September 29, 2015

The Conklin Buildings

  , and the first self-filling fountain pens.


[Posted on L&P on Nov 12, 2012.]
        Here are a few articles from The American Stationer about some of the Conklin Pen Mfg. Co. buildings.  The article on
Oct 1, 1910, p.30 has an illustration of the exterior of their new five-story Conklin Bldg. at the corner of Jackson & Huron Sts.  The article also makes a big deal of Conklin claiming to be at “the birth of the self-filling pen industry”, and that a new building was necessary because of  “the tremendous possibilities in the self-filling fountain pen”.  It went on to say, “The building is a monument to the intrinsic worth and selling qualities of Conklin’s self-filling fountain pen”.  Also, “When the Conklin Co. started in business [in 1898], the self-filling idea in the fountain pen field was an experiment that was looked at askance by men in the business, and predictions were rife that its career would be short-lived, though perhaps meteoric.  But the self-filling fountain pen was just one more modern invention that [upset] the predictions of [the] prophets.  Conklin’s self-filling fountain pen is no longer a curiosity or experiment, but a practical article that has been tried and found worthy.”  One might even go so far as to say, “They upset the predictions of the Pen Prophets”, who were still struggling to get out of the eyedropper era.  The new factory is called the “largest Self-Filling Fountain Pen plant in the world” in an advertisement on Dec 17, 1910, p.23.  The long 2-page article on May 17, 1913, pp.24-25 has seven photos of the interior of the five-story Conklin Bldg. with descriptions in the text of the seven scenes.  And there’s an article on May 15, 1920, p.15 about their plans for a newly projected “modern factory” on the northeast corner of Superior & Chestnut Streets.
        The articles and photos in the above links are all from Hathi Trust, but before the Hathi links were placed online, David Nishimura added the Google Books versions of three of the above links, for those in the United States, Oct 1, 1910, p.30, May 17, 1913, pp.24-25, and May 15, 1920, p.15.

P.S.  And here’s a search for the name “Conklin” in Am. Stat.,
Volume 68, 1910.

George Kovalenko.


September 27, 2015

Prince’s Protean, and vulcanite

 , and hard rubber.

[Posted on L&P on Apr 21, 27, 28, July 13, 14, 2007, and June 2, 2009.]
        Antonios Zavaliangos wrote, “This is it!  The first commercially successful fountain pen in the US.  The earliest reference to the pen that I have been able to find is from The Knickerbocker,
April 1855, p. 437, a New-York monthly magazine, shown above.  Apparently the offices of the magazine were next to Newell A. Prince’s office at #8 Appleton Bldg., 348 Broadway Ave., in NY.”

        And I wrote, “Also take a look at the
Fall 1999 issue of The Pennant for a great article by Ed Fingerman.  Four examples of the different models of Prince’s pen are illustrated there.  Antonios also mentioned the Charles Goodyear patents for rubber, but they are for soft, elastic rubber.  The only patent for hard rubber is the Nelson Goodyear patent.  But it’s not as simple as that.  The original US patent for hard rubber, 8,075, was issued in 1851 to Nelson Goodyear.  But it was re-issued in the US in 1856, RE556, to Henry B. Goodyear, the administrator of Nelson’s estate.  This in turn was extended on May 6, 1865, and finally expired on May 6, 1872. Until that date, any item making use of the hard rubber patent had to bear the patent date of this patent, or of the latest re-issue.
        Antonios then wrote, “The only point in Nelson’s patent that differed from Charles’ earlier work was that he used more sulphur”.  And I wrote, “Not just more sulphur, but more heat, and pressure, and for a longer period of time”.  Okay, that was the short answer
on “Vulcanization”.  Now, here’s the long answer.
        “Most hard rubber items are molded, or subjected to heat in a mold, to keep the rubber matter from running and losing its shaped form in the process of heating.  The rubber is also, therefore, of necessity, exposed to pressure from the simple fact of being contained in a mold.

        “Goodyear discovered the vulcanization of soft, elastic rubber in 1838-39, and the patent was issued on February 24, 1839, but Goodyear did not achieve any financial success with the product until after June 15, 1844, when he got his own patent for vulcanization after five years of experimenting with and perfecting the process.  In the meantime, Thomas Hancock in the UK heard of Goodyear’s work on rubber and rushed to get his own patent for vulcanization in Britain on May 30, 1844, just before Goodyear’s US patent.  It was Hancock who first observed that if rubber were allowed to remain too long in a bath of molten sulphur it became black and hard, and he said so as an aside in his patent for soft rubber.  It is because of this that Ralph Wolf states in his book, India Rubber Man, The Story Of Charles Goodyear (1939), that the credit for finding out how to make hard rubber “undoubtedly should go” to Hancock.  But his patent was primarily for the vulcanization of soft, elastic rubber, and it mentions this odd effect of hardening only as a peripheral comment, or as an after thought.  Meanwhile in America, Nelson Goodyear, Charles’s brother, also noticed that rubber turned hard when sufficient quantities of sulphur were added, and sufficient heat and pressure were applied for the appropriate length of time.  But Nelson received his patent only as late as May 6, 1851, thus leading Wolf to call him merely “one of the inventors of hard rubber”, even though in America he is credited as thee inventor of hard rubber.

        “Here is a quote from an abridgement of Hancock’s British patent for elastic rubber taken from Bennet Woodcroft’s Patents For Inventions, Abridgements Of The Specifications Relating To India Rubber [Caoutchouc] And Gutta Percha (1859), published by the UK Patent Office.  After laying out the first two improvements for soft, pliable rubber, the abridgement lays out the third improvement for hard rubber in Thomas Hancock’s UK patent no. 9,952, applied for on Nov 21, 1843, and granted on May 30, 1844.

