March 23, 2016

The Waterman’s Travel Ink


[Posted on L&P and FPN on July 10, 2007, and Mar 31, 2012.]
        The first Waterman’s traveling inkwells have the patent date for Joshua Barnes’s US patent no.
474,940 printed on the label.  It is called a “Pocket-Case For Bottles”, and was applied for in 1891, but not issued until May 17, 1892.  In the patent illustration, the wooden case has both ends rounded off, thus making it impossible for the bottle case to stand up, so it was obviously meant to be carried in a suitcase.  Although pictured with rounded ends, it was produced with a flat bottom, so that it could stand up on flat surfaces.  It’s a wooden case with a spring-loaded top to hold an eyedropper-stoppered bottle inside for traveling safely and cleanly.  It has “a cushioning spring for securing bottles with a stopper having an elastic bulb”, an eyedropper built into a rubber stopper, and the first traveling ink bottle in a protective wooden case, or traveling ink pot.  This was the patent used by L. E. Waterman’s on their first traveling ink bottles, the ones with the green ink bottle labels, and in both wooden and metal versions.  Also see UK Reg. No. 244,092, and Canadian patent no. 114,114.
        The first Waterman’s ad in American Stationer made its appearance on
July 3, 1890, p.31, but it was not for their pens.  It was for their traveling ink bottles with eyedropper stoppers, what they called the “Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen Ink Filler”.  Two types were available, one for the desk top, and one for the pocket, or the suitcase of a traveler.  Their pens are mentioned only peripherally in a short line at the bottom of the ad, “Manufacturers of Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pens”.  It’s very strange that they didn’t place an image of their pen in this ad, let alone place any ads for their pens in this magazine until this late.  And here’s a Waterman’s advertising article in Am. Stat. on July 3, 1890, p.19, where they claim that they had “just invented” the ink filler, even though the application for the Barnes patent wasn’t filed until June 8, 1891.  They also go on to say, “It is patented, and consists of a glass tube in a solid cork and bulb combined, which serves the admirable and dual purpose of corking the bottle and keeping the filler in the ink”, always ready to fill a pen.  It almost seems like they are claiming only the filler, the eyedropper stopper, and not the container for the traveling case.  It was, however, not the first traveling inkwell of this type because William Rodger’s US patent no. 463,215 for a “Fountain-Pen Filler” was filed on Nov 25, 1890, and issued on Nov 17, 1891.  There is also Hermann Esser’s US patent no. 384,899 for an “Ink-Supplying Device” issued on June 19, 1888.  It’s just an eyedropper stopper designed to fit any size of opening in any existing ink bottle, and it’s intended specifically for applying India ink to the two-bladed drafting pens, although it also could be used as a fountain-pen filler.  I couldn’t find the patent for the Waterman’s invention, although I might not be using the correct obscure search term, so if they applied for their own pen-filler patent, it was probably disallowed because of the Esser patent, or maybe patent no. 376,385 from Jan 10, 1888, and then they licensed, or bought the rights to the Barnes patent when it came out.

George Kovalenko.