December 27, 2015

Waterman’s and the FTC

  , the Federal Trade Commission “Annual Reports”. 

[Posted on L&P on Jan 20, 21, & 22, 2011.]
        The US Federal Trade Commission “Annual Reports” have lots of information about some obscure and some not-so-obscure fountain pen companies.  The FTC was established in 1914, so, sadly, there are no reports before that date, and the first report doesn’t appear until 1916.  Here’s the complete list of the PDFs of the
reports listed by year.  But if you open up any of the links on that page, you can simply change the year in the URL to get all the annual reports from 1916 to the present.  Once the PDF opens up in your browser, you can perform word-searches there, or you can save it to your files and search it with a PDF viewer.  You can search for any pen company name, or you can find all the pen companies by searching for the word “pens”.
        The first two reports have nothing in them concerning pens, but after 1918 they really get rolling.  They peter out during the Depression, and mostly concern fly-by-night cheap, novelty pens, and pen companies such as Acme, Spors, Eclipse, Arnold, and Wearever, but there are still some real nuggets there.  The pen information starts to die out during WWII, but right after the war the Commission takes on the lifetime guarantees, and there is some interesting stuff there about the “Big 4” pen companies.  I’ll be posting some of my findings in these reports, but in the meantime, have fun playing around in this new play pen.

Waterman’s Resale Price Maintenance
        To get things started, here’s the best one first, Waterman’s in
1918.  And it also appeared first in the list of complaints concerning pen companies that the FTC had to deal with.  It concerns Waterman’s.  All the page numbers cited are from the PDFs, not the actual page numbers of the reports.  It makes it much easier to find the relevant passages I am quoting.
        In the 1918 report, p.93, “Complaint No. 89, Apr 15, 1918, Federal Trade Commission v. L.E. Waterman Co.”, makes its first appearance.  The charge is,