The third [improvement] is, immersing the caoutchouc [latex rubber] in melted sulphur or mixing it with sulphur in any way whatever, and submitting it to high temperatures, and thus changing the nature of the rubber completely.  The heating is by oven or by water or steam under pressure.  The result may be stated to be no longer affected by temperatures or by the usual solvents for ordinary [elastic] india rubber.  Other things may be blended in the caoutchouc with the sulphur and the “change” effected by heat.  The temperature from 300° to 400° varies with the nature, quality and size of the material to be changed; at first the rubber is elastic, but by higher temperatures, or by longer keeping in high temperatures, the caoutchouc gradually changes until it ultimately becomes black “and has something [of] the appearance of horn, and may be pared with a knife similarly to that substance”.  This process is known by the term “vulcanizing,” and the article produced is said to be “vulcanized”.
And the material is called “vulcanite”.  The process was named after Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire and metalworking.  It is also sometimes called ebonite because it resembles ebony, the black-colored wood.  But “change” and “heat”, those are the active principles at work here.”

        John Chapman wrote on July
13, 2007, “Since the subject of early Prince’s Protean pens was raised here, let me add a tidbit I just stumbled across from the New York Times, May 11, 1853.
GOLD PENS.—Important To Commercial Men, Editors, Lawyers, Reporters, Engineers, and all who write little or much.—THE SPRING FOUNTAIN PEN!  Prince’s Patent—the ne plus ultra of Gold Pens, just perfected—are easily adjusted, and simple in their combination, and, with one charging, will hold ink enough to write a whole day!  The public are invited to call, examine and test the article at THOMAS BLAKENEY’S Gold Pen Manufactory, Nos. 42 and 44 Nassau St., upstairs, near the Post-Office, where a general assortment of Pens and Pencil Cases may be had at the manufacturer’s prices.  Pens repaired.
So they were commercially available in the Spring of 1853.  This is probably one of the earliest ads for Prince’s Protean pen, and the first mention of the word “fountain pen” in the N. Y. Times.”

        And I wrote, “It looks like the ad also doesn’t use the name “Protean”, yet, named after Proteus, the Greek god who had the unique ability to change his form.  Instead, it calls it the “Spring Fountain Pen”.  And by the way, this is probably the earlier US Prince patent no. 8,399, not one of the later ones from 1855”.  And Jan added, “There is another mention of the Prince pen in 1853 in the catalogue for the World's Fair held in Bryant Park in New York, the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, which also describes it as a “Spring fountain pen containing reservoir and spring for supplying ink”, in the entry for Prince’s pen.”

        Then Antonios wrote on June 2, 2009, “Let’s add one more early reference here, one from the Manitowoc Tribune, Apr 19, 1855, p. 1.

A MAGIC PEN.—Of this new invention the Independent says: “We hold in our hands a pen which allows our thoughts to flow from its point as freely as they list, without the interruption of dipping into ink every alternate moment.  Indeed, our thoughts sometimes dry sooner than the pen.  Our readers may judge something of its capacity when we inform them that we can write six columns of this journal, or twenty pages of a sermon, or for five hours on the stretch, with one filling of our fountain pen.  It is light, graceful, easily regulated, and in all respects a complete and well-finished article.  The pen feeds itself without any care from the writer, who only needs to busy himself about his words.—To the merchant or clerk in taking orders, the accountant in making long entries, the editor in scribbling paragraphs, the lawyer in drawing instruments, the copyist in transcribing, the minister in writing sermons, and the traveler in jotting down items, it will be alike serviceable in the economy of time and the freedom from the annoyance of ink-dipping, blotting, and wiping.  It may be had of the trade generally, under the name “Prince’s fountain pen”.  This admirable article is sold by Folleys and Wells for Three Dollars, and may be sent prepaid by return of the first mail to the post-office in the United States.

George Kovalenko.


September 24, 2015

The Goble Inkwell

        You all know, by now, how much I like globe ink bottles, however, that’s not a misspelling in the title.  But it is globe-shaped.  What I’m talking about here is James D. Goble’s US patent no. 2,088,952 for an “Inkwell”, which is described in the specifications as “spherical, or ball-shaped”, but it could also be characterized as global, or rather globle-shaped.
        There’s also Waterman’s globe inkwell, US patent no.
1,762,103, which is probably better described as a Waterman’s fountain pen and globe deskset, or “fountain pen and stand therefor”.  But it’s really just a half-globe deskset.  It’s not global, it’s hemispherical.  It was only available in BHR and Ripple, but it would have been spectacular in all-RHR.

 George Kovalenko.


September 21, 2015

The MacKinnon ‘Sovereign’ Pen

 , the original “Longshort” pen.

[Posted on L&P on Feb 28, 29, Mar 7, 2012.]
        Here’s a picture of what was probably the first attempt at a long-short, or short-long pen, the MacKinnon “Sovereign” stylo.  The above cut appears in an article in The American Stationer,
Dec 2, 1880, p.8, which shows that it preceded the Mabie Todd “Longshort” by about 31 years.  It is described as being one that’s “made to close in a very compact manner”.  It was “about an inch shorter than the shortest pen” made by any other penmakers when capped, and almost as long as “the longest pen” when opened for use and with the cap posted.  Has anyone found any earlier examples?  Here’s one of the first ads, Jan 13, 1881, p.42.
        And David Nishimura wrote, “Sorry George, but I don’t buy it.  The distinctive thing about a real longshort design is that the overall length when closed is only slightly more than the length of the cap.  Put another way, the cap, when the pen is closed, covers nearly all of the barrel—which is not the case with the MacKinnon design”.
        And I wrote, “Well, it is a precursor, even though the transformation is not as dramatic as that of the later pens.  I put it in the plural because there are other pens, not just the Mabie Todd.  If we want to quibble over numbers, in the case of the “Sovereign”, the ratio of the length of the pen capped to the length with the cap posted is a little over 1:1.3, whereas the “Longshort” is a little over 1:1.85, almost 1:2.  It’s just a difference in the degree of compression.  The MacKinnon is not as short as the MTCo when capped, but the bonus with the “Sovereign” is that, when the cap is posted, it is almost as long as a normal pen.  What’s important is the stated principle of a pen shortened for compactness and portability when capped.

