The question of who started making celluloid fountain pens, and when, is somewhat reminiscent of discussions of who discovered America. Sheaffer is the equivalent of Columbus here: others had done it before, but without any lasting effect.
Everyone knows that Leboeuf started using celluloid several years before Sheaffer, but other companies were using it by the second decade of the 20th century -- though as a substitute for black hard rubber, rather than for its potential for color.
Years ago I noticed that some of the earliest colorful celluloid pens were Salz Brothers ringtops, often marked "GERMANY" on their caps. I didn't have any way of dating them precisely, though, nor did I have access to any advertisements or catalogs that would help. But tonight I found this, in The American Stationer of March 11, 1922, p. 20:
Saturday, June 15, 2013
summer 2010 issue of The Pennant (online access requires PCA membership), but one big question has been why Held pens all seem to bear a New York imprint. Held himself lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, operating a shop there that sold and repaired fountain pens and offered engraving services and stationery. None of the biographical sources I have found give any indication of any New York connections, and census records from 1900 to 1930 consistently place him in Salt Lake City, though it should be noted that only the 1920 census lists his profession as a manufacturer of fountain pens (the 1910 census has him as an engraver and stationer, which certainly does not preclude involvement in other related ventures).
Friday, June 14, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013
The first is rather roughly made, with a cap and barrel of aluminum decorated with zigzag incisions. The filling mechanism is the characteristic Held "swing-filler", where the lever pivots sideways rather than pulling away from the barrel. The lever is the only place marked "Held", and the marking is crude indeed.
The second pen is much more refined, and is fully marked. It was advertised as the Bird Bill Pen; the earliest advertisements I've found appear in 1915. I will discuss the ads and production dates in the upcoming Held post, and will concentrate on the pen itself here.
experimenting with similar vent holes on larger pens around this time, and Wirt had adopted a standard configuration comprising a ventless nib and a vented underfeed. Held's multiplication of vents goes still further.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
special Waterman made for presentation to President Taft. Inquiries about this pen to the William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Ohio went unanswered, so I'll try to contact them once again this coming week. In the meantime, here is a picture of a presentation pen that the Taft site definitely has in their collection. According to the description at the Ohio Memory site:
This gold quill pen was presented to William Howard Taft by Pope Leo XIII in 1903. The pen was used in signing the agreement between the Vatican and United States stating that the church-controlled land in the Philippines would be sold to the Philippines.
Roscoe Village Lofts, as the residential conversion of the former Wahl-Eversharp factory at 1800 Roscoe Street in Chicago is now known. The image below is from Wahl's 1928 catalog, available online through the PCA Reference Library.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Nothing daunted, I brought the pen home and took it apart. And for good measure, I took apart two other Dictators I happened to have around the shop, photographing all three and taking notes. It was as beastly as I had remembered -- but now the details are recorded for posterity and future repairs should be much easier!
But what about disassembly, you ask? Well, you may get lucky and succeed in wiggling out the section in the conventional manner. A bit of naphtha (lighter fluid) into the joint to loosen things up, heat applied to the metal of the filler housing, and a gentle patient touch. A safer approach, however, is to use a tube sized to fit over the sac nipple to apply pressure from the filler housing end, pushing the section out from the inside (unscrew and set aside the front section assembly first: this will prevent the ink reservoir from being damaged by being forced against the back of the feed). Indeed, this is the only approach that can be used if the section plug is already broken off inside the the barrel.
Even when pushing from the inside, however, naphtha and heat may not be enough to loosen things up. The pen with the gold filled overlay shown above had shellac all over its interior. In this case the broken-off plug was hard rubber, so I could soak the assembly in alcohol to free it up. More often, the plug is celluloid, so the best option is ammonia, which must be carefully kept off the exterior of a hard rubber barrel. Stand the barrel vertically, threads downwards, and drop the ammonia inside the filler housing so that it collects around the sac nipple, soaking the joint between liner and plug. Note that there is a threaded tubular plug that goes into the end of the sac nipple. It is reverse-threaded, and only needs to be removed if the powdered ink reservoir is to be replaced. This is a feature common to all Dictator pens.
The Dictator Pen Company was incorporated in New York City early in 1920 and then reorganized in August 1921 as a Delaware corporation (the company was always based in New York; the Delaware incorporation would have been for legal purposes). How any changes in the company's structure or ownership relate to production of their pens is not entirely clear, but a September 1921 advertisement states that the pen has "just been introduced, the first advertising appearing in New York July 14th." A note appearing in the February 11, 1922 issue of United States Investor gives more details about the company, including this:
The Dictator Company is using the plant of the Standard Vulcanite Pen Company of which (Dictator Vice-President John Douglas) Turner is president. It has been understood that the company is being merged with the Dictator Company. The Standard Vulcanite Pen Company has been in existence for some two years [in fact, it had been incorporated in 1913 - D.]. Opinions differ as to the merits of the Dictator Pen. Stock of the Dictator Company is being sold by Wheten and O'Dare Inc. Thousands of dollars must be expended in advertising a new article before any kind of a demand for it can be said to exist. Some money is being spent in advertising the Dictator pen but we believe that more attention is being given to the sale of stock at this time. In view of the fact that the merits of the pen must be proven over a period of time and a demand for it built up we cannot consider the stock of the company other than a doubtful speculation.The company does not appear to have survived for much beyond this. In the Schenectady Gazette of January 11, 1927, the business section published a reader's inquiry: "I should like to have you tell me something about Dictator Fountain Pen stock of which I bought in 1922". The response: "The stocks are worthless . . . Dictator Fountain Pen was a hopeless promotion and never made a scratch on the surface of Wall Street."
1433325, 1443515, and 1450398, in particular -- but oddly enough it is British patent 178406 that most closely describes the pen as actually manufactured. Aside from the components relating to the powdered ink reservoir, Dictator pens are nearly identical in construction to the sleeve-fillers produced by the Standard Vulcanite Pen Company.
While some pens and pencils can be dated precisely by date codes or hallmarks, most can only be dated approximately. Nonetheless, some items can be dated much more closely than others, which unfortunately isn't usually explicitly noted in our catalog listings. The pencil above, for example, we listed as circa 1933. It is strongly imprinted, but lacks the date code that Parker started using in 1934. The same basic pencil was test-marketed in 1932 as a Golden Arrow, but since this pencil bears a standard generic Parker imprint, the odds are overwhelming that it was produced in 1933 -- a good thing, since its purchaser was looking for an item produced in just that year!
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
new stainless steel unit.