November 28, 2015

Waterman’s first pens

  , the first one made, and the first one sold. 

[Posted on L&P on Dec 13, 14, 15, 2006, Jan 31, 2007, and Feb 1, 2, 3, 2007.]
        [On Dec 30, 2005, Ron Dutcher started a thread on L&P titled “Waterman #1 or #2”, concerning two early Waterman’s pens with different sections.  After a lot of back-and-forth arguing between Ron and David Nishimura about which section came first, and which one second, and whether there was any difference between them at all, I posted the following.]
        “In the early patent period, examples or models of the patented items were required to be submitted along with the patent applications.  Well, the two most important words in the first Waterman patent,
293,545, might arguably be the ones that appear right after the filing date on the first page of the specification, and at the top-left of the illustration, the words “No model”.  But the most intriguing and most important word that appears in either of the two Waterman patents is the one that appears in the second patent, 307,735, again right after the filing date and at the top-left of the illustration, the word “Model”!  The second-issued patent was actually applied for first, and the model was included with this patent, rather than with the first-issued patent, which was applied for second.  This means that there was at least one example of the pen as early as June 20, 1883, one of the first ones made.  Or rather, Waterman had one working example to spare that he included with the patent application.
        “Let me throw another wrench into the works of this discussion.  The illustrations in these two Waterman patents are essentially the same.  Even though both of their filing dates go back to 1883, the pens illustrated in these two patents don’t show the double-stepped section.  They show the tapered-step section.  So here are the two big questions.  Which type of pen is it, #1 or #2?  And which type of pen is the real #1?
        “I’d have to agree with David that it’s still too early to say which type came first, let alone which one we should call #1, and which #2.”

        David wrote, “A very substantive post, George, thanks.  I might also add that the feed covered by patent 307,735, the second granted, but the first applied for, is distinctive in having an additional groove cut into the underside of the feed where it fits into the section.  Thus, one more distinctive feature of what appears to be the earliest documentable Waterman fountain pen, the patent model submitted with the application of June 20, 1883.
        “Did this feed appear on any production pens?  Who knows?  I will have to take another look at the earliest Waterman I know of, which carries a “Pat. Appd. For” imprint indicating a date somewhere between September 19, 1883 and February 12, 1884, more or less.  I don’t recall it having such a groove, however, and the pen does have the stepped section, not the tapered section of the patent drawings.”

        And I wrote, “Exactly.  When I first saw these two patents with what looked like exactly the same image, I read the specifications of both with a fine-tooth comb, and came to the startled conclusion that the underside kerf was the only difference between the two.  This underside kerf was meant as an air-return channel, but it quickly became obvious that it was unnecessary and redundant because the upper-side air channel and ink kerfs did their job so efficiently.”

        Rob Astyk wrote, “Here’s what I think but can’t prove.  Take it as pure speculation.
        “Day Rubber was neck deep in the machinations of their clients.  I am convinced that they helped Alonzo Cross create a patentable pen to compete with Duncan MacKinnon’s stylograph.  They also got very close to Lewis Waterman very quickly.  I would suggest that someone at the Day factory, quite possibly William I. Ferris, suggested that Lewis Waterman modify his patent to eliminate the secondary air channel for practical reasons, and to protect his patent rights, and the Day’s interests in Waterman’s future, by filing a new application that covered the actual pen in production.  The model submitted was probably a pre-production pen, though I would not be surprised to find that there were two styles of feeds in the earliest Watermans from the first order at Day Rubber in July 1883, if we could ever find that many, or any to examine.”

        [In another thread, someone asked about the second application being approved first, and suggested that Waterman might have requested that the patent office evaluate the second application first.  And I wrote that it was pure speculation, at least until some hard evidence turned up that showed that Waterman asked that the second patent application be expedited.  Personally, my feeling is that the patent office moves at its own glacial speed, and any request that an application be evaluated first would mean very little to them.  As an example of the USPTO moving at a glacial speed I offer up Thomas Edison’s patent 492,789 for a “Speaking Telegraph”, or telephone.  The application was filed way back on Sept 5, 1877, but was not issued until Mar 7, 1893, even though the patent for the telephone was hotly contested.  Another one is Parker’s US patent no. 3,205,863 for their Jotter ballpoint, which was applied for on Dec 29, 1953 and issued on Sept 14, 1965.  That glacial metaphor might be a bad one, though, since glaciers are moving and disappearing pretty fast these days, as opposed to way back then.
        Again, it’s confusing to say the second patent was applied for first, but issued second, so perhaps we should use the actual patent numbers.  The simpler patent 293,545 actually worked better, and was easier and cheaper to produce than patent 307,735 with its second air channel.  Also, all this talk of channels and grooves is confusing, since both patents refer to them as “slits or fissures”, and even though they should more correctly be called kerfs.  The test of looking at what was actually produced first is doomed to fail because he included a model of the pen in patent 307,735 along with the application, and included no model with patent 293,545.  So we do have at least this evidence of Waterman producing pens with the secondary kerf first.  However, these pens with the secondary kerf may not have been put into production and put on sale.
        One of the hidden hazards in talking about patents is the tendency, at one point or another, to refer to them as designs, usually in an attempt to use a synonym for the word “patent”, instead of continually repeating the word.  But the problem is that the word “design” means something very specific in the terminology of the Patent Office.  One must be very careful not to allow the confusion between utility patents and design patents to seep into the discussion.  The only way to do that is to avoid the word “design” altogether when talking about utility patents.  One also must be very careful to distinguish between filing dates and issuing dates, because the order of the issuing of two patents can often be reversed by delay in approving the two applications.
        Also keep in mind that for an extended period of time, the patent office assigned the patent numbers to the patents issued in any given week by arranging all the patentees in alphabetical order by surname, and then assigning the numbers to them in that order.  That means that Mr. Z might receive a later patent number than Ms. A, even though Mr. Z applied for his patent earlier than Ms. A.]

