Writing instruments on this page are part of my personal collection and are not for sale.Adding Class to the Balance
As the 1930s progressed, Sheaffer’s Balance provided the model for many pen makers; it was modern, it was well made, and it was popular. But after eight years, even the Balance began to look a little dated. Sheaffer’s response was to jazz the pen up by adding a metal cap, and the result was 1937’s top-of-the-line Crest (initially called just the Model 47). To make a smoother line, Sheaffer moved the barrel’s threads down to the end of the section, creating a short-lived trend in that direction. Other makers soon joined the race with their own metal-capped pens, among them the Parker Vacumatic Imperial in 1940 and the Eversharp Skyline in 1941 — but again Sheaffer had led the way. In 1942, Sheaffer discontinued the open-nib version of the Crest in favor of a new model with the company’s revolutionary conical “TRIUMPH” point. The older design is often referred to as the “first-year” Crest even though it was actually in the catalog for four years.
My men’s “first year” Crest is a lever filler featuring Golden Brown celluloid. This pen was actually made in the latter half of 1941 or the first few months of 1942. At 51∕32" capped and 65∕32" posted, it is virtually the perfect size, and it handles beautifully. The two-tone XF nib lays down a lovely line.
|Eversharp Gets There with Too Little, Too Late||Profile|
When Parker introduced the “51” in 1941, the new pen’s streamlined styling touched off a game of catch-up. Soon other makers began marketing streamlined pens, and one of the prominent features was a hooded nib in emulation of the almost-invisible nib of the “51”. Eversharp had just introduced its Skyline, with an open nib, and the company was left scrambling for a more modern look. In late 1943, the “Fifth Avenue” made its appearance. The pen was poorly conceived; its strikingly Art Deco styling was outdated, and even after some design improvements it was not as good a performer as other Eversharp pens of the time. Eversharp withdrew it after less than two years.
My first Fifth Avenue is a first-generation men’s version. It has a nail-firm medium nib and is Dubonnet Red. It is 59∕32" capped and 515∕16" posted.
Among the Fifth Avenue variations was one with a solid gold cap and barrel trim, priced at $64.00 (for a pen-and-pencil set) and called the “Sixty Four.” My Sixty Four, a third-generation men’s model, is slightly shorter at 51∕8" capped and 527∕32" posted, and it has a semiflexible fine nib and is Dubonnet Red. It also features the 6?4 cap design that Eversharp used as a tie-in to the radio quiz show Take It or Leave It (better known as The $64 Question).
The great pity of the Fifth Avenue is that Eversharp had a real winner on its hands and blew it. The original design of the pen was done by Raymond Loewy. When Eversharp decided to do the hooded-nib thing, a new gripping section came into being, designed by Eversharp’s own George Cloutier. It was the angularity of that section that gave the pen its Art Deco look; Loewy’s design, open nib and all, had been classic and timeless, as evidenced by this original Sixty Four prototype in black. This pen is 59∕65" capped, 57∕8" posted, and it has a Gold Seal (not used on production pens) set into its barrel.
|When Is a Hooded Nib Not a Hooded Nib?||Profile|
Eversharp wasn’t the only company to go after Parker’s hooded-nib styling. Late in 1945, Waterman also introduced a pen with a nib that appears to be hooded, called the Taperite. The Taperite’s nib is not a true hooded nib; it is small, but it is mounted with a standard feed in a section that is tapered to produce a streamlined contour but is otherwise quite ordinary. The lever-filling Taperite was offered in men’s and ladies’ models at several trim levels.
Probably my oldest Taperite, this Citation was made very shortly after World War II — or possibly during the final weeks of the war, before the Taperite’s public introduction. It’s a men’s model, black, 55∕16" capped and 63∕16" posted. Its medium nib is very firm.
My gray Stateleigh, probably about the same age as my Citation, features a gold-filled cap with a “Stars and Stripes” motif (two groups of five engraved grooves each to represent stripes, and a single engraved star in line with the clip) at the open end. At 55∕16" capped and 63∕32" posted, it’s the slightest bit shorter than the Citation. This is a top-of-the-line model, at least among models with plastic barrels, and it has a sweet, slightly flexible medium stub nib.
Ladies’ Taperites made their first appearance at the very beginning, in the form of the Lady Garland, a tiny pen whose gold-filled cap bears an imprinted feather design for a band. My Lady Garland is an early one, with a firm stub nib. At 49∕16" capped and 51∕8; posted, it hardly makes an impression in my hand — but it sure writes nicely!
|Heir Apparent to the Vacumatic||Profile|
As World War II drew to a close, Parker began thinking about its future product lines. The Vacumatic was quite dated, while the “51” was going strong. To create its next open-nib pen, Parker essentially took the streamlined shape of the “51” and replaced the hooded nib and its collector with an ordinary open nib and feed. The clip came from the striped Duofold line. The result, introduced in 1946, was the Parker VS. The “VS” part of the name is generally thought to have stood for “Vacumatic Successor.” It’s a good looking pen, and Parker did improve the button mechanism to make it easier to work on and more reliable.
My Royal Blue VS writes well with a firm medium nib. At 513∕32" capped and 513∕16" posted, it is just a trifle shorter than a “51” and handles in virtually the same way.
The VS didn’t offer as many color or cap-style options as did the “51” (or even the Vacumatic), but it was available with a gold-filled cap as well as the Lustraloy. At 51∕2" capped and 6" posted, my Gray VS shows one of the changes Parker made during the model’s short life; it has a hard rubber feed instead of the clear acrylic that distinguished the VS at its début. This pen has a smooth fine nib.