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Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised November 26, 2022)

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Reference Info Index | Glossary of Paper Terms  ]


Uhlmann (Uhlmann's Eterno) A manufacturing company located in Milan, Italy; founded in 1902 by Emil Uhlmann to make rolled gold overlays for small objects such as mechanical pencils. The company’s place in the fountain pen arena dates from 1908, when it advertised a retractable safety that it called the Eterno No 6. In 1912, Uhlmann applied to register trademarks for Eterno, Famos, and The Royal, with explicit mention of fountain pens in the applications. It is considered to be the oldest Italian fountain pen company, although it did not commence its own manufacture until the early 1920s, when it started assembling hard rubber safeties from jobbed German parts. Initial production resembled American and German safeties of the time. Overlays in plain, guilloché, repoussé, and enameled patterns soon followed, probably starting the fashion for the Italian overlays sometimes known as “Continentals.” In the early 1930s, the company changed its name to Industria Reclame L. Uhlmann and relocated to better quarters in Milan. It soon extended its range to promotional items, including the typical cheap pens, and stationery products; but the offerings also included high quality Uhlmann’s Eterno button-filling flat-top pens. In the latter 1930s, new designs appeared, including lever- and plunger-fillers made of celluloids in marbled and Vacumatic-styled laminated ring styles and named Penne Lusso (Luxury Pens). See also enamel, guilloché, Italian overlay, plain, repoussé.
Ullrich (J. Ullrich & Company) A pen manufacturer located in New York City; founded by German immigrant Jacob Ullrich in the late 1880s, the company operated at least through World War II and was a prolific maker of hard rubber and gold-filled overlay stylographic and fountain pens under names such as Independent, Juco, Kompeter, Loed Hamilton, Star, and Vulcan. Jacob himself took out patents for two filling systems (U.S. Patents Nos 835,267 in 1906 and 991,764 in 1911), both of which appear to have been failed attempts to circumvent Conklin’s 1901 Conklinette patent. In 1922 his son Rudolph received U.S. Patent No 1,425,150 for a simplified stylographic pen design that set the standard for stylographic pens of the next few decades.
Ultra Giant A huge BHR cone-cap eyedropper-filling pen made by Parker, larger than the Red or Black Giant, fitted with a No 12 nib and a compartment in the barrel within which is space for a small pen; known examples have an RHR pen in this compartment. The Ultra Giant is literally too large to use and may have been produced as a salesman’s sample. In 1998, Bexley produced an Ultra Giant limited edition of 25 sets complete with a small pen inside the larger one (below, lower two pens, with a senior-sized Parker Duofold for comparison). See also Bexley, cone cap, giant.
Fountain pens
ultraviolet (abbreviated UV) A component of light, invisible to the human eye, that is highly energetic and can cause the fading of ink colors and the deterioration of organic pen materials such as acrylics, celluloid, and (especially) hard rubber. Light that is high in ultraviolet is called actinic light and is produced by very hot objects such as the sun or the arc of an electric welder.
underfeed See feed.
underwriter A left-handed person who positions his or her hand and the paper so that the hand passes across clean paper below (under) the line being written, as shown below. See also overwriter.
Left-handed underwriter
Unic (Établissements Unic) A pen manufacturing company located in Paris, France; founded in 1919 by Messrs. Kothe and Vannier. Although there exist many pictures of Unic pens, little is known about the company itself because there exists neither an official history nor a collection of third-party writings about it. From its inception, Unic produced good quality mechanical pencils, hard rubber helical-cam safety pens under the Unic and Omnia trademarks, and lever-filling pens; of particular note are some of its laminated silver/gold overlay safeties. Unic’s best known pen is probably the Duocolor, a double pen comprising two complete conjoined pens that could be filled with different colors, which it licensed from Zerollo of Genoa, Italy, and introduced in 1932. The Duocolor was expensive and relatively fragile and turned out to be of limited utility; it was unpopular and is today highly sought after. During World War II, although working under difficulty, the company continued to produce pens, using steel nibs instead of gold. After the war, Unic’s quality fell precipitously, and neither a 1956 alliance with Météore (La Plume d'Or), J. M. Paillard, and Stylomine to produce a new squeeze-filling pen called the Pulsa-pen nor a second alliance with Bayard and Stylomine to develop the BUC cartridge system could save Unic. The company ceased operations in the early 1960s. See also Bayard, Stylomine, Plume d'Or, Zerollo.