Stifling and suppressing competition in the manufacture, marketing, and sale of fountain pens by fixing specified standard resale prices and refusing to sell to those who will not agree to maintain such prices.
    Bad boys, those Watermans.  This complaint wasn’t dealt with for four years, and the FTC eventually issued this attempt at a resolution of these “Resale Price Fixing Cases” with this statement in their 1922 report, p.252.
      The Commission disposed of a number of complaints by dismissal; where the charge was maintenance of resale prices, these complaints had been on suspense pending the decision of the Beechnut case in the Supreme Court of the United States, and after that decision these cases, if brought to trial, would have necessitated an entire new investigation because of their age, and so were dismissed without prejudice to the right of the commission to institute new proceedings in event it was found that the practices complained of were continued in conflict with the decision of the Supreme Court.
        The cases in point included Complaint No. 89.  But it wasn’t over yet, not by a long shot.  Waterman’s persisted in its bad ways, so in the 1927 report, pp.269-70, and pp.277-79, the FTC had to resort to publishing a series of “Stipulations To Cease And Desist”.  The stipulations were published after deleting the names of the “respondents”, or companies involved, apparently so that they wouldn’t feel singled out, but it’s quite obvious that we’re still dealing with plain, old Waterman’s.  There’s lots of good information to be mined there.
Stipulation No. 49
      Retail price maintenanceFountain pens, etc.Respondent, a corporation engaged in the manufacture of fountain pens, metallic pencils, and similar products, and in the sale and distribution of the same in interstate commerce, and in competition with other corporations, individuals, firms, and partnerships, entered into the following stipulation of facts and agreement to cease and desist forever from the alleged unfair methods of competition used in the sale of its products.
      Respondent, for more than one year prior to June 1, 1924, adopted and carried out and used in interstate commerce a policy, or plan by which it sought to secure the maintenance by retail dealers of certain resale prices suggested by it on certain of its products.  During the period heretofore mentioned said corporation repeatedly announced its resale prices to the trade and made it known generally that no cutting of these prices by retail dealers would be permitted, and that it would refuse to sell dealers failing to maintain such prices.  In pursuance of such policy and in order to prevent price-cutting dealers from securing its goods, said respondent sought and secured the cooperation of its customers in procuring information of price cutting on the part of dealers handling its products, and used such information to prevent such price-cutting dealers from continuing to handle such respondent’s products.  Said corporation also used the services of its salesmen in investigating instances of price cutting and in inducing such price-cutting dealers to maintain its prices in the future.  In certain cases of price cutting said respondent requested assurances, promises, or informal agreements for the maintenance of its resale prices in the future, and in case such was refused the necessary steps were taken by respondent to cut off such dealers and to refuse thereafter to ship further goods to them, and such dealers’ accounts on the company’s ledgers, or other records were marked “Do not ship,” and no goods were thereafter permitted to go forward to such dealers until and unless the respondent received from them such assurances, promises, or informal agreements as satisfied the corporation that such dealers would in the future observe and maintain said resale prices.
      Respondent agreed to cease and desist forever from enforcing the maintenance of its said resale prices, (1) by securing by means of requests or invitations, either expressed or implied from the said respondent, to its customers for cooperation in procuring for its information instances of price cutting on the part of other dealers, or by seeking to secure the cooperation of its customers in procuring for it information as to instances of price cutting on the part of other dealers and by using the information obtained through such cooperative methods to prevent such dealers from handling said respondent’s products; (2) by using the services of its salesmen or other representatives in investigating instances of suspected price cutting and in inducing price-cutting dealers, when detected, to give assurances, promises, or informal agreement to restore and maintain said corporation’s suggested resale prices; (3) by securing or accepting from price-cutting dealers, either directly or through its salesmen or other representatives, assurances, promises, or informal agreements as to the future maintenance by such dealers of said corporation’s resale prices; (4) by marking the accounts of price-cutting dealers on said corporation’s ledgers or otherwise with the words “Do not ship”, or other similar expressions, and withholding further shipments from such price-cutting dealers until satisfactory assurances, promises, or in formal agreements have been given by them as to the future said resale prices; (5) in general, by carrying out any policy of resale price maintenance by limiting or restricting retail dealers in their freedom of fixing their own resale prices by means of any of the cooperative methods set forth above.
      Respondent also agreed that if it ever resumed any of the said means and methods for the purpose, or with the effect, of enforcing maintenance of resale prices upon its products, or should, in any manner, violate the terms of this stipulation, then in any proceeding before the commission based thereon the facts herein stated shall be deemed to have been proved and their truth admitted by said corporation and this stipulation shall be admissible in evidence to establish the said facts.
Stipulation No. 57
      Price maintenanceFountain pens, etc.Respondent, a corporation, engaged in the manufacture of fountains pens, mechanical pencils, and other allied products, and in the sale and distribution of the same in interstate commerce, and in competition with other corporations, individuals, firms, and partnerships likewise engaged, entered into the following stipulation of facts and agreement to cease and desist forever from the alleged unfair methods of competition used by it in the sale of its products.
      Respondent, in the course and conduct of its business, adopted a policy or plan by which it sought to secure the maintenance, by wholesale and retail dealers, of certain resale prices suggested by it to be charged by said wholesale and retail dealers respectively, for the various products manufactured and sold by respondent.  Respondent repeatedly announced said resale prices to the trade and made it known generally that it would refuse to sell to any wholesale or retail dealers failing to maintain such prices, or selling to others who had failed to maintain the same.  Pursuant to said policy and in order to prevent price-cutting dealers from securing its products, respondent secured the cooperation of its Jobber customers and others in procuring for it information as to instances of price cutting on the part of retail dealers’ handling said products and used such information to prevent such price-cutting dealers from continuing to handle said products.  Respondent exacted assurances, promises, or informal agreement from offending dealers for the future maintenance of such prices, and when such assurances were not given, respondent refused thereafter to ship its goods to them.  Respondent instructed its salesmen to report instances of price cutting and the source of supply of such price-cutting dealers, and said respondent also required its jobber customers to sign so-called wholesale contracts whereby said jobbers have recognized their obligation to resell said product to the retail trade at discounts not to exceed the schedule regularly maintained by said corporation.  Respondent adopted and put into use a system of code letters which were placed on the boxes containing its fountain pens sold to jobbers for the purpose of enabling said respondent to trace the source of supply of price-cutting retailers; and said respondent also made notations in its records to the effect that its goods should not be shipped to dealers who failed to maintain said resale prices with the result that no goods were sold to such dealers unless and until said respondent received from them such assurances, promises, or informal agreements as satisfied said respondent that said dealers would in the future observe and maintain said prices.
      Respondent agreed to cease and desist forever from enforcing the maintenance of its said resale prices; (1) by seeking to secure the cooperation of Its customers, wholesale or retail, in procuring for it information as to instances of price cutting on the part of other distributors of its said products; (2) by securing or accepting from price-cutting dealers, either directly or through the representatives, assurances, promises, or informal agreements as to future maintenance of said corporation’s resale prices as a condition of the shipment of further goods; (3) by utilizing any system of code letters or other symbols for the purpose of tracing the source of supply of price-cutting dealers; (4) by keeping records of the names of the price-cutting dealers and entering herein “Do not ship” or other similar notices as a means of preventing such dealers from securing said corporation’s product until satisfactory assurances, promises, and/or informal agreements shall have been given by them as to the future maintenance of such resale prices; (5) by requiring its jobber customers to sign any form of contract or agreement by which they recognize their obligation to maintain said corporation’s resale prices; (6) and in general by carrying out any policy of resale price maintenance whereby the freedom of wholesale or retail dealers in fixing their own resale prices is limited or restricted by means of any of the cooperative methods set forth herein or any similar cooperative methods.
      Respondent further agreed that should it ever resume or indulge in any of the practices in question, or in any manner violate the terms of this stipulation, the facts herein set forth shall be deemed to have been proved and their truth admitted by said respondent and this stipulation shall be admissible in evidence to establish such facts.
        But again that wasn’t the end of it.  In the 1934 FTC report, p.70, the case is brought up yet again without naming the respondent, obviously Waterman’s.
Alleged Resale Price Maintenance
      A nationally known manufacturer of fountain pens, desk sets, ink, and automatic pencils was charged, in a complaint issued Jan 25, 1934, with enforcing a system of resale price maintenance in the sale to the public of its products.
      It is alleged that the respondent sells only to retail dealers, and requires those dealers to resell the company’s products to the public at prices which are fixed by it.  The company has about 20,000 dealers throughout the United States.  The complaint alleges that it enlists and secures the support of its officers, agents, and employees and the cooperation of dealers in enforcing and maintaining the system of resale price maintenance.
        Here’s a conversation with Waterman in The American Stationer on Nov 22, 1894, p.939.  Most of it deals with the Waterman’s method of curtailing price cutting by retailers.  Waterman’s had been forcing their Resale Price Maintenance policy on their dealers for over 40 years at this point, in 1934, and after the first ruling in 1918, they had been dragging it out and defying the FTC and breaking the law for about 16 years.

Watermann and Waterson
        Here are a couple of unrelated infringements of the “Waterman” trade name.  One involves a stylograph imprinted with the name
Watermann Ink Pencil, discussed on Zoss.  The 1924 FTC report, p.319, deals with this case.
      Complaint No. 1045, Daniel Platt, doing business under the name of Watermann Ink Pencil Co.  Charge: Unfair methods of competition are charged in that the respondent, engaged in assembling and selling ink pencils and fountain pens, simulates the trade name and marking employed by the L. E. Waterman Co., well known as the manufacturer of Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pens, and in that the respondent claims to be a manufacturer of Ink pencils, with a factory in the Borough of Brooklyn, when in fact said respondent has no interest in any factory for the manufacture of such articles, all for the purpose of misleading and deceiving the purchasing public, in alleged violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission act.  Status: Awaiting answer.
In the 1925 FTC report, p.300, they published a list of “Proceedings Disposed Of July 1, 1924, To June 30, 1925” including Complaint No. 1045, which is now listed as, “Disposition: Dismissed, respondent having gone out of business”.
        I have found information on two pen companies that tried to get away with using the name “Waterson”, one at the beginning of the 20th century, and one in the 1920s and 30s.  In the 1929 report, p.270, the FTC dealt with the latter company.

