March 13, 2016

The early Waterman’s ads

  , an Internet project.


Ad from David Nishimura’s “Waterman’s First Advertisement?” on his Vintage Pens website.

[Posted on L&P on Feb 11, 18, June 27, 28, 29, July 1, 2013.]
        Whenever I get a new volume of The American Stationer from Google Books, the first thing I do is strip off the pages at the beginning and end of the PDF and save the new version.  That way, page 1 of the text is the same as page 1 of the PDF, and unless the pagination gets screwed up by missing pages, or missing whole issues, the page numbering of the two is exactly the same.  It makes it very easy to navigate the text.  And since the ads for certain manufacturers are always located on the same pages in all the issues, or in every second issue, or once every month, etc., it makes it very easy to establish an algorithm for finding all the ads by a certain pen company.
        I recently used this method to look for all the Waterman’s ads.  The ads don’t start until the mid-1890s, so I filled in the 1880s and early 1890s with the Shipman’s ads, which in the early period used the “Waterman’s” name.  It took 3-4 days altogether, but I ended up with a PDF consisting of 703 images that I called “Wat Ads In Am Stat”.  I’m still missing the ads from the volumes that haven’t been digitized, yet, but even so, it’s already a great research aid for a history of the company.  The only thing better than this would be
a complete run of The Pen Prophet!  
I wonder whether Google Books will ever digitize that.  Over the years, I also collected about 61 images of 1880s, 1890s, and 1900s Waterman’s ads from Ebay, Google Books, and elsewhere on the Internet, so I added those as well.  That’s 764 pages altogether, now, contained in three 2-inch binders.  This has helped a little to fill in this early period, but we still need more images to fill in the gaps created by the missing volumes.  I added some articles, and some ads from other magazines, and the number of pages now stands at 1,167.
        Other people have found early images of Waterman’s ads.  Rob Astyk and Len Provisor posted images of four of the Waterman’s “Dapper Dandy” trade cards from 1883-84.  David Nishimura posted a
picture of the “Oldest Waterman’s Advertisement” in an article on his website, and a page from Waterman’s “Circular No.7” in a related article on the “Oldest Surviving Waterman’s Pen”.  Olle Hjort has over 50 Waterman’s ads in his Pennarkivet website.  And Simone has 200 Waterman’s ads on his Fountain Pen Wiki website, but most of them are in the modern period, after 1900.  Here’s the specific link to the Waterman’s page.  And Cliff & Judy Lawrence’s 1986 book of pen ads and their PFC magazines have hundreds of Waterman’s ads.
        Does anyone have any more Waterman’s ads to share, ads from 1883 to 1906 from magazines such as Harper’s, McClure’s, Atlantic, and the other stationers’ magazines, but especially The Century Magazine, etc.?  With Google Books placing more and more online, someone should be checking these magazines online, and especially this Ebay listing for a DVD of all the issues of
Century Magazine.  That’s the magazine for which Edward T. Howard worked as an advertising agent at the time when he became one of the directors in Waterman’s company in the early 1880s.  I am willing to share my images with anyone who is willing to share theirs.

        David Nishimura wrote, “Since there are so few of us actively working on this, we really should put our heads together to figure out how best we can work together.  We don’t want to duplicate efforts, but at the same time we don’t want to introduce corrupt information, such as images of ads that are misdated.  We might want to consider setting up a private blog for working purposes.  That would avoid copyright issues that might arise if the blog were public.  The information could be made public in due time, after being arranged and checked.”

        Simone Piccardi wrote, “I’ll be glad to help, and you can use the ads I scanned.  Almost 99% were directly scanned by me using original publications, some of them are my property, others were borrowed from collectors.  Only a few are scans given to me by other people, but I always got publication permission under the Wiki license, so copyright should not be an issue.  None come from archives, or other on-line publications.  But you have to take it into account that dating of these ads could be wrong.  I did my best to track down dates, but some are just guess, and others were just given by the ad seller, and some later proved to be plain wrong.  But every one of them brings a little explanation about dating, specifying where it comes from.”

        David Nishimura wrote, “That is a very kind offer.  The problem of unreliable dating is not trivial.  The great thing about digitized publications such as The American Stationer is not just the ads themselves, but that they can be dated precisely and securely.  If I were compiling an archive of pen ads myself, I would give an exact date and source for each ad that could be securely dated, and for all the rest make it clear that the date was an estimate, using either “circa” before, or “?” after.  Over the years, I’ve repeatedly seen cases of circular logic, where a feature has been dated by reference to ads, whose dating was based upon the appearance of that feature.”

        And I wrote, “Also, Simone, your website is already a great resource, so I don’t want to duplicate your effort, but thanks for the offer.  I can only add my stress to David’s council that you try to give as precise a date and source for each ad as possible.  And for the rest, make it clear that the dates are guesstimates by using David’s suggestions.  I really intended the list that I proposed to be one that covered the early Waterman’s years, the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s.  The ads from 1906 to the present should be relatively easy to find, compared to the early ads.”

        Simone Piccardi wrote, “Thanks for the appreciation.  Unfortunately I have just few ads dated before 1906, just five for Waterman, so my contribution will be very small.  But for the dating I already did something like what you are suggesting, thanks to the semantic features of the Wiki software.  If you look at the “Information” section of each ad page, you can find a short summary about it, and that’s where the source of the date is explained.  Unfortunately in Italy the fountain pen started to appear later than 1906, and the early ads I have all came from the US.”

        And I wrote, “That’s very thorough, Simone.  I think David and I were looking at the early Waterman’s ads only, and our sample was too small.  I really wish that someone with full access to Google Books in the US would check the online issues of such early magazines as Harper’s, McClure’s, Atlantic, and the other stationers’ magazines, but especially The Century Magazine.  There are Waterman’s ads every month in those magazines.  Above I mentioned the DVD of all The Century Magazine issues on Ebay, but I don’t know whether all the ads
have been stripped out of them.”

        David Nishimura wrote, “A number of us have already done extensive searching across Google Books, restricting by date, so I don’t think there’s as much out there as you imagine, at least, not yet.  Most of the issues of the magazines you name aren’t available online, and many have been scanned from copies stripped of their ads.”

George Kovalenko.