Richard’s Pen Collection : Vintage American Fountain Pens

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

The Miracle of Flight(ers) Arrow Design Features

Manufacturer logoThe G. S. Parker Pen Company invented the brushed stainless steel Flighter, introducing the design in late 1949 with the fabulous “51” Flighter. Most Parker pens since then have appeared in Flighter versions. In early 2007 I acquired a handful of assorted Flighters, and instead of scattering them hither and yon I’ve grouped them here for symmetry.

My 1949 “51” Flighter, with barrel and cap of stainless steel, is the “daddy” of the family. This one has a medium nib. It is 5916" capped and 6116" posted. This pen is here for the sake of completeness; it also appears among my gaggle of “51”s.

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One of the great Parkers is the 75, and the most exciting 75, for many people, is the Flighter. My Flighter Deluxe is pretty standard as 75s go: 5364" capped and 51732" posted. This pen also appears with my other 75s.

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The next pen in this group should not, by rights, be here among my American pens. It’s the Parker 65, a model that didn’t make the jump to the United States from its European birthplace. It is nonetheless a superb specimen of an utterly typical Parker pen and a Flighter to boot, and at 538" long capped and 52132" posted it’s a great size. Its worst feature, from my viewpoint, is the (actually very clever) way it’s assembled, with the collector threading onto the feed to hold the whole thing together. That ceased being a problem as soon as I made a double-D wrench to remove the collector, and ever since then I’ve admired the 65’s elegant design.

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In 1978 Parker débuted a very good stainless steel pen called the Falcon 50. I find it highly amusing that Parker advertised the Falcon 50 as the world’s second pen to have an integral nib, the first being the quill. This claim conveniently overlooked Parker’s own T-1. This Falcon Flighter also appears on page 12 of my collection; it’s here just to fill out the Flighter family portraits.

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Next is the Parker 25, a pen that really didn’t appear in a non-Flighter version. Manufactured in England and introduced in 1975, the steel-nibbed 25 is a “cheap” pen, but it’s remarkably reliable and robust, and it made a superb school pen for countless young Britons. The 25 is 5732" long capped and 51932" posted. Parker made 25s with plastics in several colors, but the black that my pen bears is the color most commonly associated with the Flighter mystique.

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Introduced in 1982, the Parker Arrow was a sleek all-metal pen that came in lacquered and Flighter versions. There were two Arrow Flighters: the “ordinary” one with chrome furniture and a steel nib, and the Flighter Deluxe, with gold-plated furniture and a gold nib. At 5732" long capped and varying around 51316" posted, the Arrow is virtually the same size as the 25, but it’s a lot more pen.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

In 1988, Parker discontinued the Arrow, but only one year later the 95 appeared in the catalog. The Parker 95 uses the very same section assembly as the Arrow, and in fact it’s an Arrow with slightly better body construction and a revised clip design. My 95 Flighter Deluxe measures 5732" long capped and 52532" posted.

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The Parker 15, a relatively small pen at 43132" long capped and 5716" posted, appeared in about 1962 and is perhaps better known as the Jotter Fountain Pen. (Parker also marketed this model as as the 45 II, but it is not mechanically related to the original 45.) It’s very basic, with a steel nib, but that doesn’t make it a bad pen. Mine writes quite nicely.

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I consider the Parker Sonnet to be one of the great pens of the latter 20th century. And of course the Sonnet Flighter has to be one of the great Sonnets. My 1Q1998 Sonnet Flighter is 5316" capped and 51316" posted. This pen, which I’ve fitted with an “incorrect” 18K broad nib, also appears among my pens that aren’t of vintage U.S. manufacture.

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Flighters seem to keep finding me. This member of the herd is a Vector that I picked up in a lot of pens intended for flippage. Sometimes the flip never happens… This slim pen, a Vector Standard, is 5532" long capped and 6332" posted. Introduced in 1986, the Vector is still in production as of 2012. The steel medium nib exhibits a goodly helping of Parker steel goodness.

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There can never be too many Flighters. Here is a Frontier that I snagged just because it’s a Flighter. Although not rightfully belonging here because of its English provenance, this guy can at least say that it was sold in the U.S.A. (before I got it used, even). It’s 5732" capped and 6116" posted.

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Sale of the Century Arrow Profile

Manufacturer logoIn 1939, Waterman introduced an important new model, proclaiming that the new pen was made of “one of the most amazing materials ever to come out of a test tube.” With a huge nib and a bullet-ended ribbed barrel and cap, and available in black or “jewel-like” transparent red, blue, or green, Waterman’s Hundred Year Pen was dramatic in appearance, unlike any other pens then on the market. To top it off, the pen was guaranteed for a century. The design changed slightly in 1940 and again in 1941, and then came war. There was a slight change in 1942, and in 1943 the final version appeared. Beginning in 1940, the Hundred Year Pen was fitted with a military clip; whether that design was in anticipation of the coming hostilities or merely serendipitous, it gave Waterman a leg up in fitting its other models with the same clip, and the company’s pens sold as well as could be expected under the restrictions of wartime production.

