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Profile: The Chilton Chiltonian

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


By 1940, the Chilton Pen Company had given up its digs in Long Island City, The company was now located in Summit, New Jersey, and it was a sad shadow of its former self. The consummately Art Deco Wing-flow, introduced in 1935 with Chilton’s first (and last) nationwide advertising campaign, was already considered too long in the tooth. The elegantly modern, streamlined Golden Quill, introduced at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, was not selling well — so poorly, in fact, that remaining stocks would be dumped at fire-sale prices after the company’s collapse around the time America entered World War II.

In what might be viewed as a last-ditch attempt to keep things going, Chilton brought to market one more pen, a pen that would, sadly, turn out to be its last. The Chiltonian was a true Chilton, fitted with the second-generation pneumatic filling system that the company had introduced in about 1927. (This filler had been patented by Julius Abegg in 1915, receiving U.S. Patent No 1,134,936.) The Chiltonian was also a noticeably down-market pen, with a two-tone steel nib, furniture that was gold plated instead of gold filled as on earlier Chiltons, and obviously less build quality. As a cost-saving measure, the filler’s blind cap was black on all colors of the Chiltonian. The foregoing said, it was still a decent pen, reasonably attractive in appearance and quite serviceable.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

As a no-cost option, the user could choose Chilton’s version of an ink-view window, called the “Ink-tel feature.” Made in a single transparent piece, the section was dyed black at the front to improve the appearance where the tail of the nib would otherwise have been visible. The black object that can be seen protruding through the clear part of the section and into the sac is the tail of a greatly elongated feed. This tail could have been intended to serve the same function as Parker’s Lucky Curve. Because it lies right along the inner surface of the feed and extends far enough to touch the inside surface of a sac whose inner diameter is the same as that of the section, it appears adequate for the task ot evacuating ink from the section into the reservoir. If it was not intended for that purpose, it might simply have been designed to provide better flow control.

chiltonian_feed

Even when seriously down on its luck, Chilton was not afraid to innovate. In order to deliver as quality product at lesser cost, the cap design underwent a major change. Gone was the elegant spring-loaded “Rocker” clip that had been a Chilton hallmark throughout the 1930s, and in its place was a unitized cap-and-clip assembly (U.S. Patent No 2,318,950, filed by James J. Larmour on July 27, 1940, but not issued until May 11, 1943, after Chilton had closed its doors). As shown in the patent drawing below, a washer clip was secured to the cap by deforming the part of the cap that protruded through the washer (callout 13 in the drawings, identified as a “flange” in the patent’s description) under heat and pressure, in essence creating a riveted joint. Given the black blind cap at the opposite end of the pen, this was — from the stylistic viewpoint — a less than elegant finish.

Patent drawing

To keep the clip from rotating on the cap, the top surface of the opening in the clip’s flange had a serrated edge, into which material from the “rivet” would flow under the heat and pressure of installation. As shown by the photo below, the final result was a presentable and satisfactorily durable assembly. Whether Larmour’s design was anticipating the war to come or not, it was, in addition to its economy, compliant with military regulations requiring that a pen in a soldier’s short pocket not disarrange the pocket or its flap so as to be noticeable.

Pen cap

In addition to its clever engineering, the cap also featured a knurled band for a more upscale appearance.

An Imposter

At roughly the same time as Chilton was producing the Chiltonian (exact dates unknown), a company in the Netherlands sold a pen branded with the Chilton name, fitted with a 14K nib, and featuring the same patented pneumatic filling system that Chilton was using. (The patent had long since expired.) This pen was similar in appearance to the Chiltonian, with a military clip, but it had two narrow cap bands, and the cap crown was a domed metal tassie. There was no connection between the Chilton Pen Company and the purveyor of this European pen.

Colors

Given Chilton’s financial condition, it made excellent sense to use stocks of existing material to produce the Chiltonian. For the most part, it appears that that is what Chilton did. With the paucity of documentation available, I do not have a complete list of the colors used; the colors shown here are only those that I have personally verified. Of these, only Blue Pearl and Gray Pearl appear to be new to the Chiltonian. (These two look similar to colors that appeared on Esterbrook pens at about the same time, although the Chiltonian’s Blue Pearl is much paler than Esterbrook’s Cobalt Blue.) The yellow color with red veins is sometimes identified in modern literature as “Chartreuse”; but the official Chilton color name, taken from catalogs of the 1930s, was Carnelian. The Peacock name seems a little incongruous; the material is black with small flecks and faint swirls of white, turquoise, and burnt sienna.


The Colors of the Chiltonian
Color Name

Jet Black Jet Black
Gray Pearl Gray Pearl
Carnelian Carnelian
Peacock Peacock
Blue Pearl Blue Pearl



Notes:
  1. It should be noted, however, that in 1938, Consumer Reports Magazine had rated a similar Chilton pen, priced at $3.00, as unacceptable because of unreliable flow and uneven nib quality.  Return


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.

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