      Complaint No. 1610, in the matter of James Kelley.  Charge: Unfair methods of competition are charged in that respondent engaged in a mail order jobbing business in fountain pens, pencils, and novelties falsely represents that he manufactures the articles he sells; stamps the words “14K Waterson”, “Iridium”, and/or “Warranted 14K”, on parts of fountain pens sold by him, which are of poor quality and low cost, when in truth such parts are not iridium, nor 14 carat, nor have the pens any connection with the well known “Waterman” fountain pen; supplies customers with fictitious price tags bearing the amounts $2.50, $7, $8, $10, etc., and with coupons advertising special reduced prices for a limited time only, when in truth such prices are purely fictitious and in excess of the value of the pens, all In alleged violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission act. Status: At issue.
However, in the 1937 report, p.81, the FTC was still dealing with James Kelley.
      On July 23, 1936, the FTC filed an application with the Second Circuit Court, New York, for the enforcement of its order directed against this respondent, an individual with headquarters in New York, and engaged in a mail-order jobbing business in fountain pens, pencils, and specialties.  The order, based on findings supported by evidence, forbade Kelley from making certain misrepresentations in connection with his business, for example, that he manufactured the products he sold, that he conducted the business of a large mail-order concern, that purchasers of his articles saved the middleman’s profit, that his pen points were tipped with iridium and were made of 14-carat gold, and that his fountain pens were worth as much as $8 and $10.  After argument, the court affirmed the Commission’s order from the bench on Feb 3, 1937.
The court case number is 87 F. (2d) 1004, if anyone has access to LexisNexis.

Lifetime Guarantees
        After WWII, the FTC finally dealt with the unrealistic lifetime guarantees offered by pen companies.  Most of the time when this issue is dealt with by pen collectors, they bring up the Parker “Blue Diamond” guarantee.  But in the 1945 report, p.80, the FTC deals with the “Unfair Practices” of all the “Big 4” fountain pen companies, W. A Sheaffer Pen Co., Complaint No. 4337, The Parker Pen Co., No. 4338, Eversharp, Inc., No. 4590, and L. E. Waterman Co., No. 4617.

      They were ordered to cease making unqualified representations that their fountain pens were unconditionally guaranteed for the life of the user, or for any other designated period, when a service charge, usually 35 cents, was made for repairs or adjustments.  The respondents were ordered to discontinue using such terms as “Lifetime”, “Guaranteed for Life”, “Life Contract Guarantee”, “Guaranteed Forever”, or “Guaranteed for a Century” to describe or refer to their pens, and representing that the pens were unconditionally guaranteed for any designated period of time, unless the respondents, without expense to the user, made repairs or replacement of parts necessitated during the designated period by any cause other than willful damage or abuse.  The orders did not prohibit the respondents from representing truthfully that the service on their pens, as distinguished from the pens themselves, was guaranteed for life, or any other designated period, even though a charge was imposed in connection with such servicing, providing the terms of the guarantee, including the amount of the charge, are clearly and conspicuously disclosed in immediate conjunction with such representations.
        In spite of that, the FTC was still dealing with the issue in the 1946 report, p.86 and p.88, in a list of the “Cases Pending In Federal Courts”.

L. E. Waterman Co., New York, Second Circuit, New York, upon stipulation of counsel, dismissed a petition to review a Commission order prohibiting false and misleading advertising in connection with the sale of fountain pens.
Parker Pen Co., Janesville, Wis., Seventh Circuit, Chicago, misrepresentation of fountain pens through use of statements such as “Guaranteed For Life” and “Life Guaranteed”.
In 1947, p.96, the Parker case was still listed amongst the cases pending in the federal courts.

The Parker Pen Co., Janesville, Wis., the Seventh Circuit Court, Chicago, modified and affirmed the Commission’s order forbidding misleading advertising of guaranties in connection with the sale of fountain pens.
There was also a case against the Vacu-Matic Carburetor Co., Wauwatosa, Wis., no relation to Parker.
        In 1948, p.108, there was a list of the terms prohibited in the new “promulgated rules”, the improper use of such terms as “rolled gold plate”, “gold plated”, “plate”, “plated”, “gold fill ed”, “gold electroplated”, “gold electroplate”, “gold”, “karat gold”, “karat”, “carat”, “sterling”, “sterling silver”, “silver”, “solid silver”, “sterline”, “Duragold”, “dirigold”, “noblegold”, “goldine”, and “miragold”.
        In 1949, p.68, the FTC reported on the “Pending Trade Practice Proceedings” concerning the,

      Fountain pen and mechanical pencil industry.  The proposed rules for this industry, on which public hearing was held during the year, included specific requirements for the use of such terms as “iridium tipped” and “osmiridium tipped” to describe the nibs, or tips of fountain pen points, and also for use of such terms as “gold”, “rolled-gold plate”, “gold filled”, and “gold electroplated” as descriptive of any part of pens or mechanical pencils.  Misuse of such terms had necessitated numerous corrective proceedings by the FTC against members of this industry.  It was a primary purpose of the proposed rules to clarify the legal requirements respecting these subjects and to provide a basis for industry-wide correction of these and other unfair trade practices.
        In 1950, p.73, the FTC reported on the “Trade Practice Conferences” on the,
      Fountain pen and mechanical pencil industry.  Members of this industry are engaged in manufacturing and marketing fountain pens, ball point pens, dip pens, mechanical pencils, and parts for such products.  Annual sales at retail are $250,000,000 aggregate.  The rules are directed to the elimination and prevention of various types of unfair trade practices.  They offer a yardstick to industry members in curbing misleading advertising, and covered specifically the false use of the terms “Iridium tipped” and “Osmiridium tipped”.  They also deal with deceptive practices with respect to gold content.  The provisions are designed to provide the industry with a comprehensive understanding of the requirements of the law.

Gold (Plated) Nibs
        One of the most interesting facts revealed by these reports is the extent to which the noname, fly-by-night companies tried to get away with misrepresenting the quality of their nibs.  One way that they did this was by passing off gold-plated nibs as solid gold by burying the word “plated” under the section.  To be honest, when I first heard of such stories at pen shows and on the pen message boards, stories of finding fountain pens with nibs with the word “plated” pushed inside the section, but without seeing actual examples of such pens, I thought that these stories were apocryphal, or old-husband’s tales, or that they were at least scattered instances of after-market replaced nibs.  But between 1919 and 1940, there were at least ten cases against companies such as Turner & Harrison, Shatkun & Kahn, which later became Wearever, Levin Bros., Standard Fountain Pen Co., Karl Guggenheim Inc., Henry Lederer & Bros. Inc., the aforementioned James Kelley’s Waterson, and the Shafner Lifetime Pen Co., another instance of trade name rip-off.  All were charged and given cease and desist orders for this fraudulent practice.  It was a real eye opener to see these frauds exposed and substantiated by the paper trail of the FTC cases, but I’m not going to give you the numbers and dates for these complaints in order to leave you the pleasure of discovering the actual cases on your own.

