Iconic Pens

The theme for our Saturday, October 24, 2011 meeting was “Iconic Fountain Pens”.   

What makes an item, such as a pen, iconic?  When most of us hear the word “iconic” we think of people, places or things that are famous, well-known, widely-known, celebrated, renowned, fabled, legendary, notorious, infamous, illustrious,  or perhaps even “the one”.  At least, those are some of the words that come to mind when I think of something that is “iconic”.  

The theme for this week was for our members to share their thoughts on those fountain pens that were icons from their perspective as well as the reason(s) for their selections.  We asked them to think about whether it was a popular or well-known pen?  Was it something to do with the pen’s design or looks?  Maybe it revolutionized the look, function of pens or even how pens write?  Has it developed a bit of a cult following?  Perhaps it is not famous but infamous?  Is it inexpensive or does it cost a small fortune?  Was it made by one of the “iconic” brands or do you have trouble pronouncing or even remembering its brand?  

If you were to build a collection of pens based on an “iconic” theme, what would you consider to be the “must-have” pens?  These hypothetical exercises are great – there are no limits, e.g., you are not restricted to modern or vintage pens, etc.  You don’t have to own the pen, have ever owned the pen or even want to own the pen!  Heck, you don’t even have to have any money!  Although, I don’t want to suggest that a pen’s cost necessarily influences its status as an icon.  I can think of very expensive pens that I would not be surprised if many thought of them as an icon, or conversely, others thinking of one of any number of inexpensive (dare I say, “cheap”?) pens that could easily fit the bill, e.g., Lamy Safari. 

Enough of my dribble, here are several groups of pens (with photos) that different members of the LPC view as being iconic and why:

 

1. Sheaffer Balance. 1930s. The Balance began the tradition of streamlining the shape of pens with tapered caps and barrel ends, along with the use of plastics in colours not seen before. 

2. Parker Vacumatic.  1930s. Striped plastics, ink stored right in the barrel rather than a sac, and an “interesting” filling system – the Vac is still what I think of when I think of vintage pens. 

3.  Parker “51”.  1940’s. A hooded nib. “Writes Dry with Wet Ink” to quote the advertising of the day.  Introduced in 1939 and in production until 1972, the Parker “51” sold in the millions and is of the most successful fountain pens of all time. 

4.  Sheaffer Snorkel.  1950’s. The Sheaffer Triumph nib (also known as the wrap around nib or conical nib) was continued on the Snorkel filler.  One of the coolest and most complicated of the filling systems, the Snorkel was made in a multitude of colours and finishes. 

5.  Sheaffer Imperial/Lifetime.  1960’s. I don’t have a Sheaffer Pen For Men (PFM) so I am including my 1963 Lifetime with the famous inlaid nib.  The PFM introduced the now iconic inlaid nib that Sheaffer continues to use on their pens to this day.  The Imperial, Targa, Intrigue and Valor models all have the inlaid nib. 

6.  Parker 75 in Sterling Silver cisele pattern.  1960’s. A classy looking pen.  I am still waiting to see one on the TV series “Mad Men”. 

7.  Lamy Safari.  1980’s. The Safari was first introduced in 1980 and hasn’t changed in 30 years.  A great starter or school pen that is available in an array of colours and nib sizes.

 Another member’s group of “Iconic Pens”:
 
  1. Aurora 88.  An elegant Italian design that functions perfectly and has a hidden cache of ink, if needed.
  2. Sheaffer Targa.  Simplicity and variety.  One could spend a lifetime collecting these classic fountain pens with the inlaid nib.  Just check out one of the best pen sites on the internet – sheaffertarga.com
  3. Pilot/Namiki Vanishing Point.  Many people think this pen has a cult following but I disagree.  How many people do you know that own at least one Vanishing Point?  I would not be surprised if 3 out of 4 pen owners have one – that’s not a cult, that’s a club!
  4. Delta Dolce Vita.  Ah, the sweet life!  The first time I saw this pen I thought it was a bit much, I mean, who has the nerve to use a bright orange pen like this, especially a conservative business man like me.  It did not take too much longer before I owned one.  Actually, I have the double desk set as well!
  5. Conklin Crescent Filler.  Even non-pen people know this pen, it’s the one that Mark Twain uses – because it won’t roll off of a table.
  6. Lamy 2000.  A wonderful example of design and functionality. A simple design, the pen is made of black makrolon and is a piston filler, holding a ton of ink.  The flagship pen of LAMY.
  7. OMAS 360.  The non-conformist’s fountain pen because of its unconventional triangulated form.  It’s the type of pen that you either love or hate.  I happen to love it.  Unfortunately, OMAS screwed up its original design when it redesigned its line of pens.  If you want one of these, get the older “vintage” model.
  8. Pelikan M800 Souverän.   I loved this fountain pen from the very first time I saw its green striped barrel at Sleuth & Statesman in Toronto.  While I actually bought the black-blue model with silver trim first, I just had to have the original black-green model with gold trim.  In my mind, the green striped barrel makes it the quintessential fountain pen!
  9. Parker Duofold.  Not a big surprise that the Duofold is on this list, although most people would probably cite the vintage “Big Red” model.  Most people would put the Big Red as one of a dozen or so pens in a core collection of pens.  I like the blue ones myself, especially this remake of the “True Blue”.
  10. Waterman Edson.  A legendary and elegant pen.
  11. Conway Stewart #28 “Cracked Ice”.  Colourful plastics have been a signature of Conway Stewart.  The names of many of these colours, such as this one in Cracked Ice, have been adopted by collectors over the years. Other personal favourites include Reverse Cracked Ice and Tiger Eye.  Truth be told, my favourite models are #27 and #60 – I just grabbed the first Cracked Ice that I came across so please forgive my oversight!