        “Livermore came out with his version of the “Sovereign”, but he called his the “Monarch”, which he advertized on Nov 23, 1882, p.802, as “closing up short for the vest pocket”.
  And just for good measure, here are a few later Diamond Point “Barrel In The Cap” pens from the 1930s.”
        “It’s also the first stylo to look like it has a regular fountain pen cap and barrel.  Its design almost looks like a precursor to the Frank Holland pen, and the first Waterman’s “Ideal” pens, and the Thomas De La Rue “Anti-Stylograph”, all of which came after it.  And almost two years later, in this ad, Sept 21, 1882, p.460, Cross finally stole that idea as well, but then, in his defense, all the pen companies had to imitate one another in order to compete, but MacKinnon was first.

It looks very much like the Holland-Waterman double picture in “Blotting Out The Truth”, p.38.”

  George Kovalenko. 

September 18, 2015

The survival rate of Cross pens

, and the Waterman’s production numbers.

[Posted on L&P on Jan 16, 2013.]
        Way back on May 8, 2003, Vance Koven wrote on Zoss asking about the survival rates of Cross pens.  “What I have found mystifying is the absence of Cross from the realm of vintage pen trading.  We know that in addition to stylographic pens, Cross from the 1880s forward made standard fountain pens.  So where are they in the market?  Did some dastardly scoundrel buy them all up and burn all but a handful?  Were they such lousy pens that they all fell apart?”
        Well, it’s all in the numbers.  While looking at the claimed production numbers in the ads for various pen and ink companies, it struck me that this was the solution, or at least, the best explanation I could find.  Many pens had to be made in order for just a few to survive.  The more that were made, the more that survived.  Look at these early production and sales numbers for various other pen companies.  All the dated ads and articles are from The American Stationer.

Waterman had Herbert Fisher make the feeds for his first pens on May 24, 1883.
A working “Model” was included with the patent application on June 20, 1883.
The first pen was sold on
July 11, 1883 to R. E. Bingham.
In 1884, his first manufacturing run was 24 pens.
Before the November 1884 ad, he had sold about 200 pens, and within a few weeks he received “a large number of orders”.

In 1884, he sold ~200 pens.
In 1885, he sold ~500 pens.
In 1886, he sold ~2,000 pens.
In 1887, he sold ~5,000 pens.
In 1888, he sold ~9,000 pens.
In 1892, he sold ~28,000 pens.
In 1895, the number of orders reached ~63,000.
In 1900, the sales reached ~275,000.
In 1903, the orders had passed the 500,000 mark.
In 1912, nearly 1,250,000 were sold.
In 1916, annual sales passed 2,000,000.
In 1921, the yearly output was expected to be 10,000,000.

Wirt made his first pens in 1881, but his first ad in Am. Stat. was on Apr 15, 1886, p.298.
In the ad on Feb 16, 1888, p.298, he claimed that over 200,000 “people using them”.
In Feb 1890, 350,000 were in use, and he claimed “More sold than all other makes combined”.
In July 1891, 450,000 were in use.
In Oct 1893, 500,000 were in use.
In Jan 1895, 1,000,000 were in use.
In May 1896, over 1,000,000 were sold.
By 1901, they claimed to have sold 2,000,000.

From 1888 to 1892 Shipman’s ads appeared along side Waterman’s ads, while Shipman was making pens on the Waterman patent, and before the court case was settled.  Waterman claimed only 9,000 pens sold in 1888, and Shipman probably had similar numbers, and look at how many of both their pens survive from that period.  Very few.

In an article on Nov 28, 1878, p.13, John Holland was said to be receiving an order for 100 pens a day from MacKinnon.  That’s about 36,500 pens that year.

In an ad on Apr 15, 1880, p.22, the MacKinnon pen sales were claimed to be over 80,000 a year.

Livermore’s ad on Nov 23, 1882, p.802, claimed their stylographic inks were in use in 500,000 stylos, but that’d be for all makes, not just theirs.

By contrast, a Cross ad on Oct 26, 1893, p.843, stated that they had merely “thousands of users”, presumably of both fountain and stylographic pens.

Meanwhile a Carter’s ad on Dec 25, 1884, p.882, claimed 5,079,888 bottles of ink sold that year.
A Stafford’s ink ad on, Oct 9, 1884, p.484, claimed “Annual sales [of] five million bottles”.
A Conklin ad on Oct 6, 1917, p.29, claimed “nearly 2,000,000 satisfied users”.
An Esterbrook ad on Oct 6, 1917, p.41, stated that they made 200,000,000 nibs “each year”.
And lastly, Gillott’s advertised that they sold 70,612,002 steel nibs in 1842, and 105,125,493 nibs in 1843.

        Those are the kinds of numbers that you need in order to have a good survival rate, and to make any kind of “presence” in the “realm of vintage pen trading”.  Cross’s pens just weren’t as popular, and weren’t produced and didn’t sell in the same kinds of numbers as Waterman’s and Wirt’s pens, therefore, fewer survived.  The patents for the early Cross fountain pens were excessively complicated, with many parts that could get gummed up with ink, and they were abandoned quite quickly by Cross.  Then Cross tried to steal the Wirt overfeed, but they were stopped by Wirt’s litigations. Later, Cross also “imitated” the Waterman’s underfeed, but their production numbers just weren’t up there as high as those of Wirt, or Waterman.
        One last thing, if we’re also talking about the Cross stylo numbers, they had a low survival rate because they didn’t have the John Holland patented solid iridium tip that the MacKinnon pen had.  The Cross stylos wore out and clogged and broke down a lot more often than any other stylos.  They make a big deal in their advertising about having to devote a large amount of floor space to their repair department.  But rather than have their stylos fixed, the owners simply threw them out, and bought something more dependable, like a fountain pen.  Why should they bother with repairing their stylos, any way, since they didn’t have gold nibs, or any other intrinsic value.  The value was in the stylographic point, and that was worn away, and the whole section and point had to be replaced.

