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Richard’s Pen Collection : Vintage American Fountain Pens

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

J. G. Rider: Too Short a Ride Arrow Profile

LogoThis is a J. G. Rider “Perfection” Fountain Pen No 5, made sometime around 1910. It’s an eyedropper filler, but there’s no joint between the section and the barrel, where you’d take the pen apart to fill it. On the underside of the feed there is a sturdy notch just at the point where the nib and feed enter the body (U.S. Patent No 739,720). The clip fits into the notch on the feed, and with it you can pull the feed out to fill the pen. The opening has a nice square corner at the bottom edge, and the feed is shaped to key into this notch in perfect alignment, right where they should be. Now that… is cool. It’s a pretty average-sized pen, at is 51932" long capped and 7" capped, it’s a little heftier than the average pen of its day.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Here’s a smaller “Perfection” Pen, a No 2. It works just the same way, and I really don’t need to have two Riders, but the MHR and the elegant slender shape just sort of said, “Buy this pen. You want it, you know you do.” I did, so I did. It wasn’t in the superb condition the seller said it was, but that sort of thing is just a challenge for me. This baby is 51316" long capped and 612" posted, not that much different from its big brother above, and its nib is a firmish stub. The clip is one I made; the missing original was one of the “not all that good” condition issues.

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Later, Rider introduced the “Master” Pen. It‘s a Rider in every respect, but the clip — instead of arching way up and over, is tighter to the pen for a more streamlined and compact appearance. This Master is 54164" long capped, 71164" posted. The nib, like the smaller ones above, is quite firm.

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What we have here is a Rider giant. The imprint is too faint for me to tell whether it says Perfection or MyMaster, or something else. This monster is 62364" long capped, 71564" posted. The nib is a No 8 Mabie Todd, but I’m not sure it’s incorrect, as I have most of the pieces of another Rider giant that also has a Mabie Todd No 8 nib in it.

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Crescents on the Cheap: William Welty and Frank Spors

LogoIn 1906, William A. Welty patented a filling system using a cam and locking ring (U.S. Patent No 834,542). Known as the Wawco, this design formed the basis of the Welty Fountain Pen. (The design attracted Conklin’s attention despite its not being a literal crescent filler, but a suit brought by Conklin was decided in Welty’s favor.) Welty began manufacturing pens in Janesville, Wisconsin, but very soon reëstablished his company in his home town, Waterloo, Iowa. First here is a Welty pen, 51332" capped and 61116" posted. It is a nice size, and the No 4 WARRANTED nib is a decent stub. I am searching for a correct Welty nib.

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In 1915, upon its founder’s departure, Welty’s firm changed its name and became the Evans Dollar Pen Company (in recognition of principal investor Patrick H. Evans). Evans Dollar Pens, while still worthy, are markedly inferior in terms of workmanship. Two years later, the company was incorporated as the Evans Self-Filler Pen Company and began doing business under both names. The products of the Self-Filler half of the business are better than the dollar pens. This ringtop is 45964" capped, 52132" posted, and it has its original Evans-imprinted nib.

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LogoFrank Spors, of Le Sueur Center, Minnesota, was disabled and could not work in most of the jobs available in the 1920s. To earn his living, he imported inexpensive (cheap!) merchandise of all types from eastern Asia. Spors pens are typical of the lower end of the third tier; they were Japanese made, and they were truly cheap, with thin celluloid and wooden inner caps. (In 1926, he was jobbing them for 67¢ each, to retail for $1.25.) The best thing about them is the reliable glass nib, which is well made and, if not chipped, very smooth, and wet. Spors sold both lever fillers and crescent fillers, but it’s the crescents that turn up most frequently today. I’m not sure whether that's because they were more popular or because they were so bad that people just shoved them in to the backs of drawers and forgot they were there. This Spors pen, probably made in the later 1920s or early 1930s, is 5116" capped and 6532" posted.

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The Nation at War Arrow Profile

LogoWorld War II sparked an incredible patriotic fervor in the people of the United States. Practically the entire nation went to war, if not on the battlefield then in the factory. Much of the period’s history that we have today is drawn from letters written to, and by, the fighting men of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Pen companies switched production to war matériel, making a much-reduced number of pens (most of which went to the military). Morrison, in addition to its war work, designed and produced a pen and matching pencil named the Patriot. There were versions honoring the Army, Navy, Air Corps, and Marine Corps, each featuring the crest of its respective service. The set sold for $6.25; considering the pen’s 14K nib, this was a remarkably low price during wartime. The Patriot was a simple and reliable pen, with a syringe filler that was almost unbreakable. The most common Patriot was also rather unusual in appearance, with a sharply raked diagonal cut across the end of the cap, onto which was fixed the gold-plated cast metal service crest. (Before and after the War, Morrison used the name Cameo Top on pens with the angled cap crown.)