Union (Union Fountain Pen Company, Inc.) A Morrison lower-line subsidiary (1910–1940s). It was in this company’s operation that Morrison fell afoul of a 1940s Federal investigation regarding lifetime guarantees; the result was a Federal Trade Commission ruling prohibiting the offering of a warranty if a fee was charged unless the fee was described in type the same size as the warranty statement itself and in close proximity to it.. In 1940, Union was charged with “unfair methods of competition” for labeling its products with fictitious retail prices far in excess of their actual selling prices; and in 1950 the company was indicted for evading taxes of $194,706 owed on products made during World war II. See also Morrison.
Unique (later renamed Check) A chasing pattern used by Wahl on chased hard rubber and metal pens, with groups of three longitudinal lines bridged by a continuous run of chevrons and separated by plain surface. Shown here is a close-up of the Unique pattern. Modern reference sources sometimes mistakenly identify this pattern as Dart. See also Dart.
Univer See Sheaffer.
Universal (Universal Fountain Pen & Pencil Company, also Universal Pen & Pencil Company) A pen company located in Brooklyn, New York; founded in 1945 to supply low-priced writing instruments to department, stationery, and drug stores. Universal began by making fountain pens and mechanical pencils, expanding to the production of stylographic pens and, in the 1950s, ballpoints. Pen prices ranged from $1.00 for the Buck range of fountain and ballpoint pens (introduced in 1952) to $3.95 for the company’s top-line Uni-Flow fountain pen. ¶ In about 1959, Universal introduced the $1.49 Aqua-Pen, a fountain pen that used cartridges of dried ink (two for 29¢) and filled with water. Just to confuse things, the pen was marketed as the Empex Aqua-Pen, and the manufacturer of record was the Rohill Company of New York City, with which Universal was affiliated. The Aqua-Pen was listed on page 188 of the 1961–1962 Consumer Bulletin Annual as a novelty pen and was rated as NOT RECOMMENDED. It was still being offered into the 1990s, by which time Universal had relocated to Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, after an earlier move to Union City, New Jersey. Shown below are a Universal V-250 fountain pen, a remarkably well made pen for its time, notable for its semi-hooded nib and polished ribbed aluminum cap (upper), and an Aqua-Pen (lower).
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
untipped Describes a nib made without the addition of a hard alloy at the tips of the tines to reduce wear. See also nib, tipped, tipping material.
uppercase See majuscule.
Upton See Vaughn.
urushi (pronounced uu-ruu-shee, where uu sounds as in rude; also known as Chinese Lacquer) A remarkably durable and very glossy natural lacquer coating made from the sap of the urushi tree (native to Japan, China, and Korea). The principal ingredient is urushiol, an organic oil toxin (found in plants of the family Anacardiaceae) that hardens by absorbing moisture from the air. Urushi can be colored with pigments or dyes, as illustrated below on an ebonite pen, and it is also used as the substrate and binder for decorative techniques such as maki-e. The reddish color on the pen shown here is intentionally uneven, and it will fade with age to become redder. See also lacquer, maki-e.
Fountain pen
Utility (Utility Pen Company) A pen company located in Chicago, Illinois; founded in 1921 by E. J. Ontertag, G. T. Watson, and W. R. Latcham, to purchase the plant and assets of August Johnson & Company when Johnson, the only principal, decided to go into the diamond and emblem business. In 1923, the Utility company received a corporate charter; the incorporation papers indicated that its business was to manufacture and sell pens and related products. Records I have found for the company do not extend past 1929. Utility pens were lever fillers, and at least some models (including the pen shown below) were definitely made by Wahl. See also Johnson (definition 2).
Fountain pen
UV See ultraviolet.

  1. The FTC’s original 1945 ruling forbade “unconditional” warranties altogether if there was a fee. L. E. Waterman and Parker challenged the ruling, but Waterman withdrew its petition in 1946. Parker fought on, and the resulting 1948 court judgment softened the ruling, allowing such warranties if the fee was described in type the same size as the warranty statement itself and in close proximity to it. (The prohibition remained on the use of the word “unconditional.”)  Return

  2. The earliest reference to the Aqua-Pen that I have found was in Changing Times, the Kiplinger Magazine, Vol. 13 No 7, July 1959, p. 26  Return

  3. Published by Consumers Research, Inc., not to be confused with the nonprofit Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.  Return

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