        Roger Wooten wrote, “I’ve asked the same question in regards to Boston Fountain Pen Company.  It has led David Nishimura and me to agree that when Walter Sheaffer testified circa 1915 that Boston was one of his main competitors that he is referring qualitatively as there just aren’t large numbers of Bostons that have survived.  There may also be a crossover point from hard rubber to plastic where large numbers of hard rubber pens may have been discarded at that time.  I’d say known and findable examples of Bostons total around 500-1,000 pens and would speculate that from 1904-1916 they made at least 500,000 pens. I would further speculate that 500 to 1,000 pens would have had to have been made for us to have a single example from the 1900-1920 period. Perhaps someone that really knows LE Waterman could come up with a survivability rate ratio.

        And I wrote, “Frank Dubiel told me a story once of going to the garbage dump with his dad in the 1950s and literally filling up bushel baskets full of all sorts of fountain pens and mechanical pencils because everyone was switching over to the ballpoint.  That’s another great watershed era when we lost many fountain pens.  And when gold started to go up in price in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many gold nibs were pulled from fountain pens with pliers.”

        Roger wrote, “I kinda feel you need at least 1,000 for 1 to survive, but perhaps Boston never approached 500,000 in total.  I’ve nothing to base that figure on.  In thinking on Sheaffer, 1,000+ is likely, and we have some idea of production with them.  So without analyzing my examples, what do you guys think the production-to-one ratio is?”

        And I wrote, “I’d say more like 1 for every 25-50,000 pens made.  The problem is that it’s very difficult to do a survey to ascertain the number of surviving examples, if we don’t have accurate production numbers.  It’s probably also a different ratio for every pen company.  What number do you suggest, David?”

        David wrote, “I wouldn’t even dare to venture a figure.  We also have to qualify what we are estimating, since pen collecting is still relatively young, and since pens are items that can easily remain squirrelled away for decades.  So are we talking about pens that have survived reasonably intact and have found their way to collectors (or perhaps more precisely, to that group of collectors who correspond with researcher-collectors, in English), or about total survivors, including those still stuck away in desk drawers, and those belonging to hobbyist collectors of a less social bent?  There are so many variables, too, and not just company by company.  Models more likely to break, or to age in unattractive ways, or to fall out of fashion in styling would also be much more likely to be discarded.  Brands and models favored in certain demographic and geographic groups would also have varying survival rates.  Fancy presentation pens have always had a much higher survival rate than plain ones.”

        Then Roger wrote, “I’d agree with that.  We can really only make guesses at it since we aren’t likely to have total production figures to start with.  Also, knowing every pen that survived is impossible.  Could the production be as high as 50,000?  It’s purely a guess.  I have one example, but there could be more out there, and maybe they made 100,000, so if we find a second that would still be only one in 50,000.  I’m not sure it is that high, though.  I think the general concept that it took quite a few to have a surviving example is certain.  It’d be fun if we could quantify that, but of the many things we can yet discover this will probably ultimately elude us.”

George Kovalenko.


September 15, 2015

Two Crossed Nibs

[Posted on L&P on May 8, and 10, 2010.]
        US trademark no.
6,078 by Norris H. Spaulding from May 14, 1878, and used since 1873, is for the name “N. Hubbard” and an image of two crossed nibs.  US trademark no. 9,699 by Warren N. Lancaster from Sept 26, 1882, and used since April that year, is for two crossed fountain pens and the words “The Lancaster Government”.  US trademark no. 67,088 by The Firm Of Johann Faber, for wooden pencils and erasers on Jan 14, 1908, and used since Aug 2, 1879, is for the words “Johann Faber” and an image of two crossed hammers.  I found the above lapel pin quite a few years ago.  And my publisher’s emblem, i.e., the hammer & pen, or penmaker, or pensmith image, conflates some elements from all of these images.

George Kovalenko.


September 12, 2015

The Waterman’s color nibs

  , and the illusive “White” nib.


[Posted on Zoss on Jan 9, 2001, on Pentrace on Jan 9, 2005, on FPN on Apr 29, 2005, and on L&P on June 7, 2005.]
        Bruce W. posted a message on Pentrace on Apr 26, 2005, asking for a more complete guide or chart explaining the different Waterman’s color nibs.  EP posted a reply, “We need an archive for info like this, which comes up periodically”.  Well, there had been an earlier thread on Pentrace on Jan 9, 2005, about this same, recurrent topic in which Wayne reposted a message of mine that had originally been posted years ago on Zoss.  I posted that message on Zoss on Jan 9, 2001, after a tray like the one above, with the infamous “White” nib, appeared on Ebay sometime around August 2000.  I thought that the message was lost forever.  It was posted during one of the outages at eScribe, the Zoss archive, and it didn’t get saved.  Thanks to Wayne, it was resurrected from oblivion.  I reposted it on FPN on Apr 29, 2005, and a revised and expanded version of it on L&P on June 7, 2005, and now I am reposting it here to preserve it in this archive.

        In response to the thread on Zoss in 2001, Thierry Nguyen wrote, “There were more than seven nib colors.  In fact, I know of nine, listed here with the corresponding original Waterman descriptions, more or less in order of rarity—please don’t argue about that. ;-)

Red - Standard (medium flexibility)

Green - Rigid
Pink - Flexible Fine
Purple - Stiff Fine
Yellow - Rounded (ball shape)

Brown - Fine
Blue - Blunt (improved stub)

Grey - Oblique
Black - Flexible Medium
        “I’ve seen all these colors mentioned in contemporary Waterman ads, but never all of them in one ad.  Also, the Black one appeared only in a French Waterman ad.  Regarding the mythical White nib, I’ve only heard of it.  I’ve not yet met anybody that has seen one for real, but Lavin or Fultz could perhaps tell us more on the subject”.

