January 11, 2015

The Snorkel Precursors

, some more obscure pens.

Part 2
[Posted on L&P on Aug 6, 2006, and cross-posted to Pentrace.]
        So 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.

George Kovalenko.