 One more member’s quartet of Icons:
 
 

From top to bottom:

  1. Parker Vacumatic. Hey, it’s a Vacumatic, what more is there to say?
  2. Sheaffer Autograph.  The Autograph has a much wider cap band than the Sheaffer Signature and used to be one of their most expensive models.  It has the clip and the cap band made out of solid 14K gold. In fact, you could send the pen to Sheaffer along with your signature and they would engrave it on the cap band. This cap band has yet to be engraved.
  3. Esterbrook.  A classic double jewel J (full sized).
  4. Parker 51.  This aerometric filler with gold filled cap is Cocoa in colour, while not as rare as Nassau Green or Plum, is fairly uncommon.

A different view of the same quartet: 

 
And finally, the best part of every pen club meeting – writing with someone else’s iconic pen – in this case, a Parker 65 Flighter! 
 
 
Maybe you agree with these selections, maybe you have your own views.  We would love to hear from you!  Let us know what your iconic pen is and why?
 
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Birthday Pens

I have gathered a smattering of birth years of LPC members and their related birthday pens, i.e., notable pens, etc… that were introduced at that time.  My reference source for this information is The Chronicle of the Fountain Pen, Stories within a Story, By Joao Pavao Martins, Luiz Leite, and Antonio Gagean.  This book was published in 2007 and is a terrific book for this particular purpose. Each chapter is organized in a chronological manner and includes a time line showing the main historical events around that time together with the models introduced by each manufacturer.  Maja of the Vancouver Pen Club was also kind enough to mention that Richard’s Pens has a similar birthday pen time line here.

I have also taken pictures of these pens from my collection (where I have them) and you will notice that these pictures are not nearly the quality as Rick’s picture of his Parker 75.

Year – Manufacturer/Model

1929 – Pelikan 100, Sheaffer Balance & Waterman Patrician

Pelikan 100
Sheaffer Balance

1931 – Sheaffer launched the Feathertouch nib

1939 – Parker Duofold Geometric (Toothbrush)

Sheaffer Geometric Duofold aka Toothbrush

1940 – Parker Striped Duofold

Striped Duofolds

1941 – Parker 51

Parker 51

1952 – Sheaffer Snorkel

1962 – Parker Very Personal (VP)

1964/1965 – Parker 75 Sterling Silver Cross Hatch or Ciselé pattern

Rick's Parker 75 Cisele

1973/1974 – Montblanc revives Meisterstück 146

Montblanc Meisterstuck 146

1978 – Sheaffer Targa lacquer models (known as Laqué)

Sheaffer Targa Laque Blue Moire Classic

1985 – Waterman Man 200 (a slimmer model of the Man 100)

Waterman Man 200 Rhapsody Orange/Brown Ripple

So, what is your birthday pen?  Tell us, we’d love to know!

“First” Fountain Pens

The theme for our FIRST meeting of the New Year was… your “first” fountain pen (FP).  This could mean the very “first” FP you owned (however acquired), the “first” FP you purchased as an adult, or it could mean the “first” FP you chose as a collector, after becoming “hooked” on this hobby.  The notion of “first” in “first” FP was limited only by our small brains.

One of our most distinguished members wrote the following about his “first” FP:

I still have it and it is still one of my most trusty workhorses.  No sequestering it away in a glass case, it is usually stabled in my shirt pocket next to my heart.  In the same fashion as many an infantryman (so I have read) has had his life saved by a musket embedded in his trusty bible, I would expect a bullet aimed at my heart to be deflected by my loyal Sheaffer.

No matter that it has long since destroyed its cap (I have it carefully stored so that when technology advances sufficiently I or a descendent will restore it), I fitted it out with a beautiful classic black one, that fits perfectly.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it looks rather more aristocratic than the original.
My Uncle Phil gave it to me when I started high school and I have been training it ever since.  It has learned to respond to my every touch in a way that can only be achieved over a lifetime.  I would guess that if all I ever wrote with this pen was stretched out in a continuous line it would reach from here to the sun!  It is too late for me to be ever able to train another although I do continue to explore vintage pens in the (probably vain) hope that some literate connoisseur may have had a similar relationship resulting in a perfectly molded writing instrument.

I will bring it to the next meeting of the LPC and if you swear to treat it with appropriate tenderness and respect I may even let you write a couple of words.

I don’t think you will find it too hard to pick out this “hybrid” Sheaffer in the picture that follows below!

As for me, I brought three “first” FPs to our meeting.  My very “first” FP, a tortoise Waterman Laureat that I purchased to sign my name on my firm’s correspondence (I used Waterman Florida Blue ink, of course!).  Next, I brought the “first” FP that I purchased online, from Levenger, a beautiful blue Visconti Pericles.  Both the Laureat and Pericles are pictured below.  Last, I brought the “first” vintage FP that I purchased, under the direction of a certain LPC member – a red Parker Duofold Streamline Senior.

Here is a picture of the “first” FPs that were shared at our meeting on January 2, 2010.  From left to right, they are as follows:

  1. Parker 51 Special – the “first” FP given by a daughter to her father (very Special indeed!),
  2. Uncle Phil’s Sheaffer – as described above,
  3. Parker Slimfold – the “first” (and only) FP used by a member’s mother,
  4. Parker 75,
  5. Esterbrook,
  6. Sheaffer Balance in carmine red,
  7. Sheaffer Snorkel,
  8. Parker Duofold Jr.,
  9. Waterman Laureat – as described above, and
  10. Visconti Pericles – as described above.


Let us know about your “first” FP!