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(This page published August 1, 2018)
|This advertisement, which appeared in Life Magazine’s December 13, 1948, issue, is the only Eversharp ad I have seen in which the Envoy appears (lower right portion, with the Reporter to its right).|
In 1948, Eversharp was working desperately to dig itself out of the hole it had dug with the CA ballpoint. The company now had the successful lipstick-sized Kimberly long/short ballpoint and an attractive full-length slip-cap pocket pen, CA based, that it called the Wahl Ball and sold for $1.00, but it still needed fountain pens, good ones that could compete in the market. In that year, the company announced the Raymond Loewy-designed Symphony to replace the aging Skyline. The Skyline, introduced in 1941, had been made in a plethora of trim styles and model names that sold at corresponding price points, from the stripped-down Streamliner to the solid gold Command Performance; but for the next round, the company chose a different path. Aside from the short-lived $3.75 Sphere Point version of the Symphony and the three existing trim levels of the Kimberly, there were no real trim variations within a given model. Instead, there was a new range of distinctly different pens, both ballpoint and fountain. The fountain pens started with the $3.50 Reporter, moved up to the $5.00 Symphony, and reached the top of the line with the Envoy.
At $15.00, the Envoy was priced just above the lower end of the Parker “51” line, which started at $13.50 in 1948. But with an all-gold-filled body (cap and barrel) and sleeker lines, the Envoy was visually a much more impressive pen than the “51” — and given the famed excellent writing qualities of its Eversharp predecessors, it was calculated to be as attractive to the hand of the writer as it was to the eye of the beholder. The matching repeater pencil was priced at $7.50.
The Envoy was a complete break with Eversharp’s styling thus far in the 1940s. Absent were the dated “modernistic” streamlining of the earlier Skyline and the edginess of the contemporaneous Symphony. Instead, the Envoy was torpedo shaped, a slender cylinder with long, smoothly tapered ends. The slip cap, which had no clutch and relied on friction between the cap and three subtly raised ridges on the barrel, eliminated the need for barrel threads, and it fitted snugly to the barrel, further enhancing the sleek look of the pen. The Envoy’s remarkably trim appearance might have inspired the designers at Sheaffer to revise the slightly chubby profile of the 1949 Touchdown, slimming it down to create 1950’s Touchdown TM (Thin Model), shown below (upper).
Both the cap and the barrel were decorated with a pattern of closely spaced longitudinal grooves, similar to the Colonial pattern used on the All-Metal Wahl Pen during the 1920s:
In designing the Envoy, Eversharp had learned a thing or two since the Skyline’s introduction:
The design of the Skyline had allowed the cap to post farther down on the barrel than was desirable, with the location varying from pen to pen. Many Skyline caps posted far enough down to cover most or all of the lever, and the friction at that point caused brassing of the high point on the lever. The Envoy’s lever bore a slight but distinct ridge about 1⁄3 of the way from the outer end.
This unique feature defined the posting length of the pen by bringing the cap to a firm stop instead of allowing it to slide until friction against the lever jammed it in position.
Although obviously intending the Envoy to compete with the Parker “51”, Eversharp did not repeat the mistake it had made in 1943 with the poorly conceived Fifth Avenue, whose hooded nib design had yielded a pen with sub-optimal writing qualities. Instead of trying to develop a new hooded nib as other pen companies all around the world were doing, the company initially gave the Envoy a contoured section (shown below), fitted with the same nib that was used on the Sphere Point. This nib was distinctly smaller than the full-size nib in the Symphony, but it still wrote very well.
At some point, the contoured section was replaced with a straight conical section without the usual flared end, as seen on the pen illustrated in this article. The conical section was slightly longer than the contoured section, and as a result the nib was set more deeply in the section so that it would not collide with the inside end of the inner cap when the pen was capped. This revised design could be interpreted as an attempt to make the Envoy look more like other pens of the time, with their small nibs; or it could equally well be interpreted as a cost-cutting measure.
Absent documentation on the nib grades that were offered for the Envoy, it is reasonable to suppose that a range of grades similar to that offered for the Symphony would have been available for the Envoy. The pen pictured in this article has a firm broad nib, which would have been ideal for a signature pen.
For all its fancy exterior, however, the Envoy was identical internally to the Symphony, which was in turn identical to the third-generation Skyline. These pens shared the Magic Feed, with a breather tube extending most of the length of the sac, and they also used the same unitized pressure bar/lever assembly that Eversharp later christened the “Flip Fill.”
The Envoy itself had a very short lifespan. Its clip design, however, lived on until 1953, in the form of the clip that appeared on the second and third generations of the Symphony. Shown here are the Envoy’s cap (upper) and the cap from a second-generation Golden Symphony (lower).
The Envoy, while it might not qualify to be called rare, is definitely uncommon. Collectors who have researched the model are unanimous in saying that it was produced for only a short time, probably only a single year. None of Eversharp’s own advertising for it is known other than the December 1948 ad shown at the top of this article. (In October 1950, Envoy sets, then priced at $25.00, were being remaindered for $9.50 per set, and by June 1951 they were down to $8.55.)
This design philosophy was abandoned by 1949, when Eversharp released the second-generation Symphony in three trim levels and added more levels to the Kimberly.
I have also seen photographs of Envoys fitted with what looks like the nib from a Skyline Demi. I do not know whether those pens are correct.
Kriston Sales, Pemberville, OH, The Billboard, October 28, 1950, and Standard Products Company, Inc., Washington, DC, The Billboard, June 16, 1951, respectively.
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