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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.

Peter Pan Actually Did Grow Up — a Little, Anyway

The Salz Brothers pen company, founded and operated by brothers Jacob, James, and Ignatz, produced some very innovative pens; but today the company is probably best known for its series of Peter Pan pens. These small pens began in the early 1920s as truly tiny hard rubber eyedropper fillers and — like most every thing else — became SuperSized as time passed. Initially the pens were of surprisingly high quality despite their almost infinitesimal size; but by the time production ended, quality had deteriorated almost to bottom-feeder levels.

I have two Peter Pan pens, an undated BHR ringtop and a celluloid lever filler from about 1939. The ringtop is 2" capped and 3" posted. Its cap crown is made of a light-colored material that appears to be ivory. Although not so small as Waterman’s famous doll pen, this little charmer is a miniature by most standards.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

My later Peter Pan was made as a holiday souvenir; its barrel is hot stamped Merry Christmas. This celluloid pen is identical in design to a combo I’ve seen that was made for the 1939 World’s Fair, and I assume that my pen was made at about the same time. This pen, SuperSized as it is, is 3" long capped and 4" posted.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Pen of the Century

This gorgeous pen is a twist-barrel thumb filler from the Century Pen Company of Whitewater, Wisconsin. Century pens were initially advertised principally, if not solely, in publications for educators. To fill this pen, you rotate the complete barrel, holding the section with your other hand, to expose the opening with the pressure bar. The smooth fine nib is imprinted CENTURY / PEN / 2. This is a pretty bg pen, at 5" capped and 7" posted.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Edward Lear Would Hate This Pen

LogoAs collectors, we all appreciate the finer pens in life. But not everyone can afford a Nostalgia or a PFM; and what better way to start than with one of the best inexpensive pens ever made. In 1969, Sheaffer introduced a full-size molded-plastic flat-top cartridge-filling pen designed to sell for the ridiculously low price of $1.98. That’s in the school-pen range; but by then fountain pens in school were pretty much a thing of the past, having given way to ballpoints. The pen hung on nevertheless, and in 1976 Sheaffer revised its internals slightly and relaunched it as the No Nonsense Pen. (I don’t actually think this was intended as a snub to the man who penned “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but it is true that a five-pound note would at that time buy six or seven of these pens, not just one.) 5" capped and 6" posted, my orange No Nonsense has the typical stiff steel nib. This one, with a medium tip, has been tweaked to write very nicely. Even for a buck ninety-eight, you could have a great pen, and no nonsense about it.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Over the years Sheaffer has rung many changes on the No Nonsense, morphing it into the Viewpoint, the Vintage, the Old Timer, and — as you see here — Le Bordeaux. At 5" capped and 6" posted, Le Bordeaux is just enough longer than a No Nonsense to account for the flat cover that Sheaffer fused to the cap crown to cover the depression in the standard version’s cap, plus the gold-plated trim ring at the section/barrel joint. Same nib, same excellent balance, it’s a darn nice pen with its smooth medium tip.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Early Maker, Jewel of a Pen

LogoOne of the great pen makers of the 19th century was the John Holland Pen Company, which was founded in the early 1860s and made pens of superb quality. After the 1920s, we don’t hear much about Holland, and it might be supposed that the company went under, perhaps during the Great Depression. Not so. Holland continued to make pens until after World War II.

In the constant battle to stay abreast of new technology and fashion, Holland adopted new filling systems as they became available. Made before Holland began using its famous hatchet filler, this No 55 is fitted with a “saddle” filler. The metal piece on the barrel (the saddle) has a loop (like a saddle’s cinch) that passes through holes into the barrel and fits around a pressure bar lying on the bottom of the barrel. To fill the pen, you pull up up on the saddle to compress the sac and release it to allow the sac to fill. At 5" capped, it becomes a very long 7" when posted. This is one big pen!

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

This is a No 71 hatchet filler with a gold-filled cutwork overlay. At 5 capped and 6" posted, it’s lovely despite a few rough edges. Like the 72V above, it has a sweet No 12 nib, and it’s a prime example of why Holland pens were so respected: the nib rocks! if only I could figure out why it’s a No 12. Must have shrunk in the wash….

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
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