        And I wrote, “A 1927 brochure in the Fischler-Schneider “Blue Book” shows the six basic colors, and gives the following descriptions.

    Red, Standard Point, for home and general use, med. flex.
    Green, Rigid Point, the salesman’s friend, for manifolding.
    Pink, Flex Fine Point, for stenographers, for shading.
    Purple, Stiff Fine Point, for accountants, for small writing.
    Blue, Blunt Point, for rapid writers, a broad point.
    Yellow, Rounded Point, an unusual pen point, for left-handed writers.
        “A circa 1928-9 Waterman’s brochure titled “Ripple-Rubber” lists the above basic six colors, but with the added description of “Stub” to the Blue nib, and a seventh color, “Grey, Oblique, for those who hold the pen at an angle or between the [index and middle] fingers”.
        “The Waterman’s #7 pen tray from circa 1929 to early 1930s that appeared on Ebay in August 2000 has the basic six colors, eliminates the Grey nib, and then adds three new colors for a total of nine.  It also changes some of the descriptions and designations.  The plastic tray would have held at least two pens of every color, and had the color in raised letters along one side of the tray and the corresponding designations in raised letters along the other side.  In order from one end to the other, these are the colors.

    Purple, Accountant.
    Pink, Bookkeeper.
    Black, Stenographer.
    Brown, Fine Flex.
    Green, Med. Firm.
    Red, Med. Flex.
    Blue, Stub.
    White, Coarse.
    Yellow, Left Handed.
        “The Pink is changed from Stenographer to Bookkeeper.  The Black becomes the new Stenographer nib.  The Brown is redesignated as Fine Flex, or the shading nib.  And the White is the Coarse, or Broad nib.  So, at any one time there were at most nine different colored nibs, but if one were to count the total of the colors, it would be ten.  It’s not as simple as it seems at first, but anyone trying to collect all the different colors will also have to be able to discriminate, no pun intended, between all the different colors and their corresponding designations at the different periods that they were issued.  Even the basic six colors aren’t stable, and with the redesignations of some of the other colors, the sum total of different pens required to fill out a complete set of #7s might be something like eleven, or twelve, depending upon whether the Blunt is the equivalent of a Stub, or a Broad nib.
        “And then there are the #7s with thin white bands above and below the color bands, and the #7s without the thin white bands. And then also there are the black plastic #7s.  There are also some very late transitional Canadian #7s.  These were made of red ripple hard rubber, but during the time when the black plastic pens were already in production.  They had a later style of clip, a narrower cap band, and nibs with round holes instead of the keyhole-shaped holes.  Also, the nibs were not embossed with the color names, but were instead embossed with the number “7” at the base near the section.  They were probably just using up old leftover stockpiles of ripple rod stock.  As it is with most other matters concerning pens, it’s not a simple matter.
        “I hope that this complicates things sufficiently.”

        Wim posted that he had seen “several pictures of some of these rare specimens on PenTrace”, adding, “They do exist”.
        And I wrote, “Pictures of a Waterman #7 Ripple pen with a single White colour band with a White nib?!!!  Wim, you had better be able to back that up with a picture, because I don’t think there ever was a white-nibbed Ripple #7.  Waterman may have made the White nib only on the Jet Black #7 pen, the one with the color discs on the end of the barrel.  As far as I know, no White-nibbed pens have shown up anywhere so far, not on Pentrace, nor any place else.  I’d like to see one, though.”

        Rob Astyk wrote that he thought the number of color nibs in production at any given time was still up for debate.  “I think that, after the first six appeared, the other four appeared quickly and permanently.  The BLACK and WHITE nibs were available as late as 1946 as is shown in an ad from that year.  The GREY oblique nib was also available at that time, as is proved by a pair of desk pens in my collection, but we just don’t see it in the ads.  I have written a piece about the Waterman color nibs for Stylophiles On-Line, and Ron Dutcher’s website,, titled
“Pens For Particular Hands, The Waterman Color Nibs”.
        “Those Waterman’s #7 Ripple trays are hard to find.  The advertising emphasized #7 nibs, 7 colors, 7 dollars, and the trays were set up for 7 pens.  But while most 7-slot trays had the first 7 colors, additional trays substituted GREY, BLACK, or WHITE for the BROWN.  Another “Color” pen tray, one that I believe to be for an early to mid-1940s display case, holds nine pens, one of each color except GREY.
        “George has introduced me to Brazilian collector Wilmes Teixeira who has at least one red ripple pen with a nib with the RED color imprint and a round breather hole.  The existence of that nib quite possibly moves the nib imprints into the 1940s.  Wilmes also feels that the WHITE nib is rare because it was a late afterthought.  He doesn’t feel that the WHITE nib appeared when the other nine colors did.  In defense of that argument, the only hard evidence we have for the WHITE nib is a series of later pen trays.  Also, Waterman started off with only six colors in 1927, and probably only expanded on the concept once somebody in advertising convinced them of the wisdom of having a #7 pen with a #7 nib priced at $7 and with 7 “colors”.  I think that the jury is still out on when the WHITE nib appeared.  Hopefully it will be settled one day when a WHITE #7 nib appears, either in a Ripple pen, or a Jet plastic one, or both.”

        David Nishimura wrote, “I have never seen a “White” nib, nor have I heard of any being spotted in my circle of acquaintances.  I’ve had a few “Black” nibbed 7s and have seen a couple more.  “Brown” is, in comparison, relatively common.”