George Kovalenko.


December 24, 2015

Pioneers and Inventors

  , of the fountain pen.


[Posted on L&P on Oct 18, 2011.]
        There have been many inventors who either claimed, or it was claimed for them, that they were the first penmakers, the first discoverers of the fountain pen.  Waterman was one such prominent claimant, but there were lesser known ones such as William B. Purvis in the 1890s, Jean Benoit Mallat in the 1860s, and Petrache Poenaru in the 1820s.  Now, Purvis was the first African-American to receive a fountain pen patent, one from
1890, but he wasn’t the first ever.  In an article titled “The First Fountain Pen” in The American Stationer, June 5, 1920, p.38, they are merely talking about the Mallat pen in his French patent from 1864.  And the same for Poenaru, since the Romanian polymath’s French patent in 1827 wasn’t the earliest one, either.  The earliest recorded fountain pens are those of Nicolas Bion in France in the early 1700s, although there are mentions of earlier French ones going back to the 1650s, and the much earlier, and some would say apocryphal, example from 10th-century Egypt, about which I wrote in this post, in section 3.
        Here’s the Paul E. Wirt obituary published in the New York Evening Post,
Jan 21, 1935, p.5.  It looks like every later penmaker either claimed, or else was claimed to be the “inventor of the fountain pen” at one time or another.  In contrast, Warren N. Lancaster merely claimed to be a pen pioneer.  In this Colonial Fountain Pen Co. ad from the Baltimore Sun, Sept 20, 1907, they claimed, “We Are the Pioneers.|Established 1879.|Buy From The Old Reliable Firm”.  But isn’t calling yourself a pioneer almost like saying you are one of the originators of the fountain pen?

George Kovalenko.


December 22, 2015

Glass-Nibbed Fountain Pens

  , and fountain-pen paper.


[Posted on L&P on July 3, 5 and 6, 2005.]
        David Wimmer wrote, “Do any of you know if there is an ink flow control device fitted to spiral-glass-nibbed fountain pens?  It would seem that a glass nibbed pen could very easily have excessive or non-existent flow, if the nib to section tolerances were off by even a slight margin.  Since the section is seized in my Spors crescent filler I have no reference to examine it for this information.”
        And I wrote, “As far as I know, there is no other ink-flow-control device fitted to glass-nibbed fountain pens other than the spiral grooves, or capillary crevices in the nibs.  Actually, the ink flow is not dependent upon the tolerances between the nib and the section because of the ink grooves and the capillarity.  I don’t think your Spors crescent filler has a seized section, though.  Their usual method was to permanently glue the section into the barrel. If this is what you meant by “seized”, then it’s seized, alright.  If you’re interested in other glass-nibbed fountain pens, here are some more.  Nathan Tardif posted on another pen message board a list of penmakers that used glass nibs in their fountain pens.  That list included Chicago Conklin, Haro, Hartline, Kerr, Spors, Visconti, and various other Japanese penmakers.
        “The picture above is an illustration of a glass-nibbed fountain pen of the type Spors made, but the name “Spors” does not appear anywhere on the double-sided, 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper.  Notice the gross hyperbole about being better than the Quill!  And here’s the
other side of this piece of fountain-pen ephemera with the pen reduced to its parts.  Notice the part about the glued-in section, and the hyperventilated self-justification for it.”
        Phil Munson also has a good article about glass-nibbed fountain pens on
his website.

  George Kovalenko.


December 19, 2015

Eversharp ‘Skyline’ Ballpoint

[Posted on L&P and FPN on Sept 19, 21, 2010.]
        Here’s an Eversharp “Skyline” with a blue-striped cap and a navy blue barrel, but here’s the interesting thing about it.  It has an aluminum section that has either been anodized, or particle-coated, or enameled a transparent, dark cobalt blue, and it has a simple curved-cone tip that holds a proprietary ballpoint refill that screws into the section.  The section does not have to be removed to exchange the refill.  The barrel has no imprints and no air-holes, and it shows no signs of ever having had a lever that has been removed, so it is definitely factory made and not an after-market adaptation or customization.  So I asked Syd what the model name and catalogue number was.

        This is what Syd “the Wahlnut” Saperstein wrote about the pen on
FPN.  “It is an Eversharp CA (Capillary Action) Pen Model 25 or 25L lady’s depending on size.  The 25 series was in the Skyline design.  There were Fifth Avenue CA pens, too.  They were the Models 26 and 27, and there was a Repeater (click) version in all metal, but that one did not have the screw in refill.  These pens sold for $3.95 new in about 1946-7.”

        And I wrote, “About the only book that shows the pen is the Gostony & Schneider ballpoint book, but it isn’t called a “CA” there.  It appears on the same page as some paper for the “CA Repeater” refills, but I couldn’t make the leap.  Also, the refill pictured there is the spiral one that I have seen in the “Fifth Avenue CA” and “CA Repeater” pens, not the straight one in my pen.”

        Richard Binder wrote on Pentrace that he had converted dozens of Fifth Avenue CA pens to take modern refills, and that he had seen both straight and spiral refills in them.  “Unscrewing the refill from the front of the nose cone is not what Eversharp intended.  As George Cloutier’s 1945 US patent no.
2,428,960 describes it, the ball unit itself was designed to be a permanent part of the pen, and the refill screwed into the back of it.  This is one of the many reasons for the pen’s unreliability.  There was no guarantee that the ink in a new refill would make contact with the remnants of the old ink to re-establish the flow.”

