(This page revised October 22, 2017)
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|This 1945 Eversharp advertisement appeared in Life Magazine and featured pens priced from $75.00 to $5.00. The Skyline shown was priced at $9.75.|
The Best in Streamlined Industrial Design: In 1941, the Wahl-Eversharp company introduced a new fountain pen called the Skyline. Strikingly modern in appearance, the Skyline was designed by Henry Dreyfuss (U.S. Patent No D132,663 for the body and No D132,664 for the clip), who also streamlined the steam locomotives of the New York Central Railroad’s famed 20th Century Limited. You do not need a very sharp eye to detect a strong resemblance between the locomotive shown here and the Skylines on this page!
Despite its futuristic looks, the Skyline was internally a relatively ordinary pen, although it had a breather tube that supposedly “flightproofed” the pen for the “Air Age.” The best feature of the Skyline was the justly renowned Eversharp nib; the company offered Skylines with everything from manifold accounting nibs as rigid as nails to italics with wonderful flex, and collectors today greatly prize Skylines for their writing qualities.
Many pens, the Skyline among them, were offered in a variety of sizes to suit the user’s hand, or sometimes to suit the user’s desired level of status. The Skyline came in three sizes, the Demi (about 47∕8" long), the Standard (about 51∕4" long), and the Executive (about 55∕8" long). Sizes varied somewhat; my two Standards are actually 53∕16" and 55∕16" long. Today, the Executive is the least common Skyline and is generally much higher in price than the other two models. The Skyline was discontinued in about 1950.
This illustration shows a Dubonnet Red GF Cap Skyline with a
gold-filled cap. This cap has grooves running around it. The
Presentation model, a much less common variety, has
widely spaced lines running the length of the cap.
NoteThe name Skyliner, generally thought to have been applied originally to this model line as a whole and later superseded by Skyline, is used by some authorities to mean only pens with striated caps and barrels in red, black, or brown (but not the Modern Stripe colors). However, this usage is problematical; some advertisements from as late as 1947 refer to various versions as Skyliners, including a pen with a solid color on both cap and barrel and another with a striated celluloid cap and a solid-color barrel. In sum, the jury is still out.
At the beginning of the 1940s, plastics technology underwent a revolution as polystyrene plastics replaced celluloid. Polystyrenes did not need to be machined and finished by hand; they could be molded with excellent quality and uniformity. But Eversharp’s use of those early polystyrenes for the Skyline, advanced though it was, proves to have been disastrous for the pens’ longevity. Eversharp’s early polystyrene is notorious for shrinkage, discoloration, and deterioration; it is not uncommon today to find that a Skyline’s inner cap, molded integrally with the cap derby, has partially crumbled away. (Not all inner caps do this; some of the plastic ones have held up well, and the very earliest Skylines had inner caps made of hard rubber and screwed into their derbies.)
Another common problem with Skylines is illustrated by the posted pen above; observe that the cap covers about 2∕3 of the lever. The edge of the cap bears on the lever; it frequently wore away the gold surface, and many Skylines show severe brassing in that area.
The Skyline was sold in myriad variations, perhaps not as many as those of the Parker “51”, but certainly enough to give the “51” a good run for its money; and as with the “51”, most Skylines were made with plastic barrels. There were Skylines with plastic caps in plain or striped colors, with autograph bands, narrow bands, or no bands, and Skylines with stainless steel, sterling silver, gold-filled, vermeil, or solid gold caps. There were also Skylines that were entirely gold filled, vermeil, or solid gold. As the years passed, the more interesting plastics (made of celluloid) disappeared; eventually all plastic parts were polystyrene. A gold derby, as shown here, was a common trim enhancement on a plastic or gold-capped pen. The picture above and the ones below illustrate only a small sample of the many Skylines.
This illustration shows a Dubonnet Red Demi with a honey-colored striped
This illustration shows a Dubonnet Red Demi in colors similar to the one above.
This illustration shows a Jet Black Solid Color Skyline.
This illustration shows a Brown Modern Stripe Skyline
This Gray Modern Stripe Skyline, like all its
The largest Skyline is the Executive.
The most luxurious Skyline, the Command Performance
But How Does It Write?