        Ron wrote, “In the
Feb 5th, 1885 Waterman circular, which tells Waterman’s customers that he is moving from 10 Murray Street to 155 Broadway Avenue, Waterman also included a page of testimonials.  I love these early testimonials, and when I am suffering from insomnia, there is nothing like sifting through the genealogy sites trying to make connections.  If we are to believe the early stories, Waterman was assembling all his early pens by hand in the back of 136 Fulton Street, which an 1880 NY Business Directory names as the Hauck Cigar Shop, and selling them to his friends and neighbors.  If this is true then the first testimonials should be from his friends.  I’ve made a few connections that support this.  One Testimonial is from the editor of National Car and Builder.  In the Wirt v. Francis Cashel Brown trial, Waterman, acting as an expert witness, testifies that just prior to making pens he worked for this railroad magazine.
        “One of the important testimonials is from R. E. Bingham in 1883.  It reads,

Oct 17th 1883.  I have used your pen for three months and am perfectly satisfied with it, not having had any trouble with it from the time of Purchase.  — R. E. Bingham, US Lighthouse Service, New York (who bought the first “Ideal” sold).
“Wow, what an honor it would be now to say that you had the first Waterman pen sold.  Since this is an 1885 mailing, and not some fluff piece from the 1930’s, I think we can call this a primary source.
        “In the 1880 Census I’ve found a Rhuben Bingham, working as a Civil Engineer in Albany. I do not know for sure whether this is the same person, or not.
        “Several of the Testimonials are from pastors or members of the Plymouth Church of Which Waterman was a member, perhaps Bingham was also a member, but I haven’t found his name listed.”

        And I wrote, “Thank goodness for your insomnia, Ron.  That’s a great find.  It would place that purchase sometime in July 1883, and make it the first one sold.  [Elsewhere, in The New England Stationer,
March 1899, p.1, they claim that “he sold his first Ideal pen July 11, 1883”.]  That’s almost as good as the working “Model” that Waterman included with the patent application on June 20, 1883.  I’d say that’s about as primary as a source can get.”

        Ron wrote, “I just got an early Waterman’s pen on Ebay, and I know better than to call this a #1 or a #2, but what might the years of production have been for this pen, 1885-1903?

        David wrote, “Nice pen from eBay, but the description makes it quite clear it is a #4, not a #1 or #2.  Ron, I’d guess your pen was made right around the turn of the century.  Watermans from the earlier 1890s tend to have sections that appear markedly different from those we are used to, more elongated, with a more pronouncedly conical front portion, of the sort seen in the early “New Style” ads.
        “In this sense, it might be put third in a proposed typological classification, with the first being the stepped-section pens, the second being the pens with the section noted above.  It’s worth mentioning that the pen shown as #2 in the infamous 1934 poster doesn’t fit anywhere in the chronology, as it is a confused pastiche of features from different eras.  The section is a misunderstood rendition of the ca. 1894 section, with the cylindrical portion of the section much too large, the conical portion too cylindrical, and the rim too prominent, while the pen itself is a bit too long and slender with a cap that should be shorter and rounded, not flat-ended.
        “Finally, if you guys promise not to use this #1 and #2 stuff any more, I’ll go ahead and post my article on the earliest Waterman known.”

        Ron wrote, “David, I hereby promise never to refer to very early Waterman pens as Model #1 and Model #2 again, if you post your article.”

        David wrote, “Deal!  I’ll try to get it posted tonight, one on Waterman’s
oldest surviving pen, and for good measure, I’ll post another article on Waterman’s 
oldest advertisement.

        David wrote, “I was able to retrieve the pen in question for closer examination, and can confirm that the feed does not have the secondary channel underneath.  I should also note that the orange-red speckles in the photos already posted are not a photographic effect, but are present in the pen’s hard rubber.  To me, this is clear evidence that the extruding or mixing machines being used by the Days for this batch of black hard rubber had also been used for red hard rubber, or a red and black mix.”

        And I wrote, “It’s sort of like in the olden days, when a new soup was made in the same pot along with the remains of an old, leftover soup.  It was incorporated into the new soup, and so on, day after day, so that there might possibly be a bit of the original soup in the new soup many days later.  It’s the source of the old nursery rhyme about pea soup being ‘in the pot, nine days old’.”

        [Also take a look at my first blogpost,
“The Waterman’s Creation Myth”, and George Rimakis and Daniel Kirchheimer’s piece, “Blotting Out the Truth”, now available online also on Wayback.  It just occurred to me that the “first one made” and the “first one sold” were probably leftover Frank Holland pens that were retrofitted with Waterman’s new feed, and that whatever the sections on Frank Holland’s pens looked like is what the sections on the first Waterman’s pens looked like.]

George Kovalenko.