        And I wrote, “My refill seems to be glued into the
cone tip by dried up ballpoint ink, so it now comes out as a unit along with the cone with the ball tip, and I don’t want to separate them.  It looks like a precursor to the modern “BIC Stick” refill with a built-in cone with ball tip.
        “Most ballpoint refills have ball tips, or ball and socket units that are meant to last only a little longer than it takes to use up the ink supply.  Before Gel pens came along, some intrepid users of Rollerballs, who loved their wet writing characteristics, would open the refills and refill them with their favorite fountain pen ink.  But after a few refills the ball would fall out from over use, and wear on its socket.  It’s also the reasoning behind the Parker
Jotter click mechanism, which rotates the refill a quarter turn with every click to allow the ball socket to wear evenly on all sides.  This must have been one of the other “many reasons” that the CA refill system was a failure.  If the ball was meant to be used through many refills, eventually it would fail.  I use a Staedtler Gel pen with 0.3mm ball that sometimes falls out before the supply of ink is used up.”

George Kovalenko.


December 16, 2015

Aikin Lambert history

  , following the names.


[Posted on L&P on Aug 7, 11, 2009.]
        Marta Michnej wrote that she found that the Aikin Lambert company was one whose history was not well known.  She posted the above Aikin Lambert invoice dated 1895 because she was intrigued by the names in the first line.  She knew the main names connected with the company, James C. Aikin and Henry A. Lambert, but there were also John B. Shea as vice-president and James C. Wakefield as secretary.  She wondered who these other two were.  In a similar invoice dated 1911 both of these other names and Chicago’s address disappeared, and the N. Y. address also changed from 19 Maiden Lane to 15-17-19 Maiden Lane, but she was thinking mostly about the names.  She recalled how all the company changes, connections, and permutations were complicated in David Moak’s Mabie in America, and how exciting it was to follow how one man was involved in many companies and activities.  She wondered about starting a game to find the penmaker or inventor who was involved with the most pen companies and makers.
        And I wrote, “In return for posting the invoice from 1895, here’s some more info from the Penmakers book.  I don’t have any info on James C. Wakefield, but John B. Shea is there.  Shea was an early penmaker at Aikin, Lambert & Co., and was listed as such in the city business directories for New York throughout the 1860s.  He lived at 33 Vandewater in New York up until at least the 1890s, and perhaps later.  He was probably a skilled penmaker and a trusted, long-standing employee who became a business partner in the firm in his later years, and was rewarded with becoming the vice-president of the company.  Perhaps Wakefield was a similar early employee.  They disappeared from the 1911 letterhead because they both retired by then.
        “J. C. Aikin & Co. started as a jewelry shop that branched off into the specialty of making gold pens and pencil cases, and the name was soon changed to Aikin, Lambert & Co. when Lambert joined the co-partnership.  Its address was originally 14 Maiden Lane, New York, but they quickly moved across the street to 15-19 Maiden Lane.  They used 15, and 17, and 19 separately as their street addresses throughout the years, but I think they always had that solid block of street numbers.  They also used the address 23 Maiden Lane in the 1880s.  They had a branch office in Chicago quite early on, since at least 1871, but I don’t think it was more than just an office and stock warehouse, and certainly not a manufactory.  That’s just an old-fashioned word for factory that I found in the old city business directories.  The company was incorporated under the new name Aikin, Lambert & Co. in May 1889.  It was taken over by L. E. Waterman Co. in 19o2 and reorganized, and the name was changed to Aikin-Lambert Co.  There’s more detail in the book.
        “As for your “game” idea to find the penmaker involved with the most companies, I wouldn’t even venture a guess because there were so many pen company hoppers amongst the penmakers.  They were a real incestuous lot, and since most of them were located in the penmaking district on or near Maiden Lane, maybe we should call them “The Promiscuous Maiden Lane Merchants”.”

George Kovalenko.


December 13, 2015

Nelthorpe & Williamson

  , a Janesville, Wis. penmaker.

[Posted on L&P on July 10, 11, 2009.]
Marta Michnej found the above early RMHR fountain pen with no markings on it except “N & W | Janesville | Wis.” on the nib, she asked me whether I knew anything about this obscure Janesville, Wisconsin penmaker.

        I congratulated Marta on finding this rare, early pen.  She also sent a picture of the pen’s feed, but there was some good news, and some bad news.  First the good news.  When I first saw the pictures of the pen, I thought to myself, “What a beautiful, sleek, long section”, and I suspected that something was up when I saw how far the cap slipped over the section.  But when I saw the picture of the feed, it looked like a feed for a jointless pen, so I looked through Volume 1 of my patent book for jointless pens, and I found the pen, Nelthorpe & Williamson’s US patent no. 632,320.  The good news was that her pen was in fact an early jointless pen.  There is no section in a jointless pen, so it does not screw apart.  The nib-and-feed plug comes out as a unit, and the pen is filled with an eyedropper.
        The bad news was that the feed was broken.  The feed at one time had a pair of tongs that looked like a pair of tweezers, and acted both as an ink drain like the Parker “Lucky Curve”, and as a spring lock to hold the feed plug in place.  But the bad news was that one of the tongs broke off at some time in the past.  I suggested that perhaps the broken piece was still inside the barrel, stuck in the dried ink.  It’s a shame, but it’s no big deal.  When someone complains about some flaw in a rare pen, I tell them, “Try to find another one”, let alone one in better condition.
        Marta was one of the first people to purchase a copy of Volume 2 of my patent book, and she was definitely the very first person from continental Europe.  I always tell everyone who buys a copy of the book that they get, not only my eternal, undying loyalty, but also a lifetime of customer support, and patent trouble-shooting, and Internet help.  That loyalty means I will help them with backchannel information and research from both volumes of the patent book, including the forthcoming Volume 1.  They will also be first in line to get a copy of another book on which I am working called Penmakers, an alphabetical listing of North American pen companies, penmakers, and inventors.  So when Marta, as giddy as a little kid with a new toy, sent me some pictures of her new pen, I sent her the following, and told her to consider it her first installment of customer support and Internet help.
        There were two entries for this company in my Penmakers book, for Nelthorpe & Williamson, and Williamson Pen Co., but I distilled them into one.