As could be expected, the Skyline was an excellent writer’s pen. Eversharp had long been renowned for its nibs, and when these nibs were coupled with the company’s recently developed breather-tube ”Magic Feed,” writing was an almost effortless pleasure. During its lifetime, the lever-filling Skyline appeared with three different lever arrangements; the technicalities of these systems are described in How to Restore the Eversharp Skyline. Shown here are the last and best of the lever systems, a unitized assembly that Eversharp later branded “Flip-Fill,” and a Magic Feed:
No manufacturer is going to make it on a single model. When Eversharp introduced the Skyline, it positioned the new model at the top of its lineup — but that doesn't mean it immediately discontinued existing models or didn't introduce any other new models. The solid plastic cap that appeared on some Skyline models was inexpensive to make and, if the complicated wrapover clip was eliminated, quick and easy to assemble. Eversharp appears to have capitalized on this fact by designing a much simpler clip. The resulting pen, shaped like a Skyline, fitted with a small nib and made from the same parts as the lowest, bandless, Skyline model (except for the derby and clip), was the Streamliner. The pen was offered in two versions; Models 98 and 99 had smooth caps and included Eversharp’s Double-Checked warranty, while Models 98L and 99L had laterally grooved caps and did not carry the same guarantee. Shown here are Streamliner Models 98 (Demi size) in Silver Gray and 99L (standard size) in Navy Blue:
The Streamliner was offered in standard and demi sizes, probably in all six of the Skyline’s solid barrel colors. As illustrated above, the Streamliner’s derby was a complete hemisphere, without the groove that was necessary to accommodate the wrapped-over end of the Skyline’s clip.
The Skyline carried Eversharp’s Double-Checked warranty, of course, but gone was the Double-Checked Gold Seal that had been inlaid into the cap since the 1920s. Instead, the Double-Checked logo was imprinted on the pen’s clip. The last Gold Seal pen to be marketed before the advent of the Skyline was the Victory, shown below and priced at $5.00. This pen’s barrel is gold-stamped KAMM’S; it was one of a lot that was apparently destined for the S. Kamm & Sons department store in New York City.
Evidence is sketchy at best, but I think it likely that the model shown here, a school pen whose model name appears to be lost, stayed in production at least into the first year or two after America entered World War II. It is modern in style, and similar enough to the Skyline that it might have been the pen that inspired Henry Dreyfuss to go one better.
On occasion, you might stumble across a Skyline like the one below, whose clip is imprinted WAHL in plain block letters, instead of the usual stylized EVERSHARP imprint. It is thought that the company produced a short run of pens like this every few years to maintain its trademark rights to the Wahl name. These pens are quite uncommon, and they usually do not come cheaply.
A Pen of Many Colors
Because Eversharp plastics discolored so readily, it is difficult to find a true representative sample of their original appearance. For example, the blue shown in the following color table is very dark, but I have also seen several slightly different shades, and I have a Skyline in a color near to Royal Blue. Was there one blue, or were there two or more? The Modern Stripe (“moiré”) colors seem to have appeared very early in the Skyline’s career; they are celluloid, not polystyrene, and they have held their color much better than the polystyrenes. (Ironically, the Modern Stripe models, made of an older and less fashionable plastic, were considered economy models; the desirable Executive was never made in any of these colors.) The names of the solid colors are taken from 1945 advertisements.
The right column in the table illustrates some (but not all) Skyline cap variations. These caps appeared only with solid-colored barrels; i.e., the Modern Stripe colors had matching caps.
|Skyline Body/Barrel Colors||Skyline Cap Patterns|
|Blue Modern Stripe||Amber/Blue Striated Celluloid|
|Green Modern Stripe||Amber/Green Striated Celluloid|
|Garnet Modern Stripe||Green/Black Striated Celluloid|
|Brown Modern Stripe||Green/Blue Striated Celluloid|
|Gray Modern Stripe||Green/Red Striated Celluloid|
Plain Plastic (All six solid
colors, Silver Gray shown)
Grooved Plastic (All six solid
colors, Marine Green shown)
Grooved Gold Fill (Lateral,
|Dubonnet Red||Grooved Gold Fill (Longitudinal, uncommon)|
|Army Brown||Dart Pattern Gold Fill (rare!)|
|Silver Gray||Stainless Steel (more uncommon)|
|Grooved Sterling Silver (rare!)|
Army Brown was the color of the World War II U.S. Army officers’ dress uniform blouse (jacket). Contrast this color with the Army Brown that appeared on the contemporaneous Fifth Avenue; the latter was the color of the uniform trousers worn with the brown blouse; these trousers were commonly called “Pinks” because of the very slight pinkish cast to their color.
There also exist a few Skylines with Dart on both the cap and the barrel. These pens command quite high prices.
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. My thanks to Matthew Greenberger, who provided photographs of a cap with the Dart pattern, and Matt McColm, who identified the Victory and found an advertisement listing the school pen.