        Rob Astyk wrote, “The WHITE nib is a conundrum.  I doubted that it existed for a while but there have now been 2 or 3 Waterman pen trays that have appeared that show “Coarse” as a “WHITE” nib.  We have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the trays.  We also know that Waterman advertised nibs by color as late as the mid-1940s.  All the trays marked with a space for pens with WHITE nibs come from the late-1930s or early-1940s.  These facts lead to a debate over when the WHITE nib appeared.  If it is a late addition to the nib color line, then it may never have appeared in a Ripple 7 version at all.  There may be dozens of WHITE nibs in collections, but masquerading as “Broad” nibs sold out of a tray that identified them at “White”, and which was the only identifier that they ever had as such.

        “We know that Waterman originally advertised the #7 pen with 6 nib colors at $7.  Someone then had a brainstorm and added a 7th color, probably BROWN.  I tend to think that Waterman added all the colors at this point, including WHITE, to cover the 10 most popular nib styles.  There are GREY and BLACK Red Ripple 7s, but the absence of any known WHITE nibs on a Red Ripple pen doesn’t do much for my theory.

        “Odd things keep turning up.  One day we will find a Ripple with white band, or a black 7 with white dot and nib, or we won’t.  There are plenty of collections lurking in safe deposit boxes, or in homes of collectors who are very quiet about their interests.  I have hope that one day some such collection will yield an example.  If none ever does, we will have to fall back on the theory that WHITE is a late addition that was never marked except on the edges of some trays.  But after the Pompeian Brown Duofold, I’m being a little circumspect in those pens whose existence I deny.”

        Rob Astyk wrote, “On June 11, 2007 Richard Binder posted a message on Pentrace titled “Miracles still do happen, as demonstrated by the Waterman’s No. 7 I got at Raleigh”.  In that message he shows photos of a Waterman Red Ripple 7 that probably has a replacement cap from a Waterman 55 without a color-band.  Without a color-band we can’t be entirely sure what the pen looked like originally, but this Waterman 7 has a
WHITE nib.  To my knowledge this is the first WHITE nib of which we have had public notice.  Because Binder got the pen from Susan Wirth, we have no need to doubt the bona fides of the nib.

        “The appearance of a WHITE nib in a Ripple 7 would go a long way toward resolving the issue of whether the GREY, WHITE and BLACK nibs appeared early, or late.  We’d then have to say that those three least Common colors probably came into the line shortly after the initial 1927 introduction of the pen.  We know that the initial advertising for the Waterman 7 showed only six nib colors.  The seventh color appeared within a year of the 7’s introduction.  I think that we are not stretching things too far to propose the hypothesis that the last four nib colors happened, if not all at once, at about the same time that the BROWN nib became the seventh color.

        “We may not be able to definitively state that the WHITE nib was in the Waterman line no later than the end of 1928, but I think that we can say that it was a part of the Waterman line long before the 1930s.  In any case, we now have empirical evidence of a Waterman WHITE color nib ending the debate over the question of its existence at all.”

        Ron Dutcher wrote that he “wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this White nib was some kind of hoax”.  Rob Astyk wrote, “I had some questions about this photo, too, but I was willing to give Richard the benefit of the doubt.  On the other hand, this prompted the thought that I should have verified this story with Susan Wirth.  I consider Susan a friend and an unimpeachable source.  It was largely because she had been marshalled into his story that I had been willing to give it credence.  While I’m inclined to accept that he’s found a genuine WHITE nib, I can see some issues that might have made Ron question the photo.  The word “WHITE” on the nib pictured seems a little off centre and a little crude.  I think the deficits in the photo are a function of the third-rate photography but even looking closely I had some doubts.”

        David Nishimura wrote, “Richard Binder is not spreading this info as a prank.  Nonetheless, I would very much like to get a better look at the nib in question.  The picture isn’t very good, but it looks as if the imprint is very worn, or polished away from its middle on up, with the “WHITE” rather stronger.  Could be that the “WHITE” was impressed more deeply and this is just wear.  One might also wonder, however, if someone might have polished off the original color designation and put in the “WHITE” in its place.  I’m sure Susan Wirth would never do this, nor knowingly resell a faked-up pen, but I don’t know whether she’d be as much on guard for such shenanigans as someone such as myself and others here.”

        Rob Astyk wrote, “I corresponded by email with Susan Wirth and spoke with her on the phone last evening.  As Susan relates it, the story goes as follows.

        “Some time ago a very charming and urbane collector at a show charmed Susan into a trade, in fact two trades, one of which involved the pen in question.  This collector didn’t realize that he’d traded away his Waterman 7 WHITE until some days after the show.  He then wrote to Susan requesting a return of the pen.  Unfortunately, Susan had already offered it to another of her regular customers.  That person already had the pen in his possession.  She explained the situation, at which point the original owner acknowledged that the pen was lost to him.

        “In the meantime, the collector who’d bought the 7 in question decided that the nib was “too smooth” for him, as if such a thing were possible.  He appeared at the Raleigh Show earlier this month and wanted to return the pen.  Susan suggested that he take the pen over to Richard Binder to tweak the nib so that it suited him better.  Evidently this customer was a bit on the volatile side and didn’t wait his turn with Richard.  He protested to Susan who asked that he give the pen to her and she would take it to Binder for adjustment.

        “The next day Susan did take the nib to Binder’s table.  He began to work on the nib but quickly stopped as it dawned on him that he had in his hand what may be the rarest 20th Century Waterman nib.  Since the other customer was dissatisfied with the nib to begin with, Susan worked out a mutually satisfactory trade for the return of the pen and an appropriate deal that made Richard the owner.

        “The provenance seems to only strengthen the case for this being the only publicly known example of a genuine Waterman WHITE nib.  I say “publicly known” because it is entirely possible that other WHITE nibs may exist in private collections of which we know nothing.  The collector who originally owned this pen is evidently not a person who is likely to have faked the nib, or who would have been easily taken in by a fake.  In fact, the original owner of the pen and I exchanged emails at the time he owned that pen, nearly two years ago, on the subject of the WHITE nib.  At that time he was convinced that the WHITE nib didn’t appear until the 1930s, that it never appeared in Ripple 7s, and that the breather hole would be round rather than keyhole shaped.  He was very staunch in his position that the BLACK and WHITE nibs did not appear until sometime in the 1930s, or even the 1940s.