Edgar E. Nelthorpe and George H. Williamson were co-patentees for US patent no. 632,320 from 1899.  Most people don’t know of the relationship between Nelthorpe and Williamson because Nelthorpe left the company soon after it was started.  He was a Parker Pen Co. employee by 1900.  The company later became Williamson Pen Co., also known as WmSon, and they made gold nibs, fountain pens, and mother-of-pearl penholders.  George H. Williamson, was president and manager, and Edgar E. Nelthorpe was an early co-patentee before he left.  The company survived from the 1890s to about 1931.  They also made use of Edward Whiton’s patents, 1908-09.  The pens were imported into Italy by Riccardo Amisani, Turin, in the 1910s.  The American company was out of business by the 1930s, but production of Williamson pens continued in Settimo Torinese, Italy until the 1950s.
        John Danza wrote, “Thanks very much for all this great information!  I will absolutely be one of the first ones in line for your Penmakers book”.  John also questioned me about whether the Nelthorpe & Williamson patent was in conflict with Parker’s earlier jointless pen, US patent no. 622,256, and their second jointless pen, US patent no. 635,700.  Patents are not issued for the general concept of a type of filling method, but rather for the specific mechanism, and there is just enough variation between the Parker and the Nelthorpe & Williamson jointless pens that pre-
existing art wasn’t an issue.  They are unique enough for both to be allowed, and since the tweezer mechanism is under constant tension, it’s no wonder that so many of them are now broken.

George Kovalenko.


December 10, 2015

Conklin and the Starr Pen Co.

, all because of the Waterman’s Treasure Chest box.

[Posted on L&P on Jan 10, 11, 2009.]


        “Here are some details about the Conklin Pen Co. that surfaced when Antonios Zavaliangos did a search for “Penman” in a commercial legal service hosted at the Drexel University Library.  He sent me a 31-page court reporter’s summary of an appeal of the outcome of an earlier trial for nonpayment of taxes against the Starr Pen Co.  As a continuation of the summary of the litigation cited in my blog post concerning “T
he Waterman’s Treasure Chest Box, and the Penman Co.”, here’s an interesting connection between the Starr Pen Co. and Conklin Pen Co. around the time of the latter’s demise.
        “First, here’s the company history from my Penmakers book, which is still forthcoming.

Starr Pen Co. was a fountain pen, mechanical pencil, and combo wholesaler located at 500 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, Ill.  It was organized in 1935 by brothers Joseph Starr, Samuel Starr, Jack Starr, and William Starr, along their parents, who both passed away by 1942.  William was sales mgr., but left the partnership in 1943.  Martin P. King was a salesman with the company in 1940-41, but left to join the Penman Co.  The Starr Pen Co. purchased the assets of the Conklin Pen Co. in November 1941, including the good will, trade name, trademarks, patents, tools, and nib dies, which they used to continue making Conklin pens under the Conklin and Starr names.  Conklin Pen Co. was a division of Starr Pen Co.  They also sold a fountain pen and mechanical pencil combo called the “Winchester” in October 1943.  Various gold nib and penmaking companies located in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia supplied parts and manufactured completed pens for Starr.  These companies made the fountain pen parts and nibs, and assembled the completed pens for Starr.  The company was dissolved sometime after 1946 with a court case over fraudulent “side-payments” and “royalties”, and non-payment of taxes by Joseph Starr.  The Conklin Pen Co. seems to have continued on after 1946, because the “Conklin” trademark that was first issued in 1920 was renewed in 1948.
        “That’s how Conklin, that once proud company, came to its sad end.
        “The summary of the appeal states that the business of the Starr Pen Co. was the sale at wholesale of fountain pens, sets of fountain pens and mechanical pencils, and combos.  It did not manufacture any of the merchandise that it sold.  In November 1941, Starr Pen Co. purchased the assets of the Conklin Pen Company.  The summary goes on to make a curious statement, that “Conklin had been engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling fountain pens with gold pen points (which are also called ‘nibs’)”.  The court was still unfamiliar with the word “nib” as late as the 1940s, but the court reporter corrected him.
        “In 1942, Starr Pen Co. sold inexpensive fountain pens with steel nibs.  The summary goes on to say, “In 1942, approximately 88 per cent of fountain pens manufactured in the United States were fitted with steel nibs, and about 12 per cent were fitted with gold nibs”.
        “It also says, “Early in 1942, the War Production Board issued an order limiting the manufacture of fountain pens and prohibiting the use of steel in the manufacture of pen points.  As a result of this order, a shortage of fountain pens developed in the United States.  The shortage existed in 1942, and it became acute in 1943”.  For this reason, Starr Pen Co. had to make arrangements with various gold pen companies to manufacture for Starr gold nibs stamped with the name Conklin Pen Co.  These gold nibs were to be manufactured at the rate of 5,000 large nibs each week, and 5,000 smaller gold nibs containing a lesser percentage of gold, both stamped with the name Conklin Pen Co.  All the gold nibs contracted for by Starr Pen Co. were delivered to other pen companies and fitted by the latter into the two types of fountain pens they had agreed to manufacture for Starr.  From December 1942 and continuing until April 1943, Starr Pen Co. received completed fountain pens at the rate of 10,000 each week.  That’s about 220,000 pens.  These pens were then sold to the Penman Co., also known as K. L. & M., who then sold them to the retailers.
        “The 1943 income tax return of the partnership K. L. & M., reported the following.

Gross receipts from business $1,674,852.96
Cost of merchandise sold ....... 1,320,016.18
Gross profit ............................. $354,836.78
        “That’s how much money there was to be made in cheap fountain pens by just one wholesaler in the era just before cheap ballpoints.”

        Rob Astyk wrote, “Thank you for this post. It clarifies a great deal about Conklin’s last years.  I think that it is also appropriate to note that there isn’t any connection between the Starr Pen Co. of Chicago and the earlier Star Pen Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio.  I wonder whether the reference to Virginia links Starr to the Arnold Pen Co. of Petersburg, Virginia.  It’s not likely, though possible since there are very few Virginia companies to choose from.”

        And I wrote, “You’re right, Rob, there are only five or six Virginia companies to choose from, but sadly the Virginia and three of the four New York companies were unnamed in the summary.  The New Jersey, Ohio, and one of the New York companies were given, Paramount Pen Co., Keller Gold Pen Co., and Radian Pen Point Co., respectively.  There are, however, only 2,974 pages of unexpurgated testimony to search through, not an insurmountable task.

        And all of this because of that fake Waterman’s Treasure Chest box.

  George Kovalenko.