Waterman announced the Hundred Year Pen just in time for the Christmas season in 1939. That makes this pen a first-year model, but whether it was made in 1939 or ’40 is anyone’s guess. I like it, and I carry it frequently. It’s 51332" capped and 6932" posted, and it is fitted with an amazingly sweet extra-fine flexible nib.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

My next Hundred Year Pen is a second-year model — note the dramatic restyling — and is made of transparent red Lucite. The second-year model introduced two additional sizes, the Ladies’ and De Luxe (oversize) models. At 5932" and 6516" posted, this red Lucite De Luxe pen illustrates not only the larger size but also the smooth finish that Waterman offered alongside the grooved version shown above. This pen also has a really nice extra-fine flexie.

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It became apparent that the U.S. would eventually be entering the fray in Europe and Asia, and Waterman seems to have anticipated the government’s impending regulation of Lucite as a critical war resource. Before the end of the Hundred Year Pen’s second-year run, Waterman began reverting to celluloid. The smooth black Standard pen shown here, 518" and 618" posted, has a Lucite cap with a celluloid barrel. It has yet another sweet extra-fine flexie.

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The Parker “51” did not start the trend to trimmer pens with metal caps and smoother lines, but it provided a good incentive for the competition to keep up. Waterman joined the fray with an elegant metal-capped Hundred Year Pen bearing the “Stars and Stripes” cap engraving that also appeared in 1945 on the Taperite Stateleigh. My “Stateleigh” Hundred Year Pen is 51132" capped and 638" posted, and it has a smooth extra-fine semiflexible nib. To keep the cap as trim as possible, Waterman followed Sheaffer’s lead in reducing the diameter of the barrel where the cap fits over it but didn’t move the threads to the end of the section as Sheaffer did.

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After the U.S. Federal Trade Commission handed down a ruling that placed serious restrictions on long-term warranties without full disclosure, Waterman discontinued the Hundred Year Pen — but in name only. The design continued into the latter half of the Forties under a new name, Emblem Pen. The Emblem Pen, like the Hundred Year Pen before it, appeared in a Doctor’s set comprising a fountain pen, a mechanical pencil, and a thermometer case, all in white. So far, I have just the pen; this one is 51764" capped and 638" posted, and it has an extremely fine flexible nib, just a step up in size from an artist’s nib.

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Take a Letter, Miss Dillmount.

Gregg logoThe Gregg Company, as owner of the U.S.A.’s de facto shorthand standard, marketed its product aggressively, opening schools, designing and licensing steno pads, and licensing pen makers to produce Gregg-branded pens designed specifically for Gregg shorthand, which uses a very firm fine nib. (If you don’t know who Miss Dillmount is, here is the explanation.)

Early to the Gregg game came Wahl-Eversharp with its Rosewood ebonite model. This is a lovely pen, really good in the hand. It has the classic enameled Gregg medallion (shown above, to the left) in its cap crown, and it’s fitted with a Wahl No 2 manifold nib; later Gregg pens had nibs with Gregg imprints. This pen is 5332" long capped, 658" posted.

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One of the more prominent producers of Gregg pens was Sheaffer. My Sheaffer Gregg pen, with an enameled Gregg medallion set into the cap crown, was produced in the 1930s. It is made of black Radite and fitted with a Gregg-imprinted firm fine nib. Gregg pens tended to be of average diameter or a little slenderer and of about average length (not the typical shorter Ladies’ size); this one is 5" long capped and 614" posted.

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Waterman also had a Gregg license, and it’s interesting to see how similar to the Sheaffer pen above is this Waterman Gregg pen, also produced in the 1930s and fitted with an enameled Gregg medallion in the cap crown. It’s an insignificant bit longer capped (5364") and the same length (614") posted. Unlike the Sheaffer pen, however, this Waterman does not have a Gregg imprint in its nib; the nib is a standard Waterman’s No 2. Perhaps the most unusual feature of this pen is the clip, which bears the Gregg name in high relief. (I’ve not seen pens with Gregg-imprinted clips from any other manufacturer.)

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Need a Pencil? Unpost Your Pen! Arrow Design Features

Manufacturer logoSchnell’s Penselpen, conceived by industry veteran Julius Schnell, is generally conceded to be the fountain pen/pencil combination that sparked the early-1930s craze for combos. It’s rare and desirable, and the airplane-shaped clip makes it tremendously charming visually. The filler uses a thumbnail-actuated slider to force the pressure bar into the sac; its lever-like appearance makes it prone to destruction by people who try to lift it like a lever because they do not know how it’s supposed to work. My Penselpen is in superb condition, and at 51516" long capped and 6132" posted it’s remarkably good in the hand. It’s a real pity that the Penselpen came to fruition in the disastrous year of 1929. It almost bankrupted Schnell.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
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