(This page revised March 21, 2022)
|This 1961 Parker advertisement describes the 45’s convertible cartridge/converter filling system.|
The U.S.A. of the 1950s and early 1960s was enamored of TV Westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel, Wanted: Dead or Alive — the list is almost endless. So it’s really no wonder that when Parker introduced its first cartridge-filling fountain pen in 1960, the pen wore a name that tied it to the ubiquitous Colt .45 Peacemaker: the Parker 45. The name was a cultural nod, of course, but its real purpose was to tell the pen buyer that this pen was as easy to load as the “other” .45 — just open it up and drop in a new cartridge. An added value was the inclusion, as trumpeted by the 1961 advertisement here, of a piston converter that allowed the pen to use bottled ink or cartridges as the user preferred.The Teal 45 GT (Gold-plated Trim) and Burgundy 45 CT (Chrome-plated Trim) shown here are typical 45 examples.
Based on engineering that had been brewing in the Eversharp company when Parker purchased it in 1957, the 45 received an elegant exterior (U.S. Patent No 3,134,362, by Homer T. Green). Tapered to a concave tassie at the cap and a matching depression at the end of the barrel, it was, and still is, a very attractive pen. Priced at only $5.00, the pen featured a 14K gold nib, and, considering its virtually “bulletproof” design, it was a tremendous bargain. Unlike the “21” and 61, both in production at the time of the 45’s introduction, it is made of a plastic that does not tend to crack. Some 45s do shrink, and some show depressions in the shell where the cap clutch fingers bear on it, but in general the 45 is a really durable workhorse of a pen. Although not aimed explicitly at the school market, it was ideal not only for ordinary use but also for the rougher treatment it was expected to receive at the hands of students.
Being based on Eversharp engineering, the 45 offered Parker an unparalleled opportunity to market the same essential product into two different market segments in the same way as automobile makers apply different sheet metal to the same chassis and affix different brand badges. The Eversharp version of the 45, called the Big E (shown below), carried a steel nib, lacked the trim ring at the shell where the barrel screws on, and had a tab clip instead of Parker’s usual washer design. Here was the pen that Parker aimed directly at the low-end school market occupied by Scripto, Sheaffer, Wearever, and others, and it sold for only $2.98. The pens’ shared heritage becomes even more apparent when you notice that some early 45s included converters marked Parker Eversharp.
Not only did the 45 introduce the world to the now-standard cartridge/converter filling system, but it also offered a highly desirable feature: the ability to interchange nibs quickly and easily without the need to send the pen to Parker or even take it to the repair department of the local Parker dealer. The nib unit (included in U.S. Patent No 3,134,362) simply screws out of the nose of the shell. As time went by, the variety of available nibs grew to include extra-fine, extra-broad, stub, left-foot and oblique (right-foot) italics in different sizes, and more.
For a low-priced pen, the 45 had a remarkably broad variety of nibs available for it. Nibs I have documented are listed in the following table. The nib’s grade is stamped on the bottom surface of the nozzle. As best I can determine, except for the 32, 42, 52, 54, and 54, which also appeared in unplated stainless steel, numbered nibs are 14K gold; and except for the X, F, M, and B, which also appeared in 14K gold, lettered nibs are gold-plated steel.
|Parker 45 Nibs|
|(none)||Fine Oblique Italic (Left-Foot) 30°|
|11||Needle Point (3XF)|
|32||Fine Oblique (Left-Foot)|
|33||Fine Oblique (Right-Foot)|
|35||Fine Oblique Italic (Left-Foot)|
|42||Medium Oblique (Left-Foot)|
|43||Medium Oblique (Right-Foot)|
|45||Medium Oblique Italic (Left-Foot)|
|48||Medium Oblique Italic (Left-Foot) 30°|
|52||Broad Oblique (Left-Foot)|
|53||Broad Oblique (Right-Foot)|
|55||Broad Oblique Italic (Left-Foot)|
|58||Broad Oblique Italic (Left-Foot) 30°|
|62||Extra Broad Oblique (Left-Foot)|
|63||Extra Broad Oblique (Right-Foot)|
|71||Extra Extra Broad|
|73||Extra Extra Broad Oblique (Right-Foot)|
|FO||Fine Oblique Italic (Left-Foot)|
|J||Medium Reverse Oblique Italic (Right-Foot)|
|N||Needle Point (3XF)|
|O||Extra Broad Left-Foot Obliue Italic|
|R||Medium Oblique Italic (Left-Foot)|
|W||Extra Broad Stub|
|Y||Fine Reverse Oblique Italic (Right-Foot)|
|Z||Broad Oblique Italic (Left-Foot)|
The 45 hit the market with a reasonable selection of colors, and when the pen took off almost like a rocket, Parker began applying more colors and more types of finishes to it. Remaining in production until mid-2006, the 45 appeared in more different finishes than any other Parker model. There was, inevitably, a stainless steel Flighter, and at the same time (1964) Parker introduced a gold-plated version called the Insignia. In 1965, the Insignia (pictured here with a Flighter Deluxe) stepped its quality a notch by donning gold-filled dress:
As new manufacturing techniques became available, Parker applied them to the 45. One of the new techniques, high-volume production of very economical plastic caps, resulted in the appearance in 1964 of the 45 Arrow. With the advent of the Arrow, Parker also applied its new plastic cap to the new Eversharp Challenger, which was less costly due to the elimination of the 45’s removable nib unit (U.S. Patent No D188,637).
Initially, the Arrow had a white imprint on its barrel; but the imprint was more like a “chalk mark” than a permanent imprint, and — like the gold plating on bottom-feeder pens of the 1930s — it rubbed away almost immediately. Parker deleted the imprint and changed the pen’s name to 45 CT.
|Pens lent by Joel Hamilton.|
1967 saw the advent of the Coronet, whose metal barrel and cap were finished in matte metallic colors.
Having discovered that it had a true hit on its hands, Parker was also extending the 45 higher and higher into the product line, and some quite interesting finishes appeared. Among the least common are the 1970s Harlequin Circlet and Harlequin Shield patterns, which feature areas of exposed metal that are incised below the surface of the pen’s body (lacquered brass or Flighter-like brushed stainless steel, Harlequin Gray Shield in stainless steel shown below). Most of these exotic finishes were produced in England; and, because of their high cost, they did not remain in the product line for very long.
Also included in the lineup were several very attractive clipless pens like the two Lady 45s (in a finish often called “Brocade”) shown here:
The Lady 45 in gold trim features wooden tassies at both ends for an extra touch of luxury.
The last 45 version, the Special GT, shows slight exterior design enhancements in the form of a more streamlined clip and a black cabochon on the cap crown. The Special GT (shown below) was produced as a Flighter and in black, blue, and red:
In 2006, Parker announced that it was discontinuing the 45, a pen that had been in continuous production for 46 years and was, for millions of users, the Volkswagen “Beetle” of pens.
I do not have sufficient documentation to illustrate the complete range of colors used for the 45 during its product life. The following table shows the plastic colors I can be sure of and a sampling of the metals.
|Colors of the 45|
|Color||Name (Factory Color Code)|
|Dark Gray (21)|
|Light Gray (50)|
|Rage Red (23)|
|Matador Red (67)|
|Navy Gray (18)|
|Teal Blue/Dusty Blue (35)|
|45 Metals (a Sampling)|
|Brushed Stainless Steel (Flighter)|
|Gold Plated and Gold Filled (various models)|
|Brocade (gold plated or chrome finish)|
|Harlequin (Gray Shield)|
|Matte Blue (TX)|
The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.