        “Anyway, I think that we are now certain that there is a genuine WHITE nib.  I also must congratulate Richard Binder for recognizing that he had something in his hands that should not be tampered with.  It shows a great deal of intelligence and responsibility on his part.”

        John Chapman wrote on Feb 12, 2008, “One thing needs to be mentioned, and it is an error that we have not gotten to this earlier.  The White nib found by Richard Binder and Susan Wirth, etc., turned out to have been a hoax.  Richard compared notes with John Mottishaw, who worked on that nib some years ago.  When John worked on it, it did not have the White imprint.  So somebody added the imprint after the fact.  Richard posted his retraction on Pentrace and FPN a few weeks after finding the nib.  So the search for a White nib goes on.”

   George Kovalenko.

September 09, 2015

The Matchstick Filler

  , and a ball-pointed nib on an ex-USSR Ukrainian pen, The Kharkiv “Autopen”.

[Posted on L&P on Sept 20-30, 2008, and on FPN on Aug 20, 2010.]
        Pavlo Shevelo shared some pictures of a Ukrainian pen with “Autopen, Kharkiv” in Russian, on the nib, probably short for “Automatic Pen”.  The reason that it’s written in Russian is that during the tsarist and Soviet eras, there was a failed attempt to Russify the Ukrainian nation and its language, and to revise its history.  Here’s something more about
Russian revisionism written by prominent Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Dashkevych.  And here are some more pictures of this interesting pen, Autopen 1, Autopen 2, Autopen 3.
        It’s a black hard rubber pen that looks like it has a Parker Duofold button-filler
barrel, but what’s interesting is that it’s a matchstick filler. It has threads on the barrel end for secure posting of the cap, and it also has a spring clip like the Conklin clip, but with a very weird clip tip.  The 1930s-40s date range fits the style better than the 20s because of the slight hint of streamlining, both in the section, and in the tapering of the cap top, but it still has the traditional look of the 1920s and 30s button fillers.  The matchstick filler is totally off the wall and unexpected, but it makes sense for a pen from the depression era in a country with technological hardships and challenges.  They would have chosen the easiest filling system with the least number of parts.  And by the way, here’s a filling system very similar to the “Autopen”.  It’s Joseph Lipic’s US patent no. 976,815 from Nov 22, 1910, “The Radium Point Pen”.  It’s also a matchstick filler with a special clip.  On the end of the clip there was a post, or stud, or “projection”, and when the cap was posted on the barrel end, the end of the clip could be rotated and lined up with a hole in the barrel for filling the pen.
        Here’s another precursor to and variation on the clip-as-matchstick-filler idea.  This time it
s a generic, slip-on accommodation clip on a JUCO, or Jacob Ullrich & Co. “Independent”, also called the “E-Z” Self Filler Pen.  This cut is from a 1914 catalogue reprinted in the PFC magazine.
        Using a steel nib is definitely a cost-saving measure.  There isn’t any tipping required 

because the nib is a simple steel nib with a curved tip for smoother writing.  It’s similar to the nib in Hezekiah Hewitt’s US patent no. 295,395 from Mar 18, 1884.  The patent reads in part, “The extreme points of the nibs are bent...into a semicircular provide a smooth and flexible curved writing-[point]”, and these nibs were marketed with the name “Ball-Pointed Pens”.  The UK patent for the Hewitt nib is no. 429 in 1883, and US trademark no. 32,598 by D. Leonardt & Co., issued on Mar 21, 1899 and used since June 1, 1884, is for the name “Ball-Pointed Pens”.  There are also US trademark no. 15,805 for Ormiston & Glass’s “Ball-Pointed Pens”, which I will deal with in another post, and US trademark no. 31,958 by Perry & Co., issued on Sept 13, 1898 and used since Apr 30, 1897, for the words “Dome Pointed Pens”.  And if you want something a little newer that’s still old, how about the Waterman’s #7 Yellow nib?  It is described variously in Waterman’s advertising literature as “Yellow, Rounded Point, an unusual pen point, for left-handed writers”, and “Yellow—Rounded Point.  Writes on any paper in any direction.  For left-handed writers”.  Here’s a picture posted by Ron Dutcher in his post about the Waterman’s Yellow Nib, and here’s another close-up picture of a yellow nib.
        Dennis Lively wrote that the clip in the 1914 catalogue resembled one that he had, except that the imprint on his says “Modern | Pat. 8.22.09”.  I wrote that he had a good pen repairman’s eye for recognizing shapes, but that the patent date on the clip is actually 6.22.09, and it’s actually patent no. 923,055 from May 25, 1909.  These clips are often found with the names “The Modern” and “Good Grip” imprinted on them, along with the date June 22, 1909, the date of US design no. 40,082.  And Dennis wrote that he thought his shape recognition skills had been “honed over the years trying to figure out what the pens are in those really bad Ebay pics we all [hate] so much”.  I love it, the deciphering of bad pictures as an Ebay skill!  Well, the imprint date might be an 8, and not a 6, but if it is, it’s a misprint.  Misprints haven’t been unheard of, and pen collectors just love a good misprint.  But you have to remember that the US patents were issued on a Tuesday, ever since the early 1800s, and if you consult a perpetual calendar for
1909, you’ll see that Aug 22, 1909 is not a Tuesday, but June 22, 1909 is.
        Last of all, here’s another picture of a matchstick filler pen, this one by
Aikin Lambert Co., and here’s an article from Aug 20, 2010 on FPN about this type of matchstick filler.  It’s described as having the imprint “US United Service, The Middlesex Co., Middletown, Conn., Clipfill” on the cap.  I don’t have anything on the company name, but I don’t think it’s a pen company.  The pen may have been used as a promotional giveaway by that company.  The nib is stamped “14 KT ALCo.”.  That makes it an Aikin Lambert Co. nib, but not the whole pen.  The sliding, slip-on, accommodation “Mercantile” clip is a Waterman’s-ALCo. product, but that’s also not the whole pen.  If you look for patents for a matchstick filler with a hole-cover similar to the split retainer rings that Conklin crescent fillers have, you won’t find any because there’s nothing much there to patent.  But then I came back to the word “Clipfill” and had more success.  That single word in the FPN thread was almost like a smoking gun.  It’s William F. Duryea’s US patent no. 1,049,465, and the pen was probably made by the Duryea Co., or Duryea-Hoge Co., or the Hoge Mfg. Co.  There’s also the possibility that the pen was made by ALCo., either for Duryea, or under a license from Duryea, using his patent, and that might explain why it has a Waterman’s-ALCo. clip.  The nib may be original, but the clip might be replaced.  The original clip probably looked like the one in the patent.  The pen in the FPN thread has a slight variation of the protecting or concealing ring, or the “split ring”, as it is called in the patent specifications.

