Richard’s Pen Collection : Vintage American Fountain Pens

Writing instruments on this page are part of my personal collection and are not for sale.

Third Tier, With or Without ID

As with most industries, manufacturers in the pen business tend to stratify: the “big boys” (in the U.S.A., the Big Four, or the first tier), the guys in the middle (second tier), and the bottom feeders (third tier). Some third-tier manufacturers produced very good pens, and some produced, well, junk.

This nameless pen is one of many made during the Great Depression, and it was probably priced at less than $1.00. It measures 412" capped, 52532" posted. The sac is not glued to the section, as in most quality pens; rather, it is compressed by a ring on the inside of the barrel. This method is less reliable, but it is also less costly to produce. The iridium-tipped manifold steel nib was once two-tone in color. I keep this pen because it was the first decent pen I found “in the wild” when I began collecting.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Here is a DU-PONT syringe-filling pen from the World War II years. Most of these pens have celluloid section fused to the barrel and are pretty much not restorable, but this one has a hard rubber section. I’ve fitted this pen with a Pelikan M200 nib, with plating removed from the tines to mimic the original DURIUM TIPPED nib’s design.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
User-Changeable Nibs Arrow Dollar Profile    Arrow J Profile

Manufacturer logoScorned by some collectors as “poor man’s” pens, Esterbrook fountain pens today are sought after by serious writers. These inexpensive but well-made pens, such as the “Dollar Pen” and the classic Model J family members here, were designed with a user-interchangeable screw-in “Renew-Point” nib assembly. Renew-Points came in a broad array of sizes and types; the customer could choose pen and nib separately for a truly personalized writing instrument. The inexpensive steel nibs are frequently a little lacking in smoothness.

The pen that started the Re-New-Point thing was a plain pen with a clever and attractive V-shaped clip designed by Leon H. Ashmore. There’s a washer clip that’s secured in place by a metal disk with three tabs that fold under to stick through the top of the cap, where they are crimped into place. This thing is cool enough that I tracked down this pretty black celluloid pen, the long slender Model A. 45364" capped and 6" posted, it’s fitted with a first-pattern No 2668 nib.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The next generation featured a strengthened one-piece evolution of Ashmore’s clip design and slightly smoother lines overall. I can’t be sure of the year in which my black Model B was made; it could have been any time up to about 1935. With a period-correct flat-feed No 2668 medium nib, this is a fun pen to use. It’s 42732" capped and 6732" posted, the largest of its family.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

My second black Model B Dollar Pen — which is also my third black Estie — appears to have been made in 1942, as I believe that was the only year Esterbrook made these unusual “bandless” pens. This pen has an uncommon unnumbered medium Relief nib (identical to the 2314-M except for the imprint) with a period-correct flat-bottom feed. At 434" capped and 1316" posted, it’s largest of the Dollar Pens.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The next pen, a Foliage Green single-jewel J, has a No 8968 broad PdAg nib; it’s 41516" capped and 6" posted. This single-jewel pen, with its three-ribbed cap jewel and clip with no ESTERBROOK imprint, is the first version of the great lever-filling Js; and it’s also an uncommon specimen because of its PdAg nib and its wartime palladium furniture.

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Following the green J is a Cobalt Blue double-jewel J with a No 1551 “school” nib; it’s 5116" capped and 6116" posted.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

I found this delicious Tempo Red post-1957 CH for sale on one of the Internet fora I frequent. The smallest member of the J family at 41332" capped and 51132" posted, my CH has a No 9128 (semi)flex nib. So often, these little purse pens are in terrible condition, scratched and cracked and dirty. This one appeared to be uninked when I bought it, and it’s a real pleasure to have one this nice.

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No More Stained Pockets

Manufacturer logoEarly fountain pens were all too likely to leak in the user’s pocket; caps were just a slip-fit onto the section, feeds were leaky, and sacs could burst. The G. S. Parker company’s ultimate solution was the button-filled Parker Jack-Knife Safety pen (introduced in 1912), the predecessor of the famous Duofold. Its Lucky Curve feed (1894) relies on capillary action to drain excess ink, its barrel has no filler-lever slot, and its cap screws securely onto the barrel. Like many other pens of the time, the Jack-Knife Safety was sold in several sizes.

The way to the final form of the Jack-Knife Safety was not a single step. One of the elements of the solution was the button filler, and Parker began making button-filling pens in about 1912. But these pens were fitted with the old unreliable cone caps, made less likely to leak by the elimination of breather holes. The back end of the pen was tightly sealed by a screw-on blind cap, and these two elements made up Parker’s “Safety-Sealed” system. My early button filler, made from parts, is 51732" capped and 62132" posted. Its soft medium nib works well for general use.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

My chased No 2312 Jack-Knife Safety was made about 1918. 5516" capped and 61332" posted, it’s a thin pen, yet large enough to be good in the hand; it’s not the largest model. Its flexible italic nib lends a strong character to its writing.

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Smooth as a Finger tip

Manufacturer logoNibThe Moore Pen Company was founded in 1899 as the American Fountain Pen Company, marketing a “safety” pen designed by Morris W. Moore. In 1917, the company was renamed, and it gradually began making high-quality but otherwise ordinary lever-filler pens. In 1946, it introduced the Moore Finger tip Pen, an innovative pen designed to compete with the streamlined Parker “51”. The Finger tip was an excellent, smooth pen — I really like the way mine writes, with its fine/medium nib — but it was also a sales disaster, possibly because it was too different from regular pens. After only five years, Moore retired the Finger tip and began making mediocre squeeze-filling pens. In 1956, the company went out of business. My Finger tip is 5” capped and 638" posted. (Click the thumbnail for a larger image of the famous Finger tip nib/section assembly.)

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

At some point in the Finger tip’s product life, Moore began offering a new, smaller model, called the Starlight, with a metal slip cap. When it’s posted, the Starlight is about the size of (and fitted out like) the Parker “51” — which was the original target. This pen is 5132” capped and 6132" posted.

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