December 07, 2015

The Waterman’s Treasure Chest

  , and the Penman Co.

[Posted on L&P on Jan 1, 2, 5-7, 10, 2009.]
        “Here’s the link to the Christmas
“Wishbook” catalogue website.  In the Spiegel “Holiday Greetings” catalogue from 1942, there is a bunch of pens on page 17, and in the bottom right-hand corner, there is the above cheap pen set in a box, priced at just 79 cents.
        “It doesn’t explicitly say that it’s a Waterman’s set, but it does say that it’s a “push-button filling pen”, which isn’t likely for any Waterman’s pen from the 1940s, and it is grouped on the page with another boxed Waterman’s pen set priced at $4.40.  Looking closely at the box, however, it looks exactly the same as the “Waterman’s Treasure Chest” box from the 1920s.  Here’s a
picture of a box that sold on Ebay recently.

        “Perhaps it wasn’t a big seller in the 1920s, and Waterman’s had an overstock of these boxes, and then later they got rid of them at a blow-out price.  Or maybe an independent company made the boxes for all comers.  But have you seen a pen set in a nice box for 79 cents lately?  Well, the “Buy It Now” price for the box on Ebay was $200.00, and they got it.  And that was without any cheap pen set in it.  I wonder whether the box in the Spiegel catalogue had the Waterman’s logo on the lid, like
this one did.”

        Derek Lepper sent a
picture of a “Waterman’s ad with a variation on the Treasure Box”, and I wrote, “The box in the ad is the familiar Waterman’s box from the 1920s, the one with the phrase “The Treasure Chest of Today” printed on the lid of the box.  I have seen dark blue, green, and mottled green-and-gold boxes, and I have heard of a burgundy colored one, but I haven’t seen one, yet.  Has anyone else seen any other colors?”

        John Chapman wrote, “Note that the text in the Spiegel catalogue says “Famous Penman bargain pen and pencil set”.  Methinks the brand name was Penman, which is a bargain pen to say the least.  Not that this really tells us much more, but Penman button-fillers don’t seem like a likely candidate for Waterman manufacture.”

        And I wrote, “So the pen set and box are a marriage.  If the Penman button-filler is a bargain pen, then it’s a real mismatch with the Waterman’s box.  The box way out-classes the pen and pencil set.  I thought the phrase “Famous Penman” was just advertising hyperbole.  Do you have any documentation of the Penman company?  Anything will do.”

        John Chapman wrote, “I assumed from the use of the capitol letter in Penman that it was the brand name.  It seemed to fit.  No documentation per se, but I have seen low-end pens on Ebay with that name, and I think I may have the remains of a Penman button-filler at home.  Very 4th tier.  If the one I am thinking of is a Penman, than the clip, and the clip in the catalog pictured above, seems much like some Wearevers.
        “In an interesting side note, there are a number of cheapo pens in the Sears catalogs of about the same time, for this price and lower.  In some cases they give you color options, but in others it just says “Assorted colors”, and you just get what they send you.”

        And I wrote, “Here are some details about the Penman Co. that surfaced when Antonios Zavaliangos did a search for “Penman” in a commercial legal service hosted at the Drexel Univ. Library.  He sent me a 31-page court reporter’s summary of an appeal of the outcome of an earlier trial for nonpayment of taxes against the Starr Pen Co.  There’s an interesting connection between Starr and Conklin that I will post separately in its own post, in order to stay on topic here, but here’s my distillation of the summary of the court case, and some info on the connection between Starr and Penman.
        “First, here’s the company history from my Penmakers book, which is still forthcoming.

Penman Co., a division of United Advertising Co., was a fountain pen, mechanical pencil, and combo wholesaler located at 179 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill.  They were in business 1940-44, and they sold cheap fountain pens under the name “Penman”, and a fountain pen and mechanical pencil combo called the “Winchester”, starting in October 1943.  Martin P. King was the manager, and his wife Ruth King, Edward H. Larson, and Nelson J. McMahon were the other principles.  Leo Ungar was the sales manager starting in 1942.  The name of the partnership was changed to King, Larson, and McMahon, or K. L. & M., on Jan 1, 1943.  Starr Pen Co. supplied the completed pens and combos for them.  The company was dissolved sometime after 1944 when a court case over fraudulent non-payment of taxes by Joseph Starr put the Starr Pen Co. out of business as well, but the court case was still dragging on in 1954.
        “The petitioner in the present case, Joseph Starr, appealed the previous ruling against him.  Here’s the info on the appeal heard in the Official Tax Court.
        “Docket No. 24672.
        “Date Issued, 03/30/1954.
        “The Commissioner originally determined deficiencies in income tax for the years 1942-1946, but the appeal narrowed down the non-payment to 1943-44.  Here are some curious statements in the summary.  More will follow in the other post concerning “Conklin and the Starr Pen Co.”.
        “The judge wrote in the “Opinion” of this appeal, “The record in this proceeding is very large; it includes testimony covering 2,974 pages of transcript.  The entire record has been considered and carefully analyzed by the Court”, which explains why the summary goes on for 31 pages.
        “During the case, Martin P. King testified that he received kickbacks from Joseph Starr, what King referred to as “royalties”, and which the judge termed “side-payments” in his “Opinion”.  Starr denied all of this in his testimony, even though it was demonstrably false.  Again in his “Opinion” the judge writes, “In considering every detail of the voluminous record of this case, care has been exercised to evaluate the inconsistencies in some of the details of the testimony of the respondent’s witnesses.  Attention has been given to testimony about King’s expenditures for luxuries such as jewelry and furs, and to testimony about his gambling activities, and about his displays of currency in large denominations.  However, in considering the complete and entire record, we are unable to conclude that King’s testimony is unworthy of belief”.
        “In defense of his opinion of King’s testimony, the judge cites another court case where the judge, in weighing the evidence of an interested witness, wrote, “There may be such an inherent improbability in the statements of a witness as to induce the Court, or jury to disregard his evidence, even in the absence of any direct conflicting testimony.  He may be contradicted by the facts he states as completely as by direct adverse testimony, and there may be so many omissions in his account of particular transactions, or of his own conduct, as to discredit his whole story.  His manner, too, of testifying may give rise to doubts of his sincerity, and create the impression that he is giving a wrong coloring to material facts.  All these things may properly be considered in determining the weight which should be given to his statements, although there be no adverse verbal testimony adduced”.

