(If you were just visiting the United States, at least your souvenir would have been made in your vacation paradise.)
Souvenir fountain pens are rarely high-line models although some manufacturers specialize in souvenir items; for these and many third-tier makers, a souvenir pen would be at the top of the heap. One such pen-and-pencil set, branded Treasure, is shown to the right. This set, made by David Kahn, Inc., came in a box whose inside was printed to look like a treasure chest. The outside of the box was printed with spaces for a return address and a delivery address. This example was purchased by Harold Stevens in Union Star, Missouri, and mailed in early August 1940 to someone named Sexton at Summit Fast Freight in St. Louis, where it appears that Stevens was a mechanic. (The box had wire tabs sticking up at the ends of the lower half: fit them through the slots in the upper half, fold them over, and you didn’t even need tape or string.)
The set in that box, although it was red with black ends, was definitely not made to compete with the Parker Duofold. It has an untipped steel nib; it is very small, with the capped pen only 3" (89.7 mm) long and the pencil 3" (92.1 mm); its furniture is cheaply gold plated; and its build quality, not even up to the standard of Kahn’s Wearever brand, is nothing to write home about. For all of that, though, it is a working set, and it would serve very well as a souvenir.
Not a fountain pen but definitely an appealing souvenir, this dip pen, made by an unknown maker as a souvenir for Barnard Castle (1908 postcard below) in County Durham, England, features a stanhope showing six photos of the castle and grounds. The small photo here is a composite image of the view in the stanhope; the actual view is much clearer and sharper than this image.
One of America’s longest lasting and most famous tourist meccas is the “Big Easy,” New Orleans, Louisiana (“Nawlins” to the locals). The best time (or, if you don’t like huge and unruly crowds, the worst time) to visit the Big Easy is during Mardi Gras. One of the star attractions of Mardi Gras Week is the many parades, with their dozens of baton twirlers, dance troupes, jazz combos, marching bands, and amazing floats. Shown here is a Mardi Gras souvenir postcard from the late 1940s.
Each of the parades is conducted by an organization called a krewe. During the parades, members of the krewes ride on the floats, showering the crowds with “throws” (candy, necklaces of Mardi Gras beads, silver-dollar-sized aluminum “doubloons,” and other items). At least once in the early 1950s, the Krewe of Venus, the first all-female krewe to run a parade, included in its list of throws a special Eversharp fountain pen, a variant of the Symphony-styled Model 715 that was fitted with a steel nib and imprinted for the krewe:
Another dip pen comes from the World War II era. Made in U.S.A. by Salm, a once-prominent maker of pens, small pocket knives, and other souvenir items, it is imprinted Souvenir of Fort Bragg, N. C. on the curved taper, which is real abalone shell. The soldier who sent it home to Ohio, PFC Charles William Skaryd, had been a baker in civilian life, and he was in the Bakers & Cooks school at Fort Bragg. He probably bought this pen, complete with its own box marked with places for addresses and a stamp, in the base’s PX.
Although it was made and sold as a souvenir of Fort Bragg, this pen was also a souvenir of Skaryd’s time there, and it leads to my next class of souvenir pens.
Often overlooked by collectors of world’s fair memorabilia is the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California. Officially, the fair was a celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal, but San Franciscans saw it as an opportunity to show off the city’s recovery from the disastrous 1906 earthquake. Shown here is a southwest-looking postcard view of the Court of Four Seasons.
The two cone-cap pens illustrated here were offered as fair souvenirs by the Richter-Leblang Company, a New York/San Francisco corporation handling pens, novelties, and general merchandise. They are interesting as pens because they are not the same, indicating that Richter-Leblang was jobbing pens from at least two manufacturers — and also because they are piston-fillers (albeit with a very slow-acting piston mechanism).
In 1933 and 1934, one of America’s popular vacation spots was the “Century of Progress” World’s Fair celebrating 100 years since the founding of Chicago, Illinois. Chicago being the Wahl Company’s home city, Wahl could hardly have chosen not to exhibit. Its booth was in Pavilion 4 of the General Exhibits Group, a series of five identical buildings along the western shore of the South Lagoon. This postcard shows the U.S. Federal Building at night.
