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.