George Kovalenko.


September 01, 2015

Printers’ Ink magazine

, and Printers’ Ink Monthly magazine.

The volumes of Printers’ Ink in these Hathi Trust links were scanned variously from the holdings of the libraries of the universities of California, Michigan, Minneapolis, and Princeton.  Here’s the link for the
full record.  The links in the full record are OCR text only, so to see full imagery, you’ll have to add the suffix ;view=1up;seq=1 at the ends of the URLs, as in the links below.

Printers’ Ink
v.14, 1896,;view=1up;seq=1
v.15, 1896,;view=1up;seq=1
v.16, 1896,;view=1up;seq=1
v.17, 1896,;view=1up;seq=1
v.18-19, 1897,;view=1up;seq=1
v.20-21, 1897,;view=1up;seq=1
v.22-23, 1898,;view=1up;seq=1

v.26-27, 1899,;view=1up;seq=1
v.28-29, 1899,;view=1up;seq=1

v.36, 1901,;view=1up;seq=1
v.37, 1901,;view=1up;seq=1
v.38, 1902,;view=1up;seq=1
v.39, 1902,;view=1up;seq=1
v.40, 1902,;view=1up;seq=1
v.41, 1902,;view=1up;seq=1
v.42-43, 1903,;view=1up;seq=1
v.44-45, 1903,;view=1up;seq=1
v.46-47, 1904,;view=1up;seq=1

v.58-59, 1907,;view=1up;seq=1
v.60-61, 1907,;view=1up;seq=1
v.62-63, 1908,;view=1up;seq=1
v.64-65, 1908,;view=1up;seq=1

v.68-69, 1909,;view=1up;seq=1
v.70, 1910,;view=1up;seq=1
v.71, 1910,;view=1up;seq=1
v.72, 1910,;view=1up;seq=1
v.73, 1910,;view=1up;seq=1
v.74, 1911,;view=1up;seq=1
v.75, 1911,;view=1up;seq=1
v.76, 1911,;view=1up;seq=1
v.77, 1911,;view=1up;seq=1

v.79, 1912,;view=1up;seq=1
v.80, 1912,;view=1up;seq=1
v.81, 1912,;view=1up;seq=1

v.84, 1913,;view=1up;seq=1
v.85, 1913,;view=1up;seq=1

v.88, 1914,;view=1up;seq=1
v.89, 1914,;view=1up;seq=1
v.90, 1915,;view=1up;seq=1
v.91, 1915,;view=1up;seq=1

v.93, 1915,;view=1up;seq=1

v.98, 1917,;view=1up;seq=1
v.99, 1917,;view=1up;seq=1
v.100, 1917,;view=1up;seq=1
v.101, 1917,;view=1up;seq=1
v.102, 1918,;view=1up;seq=1
v.103, 1918,;view=1up;seq=1
v.104, 1918,;view=1up;seq=1
v.105, 1918,;view=1up;seq=1
v.106, 1919,;view=1up;seq=1
v.107, 1919,;view=1up;seq=1
v.108, 1919,;view=1up;seq=1
v.109, 1919,;view=1up;seq=1
v.110, 1920,;view=1up;seq=1
v.111, 1920,;view=1up;seq=1
v.112, 1920,;view=1up;seq=1
v.113, 1920,;view=1up;seq=1
v.114, 1921,;view=1up;seq=1
v.115, 1921,;view=1up;seq=1
v.116, 1921,;view=1up;seq=1
v.117, 1921,;view=1up;seq=1
v.118, 1922,;view=1up;seq=1
v.119, 1922,;view=1up;seq=1
v.120, 1922,;view=1up;seq=1
v.121, 1922,;view=1up;seq=1

The volumes of Printers’ Ink Monthly in these Hathi Trust links were scanned variously from the holdings of the libraries of the universities of California, Michigan, and Minneapolis.  Here’s the link for the
full record.

Printers’ Ink Monthly
v.1, 1919-20,$c201125;view=1up;seq=1
v.1, 1919-20,;view=1up;seq=1
v.1, 1920,;view=1up;seq=1
v.1-2, 1919-21,;view=1up;seq=1
v.2, 1920-21,;view=1up;seq=1
v.3, 1921,$c201127;view=1up;seq=1
v.3-4, 1921-22,;view=1up;seq=1
v.4, 1921-22,$c201128;view=1up;seq=1
        , including another Waterman’s Ink-Blot story,
Dec 1921, pp.62-69.
v.5, 1922,$c201129;view=1up;seq=1
v.5, 1922,;view=1up;seq=1
v.6, 1923,;view=1up;seq=1

George Kovalenko.