Whence the Patriot…

The U.S.A. did not fight World War II alone, and Morrison appears to have taken notice of that fact. Not only did the torpedo-shaped Patriot exist before the War, but the company also made a Cameo Top lever filler honoring the Lend-Lease program under which America, still ostensibly neutral, declared itself the Arsenal of Democracy and shipped millions of tons of war matériel to the Allied belligerents (primarily Great Britain and, after the launching of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet Union). The Lend-Lease pen, orange in color and fitted with a Morrison No 7 untipped steel nib, bore on its cap crown a full-color decal transfer showing the crossed flags of the United States and the United Kingdom encircled by the words FREEDOM OF DEMOCRACY. My Lend-Lease pen is in “mint” condition, with its original store-display sticker. The matching pencil has only a U.S. flag on the cap crown.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

I really don’t know when this next pen was made — based on its apperarance, I’m guessing that it’s from the late 1930s, probably before the Cameo Top made its appearance. It is marked “The Patriot,” so I‘m thinking of it as a “Protopatriot” rather than a pre-Patriot. It’s an odd duck: shaped like Sheaffer’s Balance (which was on its last legs as the U.S. entered the War), it’s Olive Drab, and then there’s that chasing! In terms of size, it’s 5316" capped and 638" posted. Its original nib was an untipped steel Morrison’s No 7 whose plating was gone; I've replaced that nib with an iridium-tipped XF no-name nib just so that the color would be as it should. (But a little tweaking made this nib into a remarkably nice writer!)

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The earliest of the Cameo Top Patriots, a lever-filling version, arrived on the scene before the U.S. government clamped down on rubber usage in October 1942. After the changeover to the “Visible Vacuum Filler” syringe model, the instruction sheets shipped with the pens noted that this version was a wartime exigency. My lever-filler Patriot is the Air Corps version, and it’s 5316" capped and 61132" posted. This pen originally had a Morrison HARD IRIDIUM PEN steel nib that was damaged enough that it needed replacement; now it has a 14K fine WARRANTED nib.

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My NOS syringe-filling Army Patriot (which I acquired in a virtually mint set with box and papers, the whole kit and caboodle) is 51564" capped, 64564" posted. My Navy pen is slightly shorter, at 5532" capped and 61532" posted, the Air Corps pen is 514" capped and 62132" posted, and the Marine Corps pen is 514" capped and 612" posted. These pens were sold in sets, each with a pencil and a leather carrying case that attaches to the belt. The Army pencil (41116") here did not come with my Army pen; it has an all-metal nozzle, while the one that came with my pen, made later, has a nozzle that is black celluloid for half its length. The Air Corps pencil is 42532" long, and it came with the pen in an original box and leather case. The Marine Corps pen is brand new, never used; it came in a complete set with all the paperwork.

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

Recognition for American mothers was an important aspect of patriotism. Women whose sons and daughters were in the service were listed as Blue Star Mothers and were encouraged to display Blue Star Mothers placards in their home windows. There were also pins and ribbons decorated with the Blue Star Mothers design, a blue five-pointed star on a white background, enclosed in a red rectangular border. Morrison got in on the act by producing a Blue Star Mothers “Victory” pen whose cap crown emblem superimposed the design over a large letter V. My Blue Star Mothers pen has lost all of its thin gold plating, appearing almost to have been fitted with chrome-plated furniture. The cap crown emblem, as with other crested Patriots, is silver, in this case enhanced with intarsia enameling.

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The American Legion, an organization of veterans chartered by Congress in 1919 with a mission of service to veterans, servicemembers, and communities, also got its own Patriot, with a crest comprising two metal parts.

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Perhaps the crest on the cap was thought too flashy for some people. Morrison also made crestless Patriots, fitting them with a plain slightly rounded cap crown. (Some of these pens are marked “The Patriot,” while others aren’t. I think it has to do with the color.) My crestless burgundy Patriot-style pen is 5316" capped and 612" posted. The 41316" pencil shown here came in a carrying case with this pen.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Brothers in Arms

Even before the U.S. entered the War, Morrison had made pens in support of the Allies’ war effort, and the company continued to do so after Pearl Harbor. One of the wartime “Allied” pens was this one, with its hemispherical cap crown decked out with the red, white, and blue roundel of Britain’s Royal Air Force. This pen is not marked “The Patriot,” but it has the expected wartime syringe filler, and it is 5732" capped and 61532" posted. This example is fitted with an iridium-tipped steel nib that has lost all its gold plating; I have no way to know whether this nib is original to this pen.

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The RAF also got a black version, possibly a tip of the hat to the night fighters or possibly merely an opportunity to sell more pens. This pen is 518" capped and 638" posted. The 14K nib is imprinted MORRISON 14K MADE IN U.S.A.

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This Patriot, 518" capped and 6916" posted, is an odd duck. It was apparently made before November 1942. It originally would have had a steel nib; the seller had fitted it with an undersize 14K nib — thank you very much — and I’ve replaced it with a correct steel Morrison nib. (No gold plating remains, unfortunately.) The cap crown, when viewed end-on, is a white roundel with a black ring near the edge. This was a standard cap crown design that Morrison had used on the Black Beauty in the ’30s, and I suspect that they pressed it into service to honor the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm; although the RN’s roundel had a midnight blue ring, I think this could have been thought workable in the U.S., where the pen was being sold.

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…and Whither

After World War II, Morrison kept making Patriots, although the postwar pens no longer carried the Patriot name in their barrel imprints. Lever fillers returned, and a distinct drop in quality made its appearance as the wartime gold nibs were phased out in favor of a small untipped steel nib. Also gone was the gold-plated cast sterling silver service crest, replaced by a water-transfer decal. The Cameo Top soldiered on, but “51”-style streamlining was in, and the Patriot acquired a bullet shape at both ends of the barrel. Here is a postwar Navy Patriot.

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