After visiting such an exciting exhibit as Wahl’s, who wouldn’t want to take home a Wahl pen as a souvenir, or send one to a friend? Wahl produced a special souvenir edition of its then-current Bantam, a bulb-filling pen or a mechanical pencil, or a set of both, similar in size to the Treasure set shown above but of vastly better build quality. (Wahl, as a company in the first tier, could hardly maintain its reputation by offering cheaply made souvenirs.) Bantams made as Century of Progress (COP) souvenirs were fitted with cap bands roll-engraved to commemorate the fair and with 14K gold nibs:
Bantams were produced in versions similar in appearance to the Equi-Poised (round) and the Doric (faceted). The COP cap band above is on a round pen; the COP pen shown below is faceted.
In the latter half of the 1930s, one of the more popular souvenir pens was the Peter Pan, made by Salz Brothers, Inc., in New York. The Peter Pan had gotten its start as a tiny hard rubber eyedropper-filler, but over the years it had grown until it became a much larger (but still very small) celluloid lever-filler. Shown here are three Peter Pan pens: a hard rubber model with a gold-filled overlay and two celluloid combos from the latter part of the 1930s. The green combo has Merry Christmas and two holly leaves hot-stamped on the side of its barrel. The red one is hot-stamped for the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair, whose great symbol, shown here in a fair poster, was the 610-foot (190 m) Trylon and 180-foot (77 m) Perisphere:
Not all souvenirs are reminders of events or places to visit. Some are reminders of how you got there, wherever “there” might happen to be. The pen shown below is from the Concorde supersonic transport (poster below), a joint British-French effort that operated from 1976 until late 2003. These souvenirs, inexpensive pens made made by Taylor Pen Ltd of Goring-on-Thames, England, were available as fountain pens or as ballpoints. Note the tiny Concorde attached to the clip:
Taylor, known as a maker of prestige pens for Harrods, Rolls-Royce, and other high-profile businesses, also made Concorde souvenir pens of a higher grade that were fitted with gold-plated furniture, and it was not the only company that made Concorde souvenir pens. A. T. Cross and Waterman made SST souvenirs for British Airways and Air France, respectively, and both were of higher quality than the Taylor pen shown here.
All of the pens shown thus far were made as generic products, to be sold (or given away) as souvenirs. We turn now to a more specialized variety of souvenir pens, the customer-special souvenirs that are fitted with emblems or crests.
The Parker Vacumatic Standard pen and pencil shown below were made by Parker with special clips on which the feathers were replaced by a flattened area suitable for the attachment of a customized emblem. The emblem on this set features the words pontiac master salesman surrounding the Pontiac logo, the stylized head of an American Indian chieftain, and the set was given in 1938 to such a person, to celebrate his accomplishments in the service of the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors.
Fraternal organizations frequently outfit their members with special regalia: swords, cocked hats, capes, and so on. But one can hardly wear such a costume around in daily life. One way to carry that specialness with you is to have a souvenir pen such as the one shown here, a Paul Wirt lever-filler with an emblem for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks soldered to the side of the cap band. If we are to judge by its size ands quality, this pen was probably an award of some sort, making it a very special souvenir indeed.
One of the most exciting souvenir pens known is this rare Waterman’s Ideal No 7 pen and pencil set in BHR. Waterman made a small batch of these sets, probably fewer than 100, for the F. W. Woolworth Company to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the company’s first 5¢ & 10¢ store in 1880. The furniture and the Woolworth Building on the pen’s cap are solid 14K gold, and the gold ring above the peak of the Woolworth Building is the eyepiece for a stanhope viewer showing a portrait of Woolworth himself. The pencil also has a stanhope, featuring a view of the Woolworth Building itself, with the date January 23, 1930.
For the most part, I have not touched on souvenir pens from countries other than the U.S.A. Rest assured, they are out there, waiting to be snapped up by adventurous collectors. The charm of souvenir pens is not that they are particularly wonderful pens — because usually they are not — but that they are more than “just pens.” They are things that remind their owners of particular times, places, or events. As such, although rarely personalized, they are more personal than ordinary pens. Most of them are cheap pens, and they are less likely to become family heirlooms than better pens. This fact makes them often more difficult to find in collectible condition.
After the end of the fair, all the buildings except the Fine Arts Palace were razed and new streets were laid out. The Court of Four Seasons was located a little to the west of the center of the fair grounds, a block from the Fine Arts Palace lagoon.
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.