        “After reading that little bit of legalese, we should consider ourselves lucky that we did not have to “consider and carefully analyze” all those 2,974 pages, even though many specifics about the relationships of various nib makers, penmakers, and pen-part jobbers were left out of the summary.  For that, you’ll have to read the full record of the testimony.  But Starr’s whole attitude of misdirection and lies is exemplified by that misused Waterman’s box in the catalogue listing.”

George Kovalenko.


December 01, 2015

The Peel Pen Shop

 Peel Pen Shop, Yvette & Charlie Culmer, son Robert, & Yvette’s brother Jacques, November 1993,
by Derek Lepper.

[Posted on L&P on Oct 31, and Dec 3, 11, 12, 29, 30, 31, 2008.]
        “Kevin Bushell posted a message on
FPN, reporting that Maison du Stylo, “an old and respected pen store in Montreal”, had just gone out of business.  Actually, the full name of the Montreal shop was La Maison du Stylo Peel, French for Peel Pen Shop.  But the story isn’t that simple.  Fernan posted the link to the Lovell’s Directories of the city of Montreal in this FPN thread, “Canadian Waterman History”, and I used the directory to look up all the locations of the Peel Pen Shop.  Here’s what I found.
        “Peel Pen Shop, a fountain pen repair and retail store, was opened by Charles E. (Charlie) and Yvette Culmer on 2000 Peel St. in Montreal, Quebec in 1954, and although it got its name from the street, it was at that location for only two years.  It moved to 2014 Metcalfe, Apt. 1, in 1956, and to 2018 Metcalfe in 1961.  It was at 1243 Bleury between 1962 and 1973, and S. Culmer was listed as the proprietor from 1970-73.  It finally moved to 1212 Union Ave. in 1974, and stayed there until 2008.  Between 1974-78, Charlie Culmer was president, John Culmer was v-pres., and Robert Culmer, sec-tres.  Around the end of the 1970s, a provincial language law required that all shop signs be in French only, so they started to use the company name La Maison du Stylo Peel along with Peel Pen Shop.  In 1987 John and Dolores Culmer retained the English name, the repair business, and all the repair parts, and moved the shop to 140 Fullarton St., London, Ontario.  Charlie passed away in 1994, and Yvette retained the business along with her son Robert, who eventually took over the operation in Montreal until it went out of business at the end of 2008.  The London store is still listed as “in business” on Google Earth, but it went out of business about 2006.  John still has an active
website, though, “Peel Pen Shop”, and he still sells and repairs pens there.
        “One thing that’s often left out of the business directories is the wives and their involvement in the businesses of their husbands, but I found this info in their
“About Us” page, and have gone back to insert the wives here and correct this post.
        “Around 1979, I visited the Montreal shop a few times and bought a non-spill inkwell, and had great fun looking at all the stuff.  I also ate a lot of Montreal smoked meat on St. Laurent, fresh and hot every day.  Here’s a copy of the Peel Pen
business card with both company names.”

        Derek Lepper wrote, “As you may know, before the Second World War Charles Culmer worked at the Waterman’s factory in St. Lambert, Quebec.  After the war he went to Los Angeles and started the Western Pen Company with his brother-in-law Harry Martin, who had also been a Waterman’s employee.  In 1954 they returned to Montreal and opened the first Peel Pen Shop.”

        And I wrote, “No, I didn’t know.  Thanks for all that information, Derek.  Do you have specific dates for when all this happened?  And do you know more about the Western Pen Company?  Did they make fountain pens, or was it a pen repair shop?  And was Harry Martin involved with the first Peel Pen Shop?

        “Antonios found an article about Peel Pen on Watch Time, although you’ll need to log in, and posted the link in a similar thread on FPN.  The author of the article got the address of the shop and the year of the Waterman’s Ripple pen wrong, but there is some extra info about the Western Pen Co.  Apparently it started out as a pen repair shop, but they later made a try at making their own pen. The costly production run, however, was doomed by a manufacturing flaw, and Charlie came back to Montreal with his wife.”

        Derek wrote, “I knew Charlie & Yvette quite well and met them frequently during the 1980’s.  I also photographed them and their shop.  There did not seem to be any remaining Western Pen Co. items.  Charlie was in the pen business way before pen collecting became popular.  When I told him that I collected old pens he was amused and surprised.  He initially viewed collecting as a quirky hobby.  He would often laugh when I told him about current values of old pens.  As the collecting fraternity grew, he certainly had an interest in what was happening.

        “Charlie had a collection of some favourites he kept, mostly Waterman’s I’d say but I never heard of a pen from his Los Angeles manufacturing venture.  The Western Pen Company was located in west LA, out towards Santa Monica.  Coincidentally, in the early 1970’s I bought a small box of old junk from a pen/stationery shop/factory in West Los Angeles.  There was a complete red Duofold flat-top senior in the box, but the rest was unexciting and mostly parts.  The man I bought it from said that they had evolved out of the fountain pen business, and in the back, they were assembling ballpoints.”

        And I wrote, “Thanks for all that new information, Derek, but do you really think I am going to let you get away that easily?  How about showing us some of the photographs of Charlie & Yvette and their shop in the 1980’s?  It’s understandable why they did not retain any artifacts and reminders of the Western Pen Company.  It was probably a bitter memory.  And what was the name of the pen shop and factory in West Los Angeles where you bought that box of old junk pens?  Everyone who sticks to collecting pens long enough eventually gets to be a someguy, once in a while.”

        Derek wrote, “Here’s a
photograph of the Culmers in their shop in Montreal, November 1993.  And a second picture.  I honestly cannot remember the name of the place in LA.  It was one of those single story narrow buildings with a small service-retail door and window front.  Not on a shopping street strip, but it must have had a sign, or name advertising stationery and pens.
        And I wrote, “Wow! thanks for the photos, Derek.  That was a great little shop.  What a shame that it’s all gone.  I was only there a few times, but it’s all coming back to me.  I seem to recall that there is even more of the same on the wall behind you, the photographer.  I also remember being almost overwhelmed by all the things to look at in there, the first time I walked in.  Thanks for preserving it all on film.”

George Kovalenko.