now, that’s about as close as you’ll get to actually writing with a snorkel tube! The snorkel story isn’t over yet.
My interest in pen patents peters out somewhere in the mid-1950s, and I couldn’t find any US patents that were issued to William Bunn. The only items I have been able to find issued to Bunn are US design patents, about 14 of them, all assigned to Sheaffer, including the one for the PFM, D188,267. I’ll leave it for someone else to try to find the patent, if it can be found at all. So the above pen may be another of those unpatented, or unpatentable projects, perhaps because Sheaffer considered it too futuristic, or too complicated and expensive to put into production. Or perhaps, because the pen conflicted with the US patents for the Capless and the Vanishing Point. Here are a few of them, 3,203,403, 3,292,593, 3,399,946, 3,427,112, and 4,560,298.
, and the Parker 51 and 61 snorkel fillers, and some other obscure pens.
[Posted on L&P on Jan 22, 2006.]
The Snorkel pen is about as close as Sheaffer got to producing a vanishing point, or did it? Maybe it got closer than that. Did you ever wonder whether you could write with the snorkel part of a Sheaffer Snorkel pen? Now, come on, admit it. Okay then, you don’t have to speak up, but how about this? Did you ever actually try writing with the snorkel? No? Well, I did, once. It didn’t work very well. Very scratchy, and very blobby. Well, there is a Sheaffer patent for a fountain pen with a vanishing nib, and that’s about as close as you’ll ever get to writing with the snorkel itself. It’s US patent no. 2,949,887, and it’s a shame it was never put into production. Has anyone ever seen one? The nib is tubular, sort of like a Parker 51 nib, and the snorkel is a concentric tube that fits snuggly inside the nib, just barely sliding within this outer shell, and it acts like the feed for the nib. Both tubes slide out of the shroud together just enough to expose the nib for writing, but not for filling the pen. The snorkel slides out further separately for filling. The images for this patent are gorgeous and highly detailed. This one’s especially for all the Sheaffer collectors and the vanishing point enthusiasts out there.
Who would have thunk it? A Capless Sheaffer Snorkel Vanishing Point! It’s about as crazy as the Parker 51 frankenpen with a snorkel filler that’s illustrated in US patent no. 2,799,247. It’s actually demonstrated being filled from a Sheaffer “Top Well” ink bottle! I can’t claim finding this one. Tim Barker found it and pointed it out quite a few years ago, on Apr 8, 2003, to be precise, on the Zoss List. This one’s especially for all the Parker and Sheaffer collectors out there.
And here’s another hybrid pen, a Parker-Sheaffer pen that was never put into production, a capillary filler with a snorkel, or a snorkel filler that fills by capillary action, US patent no. 2,784,699. You would have dipped the snorkel and waited for it to fill itself. It’s a Parker “61” and Sheaffer “Snorkel” frankenpen! Also check out US patent no. 2,774,332 for a Parker “61” capillary filler, but with the capillary material extending right under the nib to become the feed. It was meant to be filled at the nib end, although it could be filled at the rear end as well, but only “after the sections of the body have been separated and the rear section removed”. These are for all the Parker and Sheaffer hybrid collectors out there.
, or pump, or piston filler, another obscure Waterman’s pen.
[Posted on L&P on July 24 2006.]
Do you remember the Waterman’s Plunger Filler? Well, here’s another obscure one for all the Waterman’s collectors out there, a Waterman’s button-activated vacuum filler. But first, let me repeat a slightly revised version of the preamble from my previous post.
Did Waterman ever produce a piston, or plunger, or pump filler in the 1930s? And how about a button-vac filler? Well, Parker had its Vac with its diaphragm filler, so Waterman’s had to have its Ink-Vue with a diaphragm, even though theirs was lever-driven rather than plunger-rod activated. So why didn’t Waterman have a vac filler as well? Sheaffer and Pelikan had some very competitive piston fillers. So why didn’t Waterman’s have a piston, or plunger, or pump filler? And if Waterman did have pump fillers, or vac fillers under development in the 1930s, but never put the pens into production, then how do you look for them? How can you look for them, when you don’t know that they ever existed? And how can you look for 1930s patents when the word “pen” isn’t used in the title of one of them? Well, the answer is you can’t, unless you stumble upon them, and even then, they’re only the patents for the pens, not the actual pens.
Well, here’s another obscure Waterman’s pen, the Waterman’s button-activated vacuum filler in their US patent no. 2,139,084, also unproduced as far as I know. Has anyone ever seen one of these? Again David Nishimura said that he couldn’t say he had ever seen an actual example of this one, but he also mentioned that the patent cited the file number for a patent application for the barrel plug that might be the one that Waterman used in their late Ink-Vue filler with the one-piece barrel that’s HELL to fix! The file number, as it turns out, is the one for patent no. 2,087,672, the standard Waterman’s “Ink-Vue” lever-actuated bulb-vacuum filler. But the later version with the one-piece barrel is patent no. 2,217,755, the goofy, late, one-piece Ink-Vue barrel.
And here’s an interesting piece of Canadian “Ink-Vue” ephemera, a pen that was sent back from the Waterman’s repair department in Montreal as unfixable due to a lack of repair parts.
, or pump, or piston filler, another obscure Waterman’s pen.
[Posted on L&P on Jan 17, 2006.]
Did Waterman ever produce a plunger filler in the 1930s? Well, Parker had its Vac with its diaphragm filler, so Waterman had to have its Ink-Vue with a diaphragm, even though theirs was lever-driven rather than using a plunger rod. So why didn’t Waterman have a piston, or pump, or plunger filler as well? And if Waterman did have a plunger filler under development in the 1930s, but never put the pen into production, then how do you look for it? How can you look for one, when you don’t know whether one ever existed? And how can you look for a 1930s patent when the word “pen” isn’t used in the title of the patent?
Well, the answer is you can’t, unless you stumble upon the patent for it, and then it’s only the patent for one, not an actual pen. US patent no. 1,967,580 is for a pump filler that was assigned to the L. E. Waterman Co. in 1934. The piston rod, or plunger had to be pumped several times to fill the pen. Gabriel Larsen held at least 25 pen patents and designs including this one, all assigned to Waterman, but this one was, as far as I know, another obscure Waterman’s pen that was never produced. David Nishimura also wrote that he had never seen an actual example. Has anyone else ever seen one? I found the patent while looking up patent no. 2,489,976 for another pump- piston filler that cited the Larsen patent in its list of references at the end of the specifications.