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Profile: The Eversharp Symphony Family

(This page revised May 29, 2018)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


Symphony Advertisement, 1948 Magnifying glass
This early Symphony adver­tise­ment appeared in the Oc­to­ber 30, 1948, issue of The Sat­ur­day Evening Post. The pen was priced at $5.00 (no tax).

Railroad locomotive design In 1941 Eversharp introduced a new pen called the Skyline. Designed by Henry Dreyfuss, it was a runaway success, becoming the best selling pen the company ever produced. But shortly after the end of World War II, Eversharp found itself in serious trouble. Its hooded-nib Fifth Avenue, introduced in 1943 to compete with the Parker “51”, was anything but a success, and its unreliable CA ballpoint pen was a warranty nightmare. Foundering, desperately needing another Skyline, the company turned again to a professional industrial designer.Section assembly This time the nod fell to Raymond Loewy, the “Father of Industrial Design.” Among his many successes, Loewy had earlier designed the Pennsylvania Railroad’s S-1 steam locomotive (illustrated above) and GG-1 electric locomotive, the 1935 Coldspot refrigerator, the Electrolux vacuum cleaner, the 1946 Greyhound Scenicruiser, and the 1947 Studebaker. (Loewy had also unintentionally collaborated with George D. Cloutier in the design of the Eversharp Fifth Avenue; after Loewy had completed the design, the company decided the pen needed a hooded nib and tapped Cloutier to replace Loewy’s open-nib section design with a hooded version.) Not this time, however.

Loewy came through brilliantly, creating a sleekly minimalist modern design that was unique and, unlike the complicated Skyline, relatively easy to manufacture. The Symphony, as Eversharp named the new pen, was catalogued as model 500, and it appeared in late 1948. Internally the same as the Skyline, featuring Eversharp’s proven breather-tube Magic Feed and superb nibs, the new pen should rightfully have been another runaway success. That it was not as great a hit as its predecessor does not diminish in any way its exceptional writing qualities or its smart, dramatic styling. Shown below is a first-version Symphony:


Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

It is interesting to contrast Eversharp’s fanciful advertising artwork, as seen above in the circular vignette of the nib and section, with the shape of the actual pen.

Also offered, for $3.75, was a matching pen with a smaller nib. This model was named the Sphere Point (shown below), reusing a name that a year earlier had belonged to Eversharp’s ballpoint entry, the Sphere Point CA. What immediately struck the eye about the new Sphere Point was the unusual convex contour of its section, which was extra long to provide for the smaller nib and had a rounded clutch end with no flare. The end of the section closer to the barrel threads was ribbed for an improved grip. Eversharp’s advertising proclaimed that the Sphere Point’s nib tip was “Platinumized” for longer life and smoother writing, and the pen was offered in all the second- and third-generation colors except Brown. Shown here is a Dubonnet (burgundy) Sphere Point.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

One of the most distinctive styling features of the Symphony is its asymmetrical metal “slipper” cap, which appears almost to have been made from the halves of two caps, one slightly shorter than the other, welded together. The clip, creased along its center and attached at the apex of the cap’s shorter side, matches the overall contour perfectly; if its curve is extended past its anchor, the curve intersects the apex of the cap’s longer half:

Eversharp pen cap

Viewed from the side, as shown above, the bright silver-colored slipper cap gives the pen an air almost of a streamlined train or airplane in motion. To further enhance the effect, Loewy designed the cap with no band or other trim — only that well-placed gold-filled clip. Ironically, it may have been the modernity of its styling that kept the Symphony from being a great hit. Advanced to the point of edginess, the pen’s looks may simply not have appealed to the buying public.

Too Edgy?

Whatever the reason, Eversharp withdrew the original Loewy Symphony after only about a year, replacing it for the 1949 Christmas season with a second version that was restyled to soften the edgy design. The barrel had lost the metal cap threads, and the pronounced step between threads and body had become a tapered transition reminiscent of the contours of the Skyline’s barrel. Although the slipper cap remained, its lip was now rounded, and the clip had slid downward some distance away from the apex of the slipper’s shorter side. This latter change did away with the speedy look that had characterized Loewy’s cap design.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The second generation marked the appearance of several trim levels distinguished by their cap trim, including a narrow gold cap band (Model 701), a broad Autograph-style band that wrapped around the cap lip (Model 703, the Deluxe, illustrated above), and a gold-filled cap (Model 705, the Golden Symphony, illustrated below).

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Still Too Edgy?

Either Eversharp was in cost-cutting mode or the second version of the Symphony still wasn’t quite it, and by the time 1951 rolled around, there was a third version. Gone was the slipper cap. The cap’s bullet shape was as before; but it was now symmetrical (and therefore easier to manufacture), with the clip side having grown to the size of the back side. Gone, too, was the tapered transition between the barrel’s cap threads and its body; that area was now more gently shaped to match the other end of the barrel:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Also gone was the Symphony name. Eversharp advertising referred to the pen as “this new Eversharp” and concentrated on its writing qualities and its “Flip-Fill” system, with the same unitized lever assembly (U.S. Patent No 2,325,069) and breather-tube Magic Feed (U.S. Patent No 2,255,093) as before.

Filler assembly
Eversharp Magic Feed

Eversharp made a mistake with the third-generation pen, however, by retaining the original Loewy inner-cap design. To prevent metal-to-metal wear in the threads, Loewy had designed the inner cap to fill the entire length of the cap, with the threads molded into its inside surface. Taking advantage of the built-in alignment mechanism provided by the slipper cap, he had shaped the inner cap’s outside to engage with the step between the two halves of the metal cap to keep the inner cap from turning within the cap. The second-generation Symphony, although it lacked its predecessor’s metal barrel threads, still had a slipper cap with Loewy’s built-in inner-cap alignment mechanism. But the third-generation bullet cap, being symmetrical, had no automatic alignment system, and many of these pens are found today with inner caps that turn freely.

By the time the Symphony appeared, plastics technology had stabilized, and — except for the slight shrinkage of the inner cap that causes the looseness described in the preceding paragraph — Symphony plastics do not share the brittleness or the tendency to shrink or discolor that plagued the earlier Skyline.

For Those Not at the Top

The Symphony, priced at $5.00, was midway in the Eversharp lineup, with a series of lower-line models filling out the bottom end of that lineup. A generically titled “Economy Gold Nib” range appeared, including Models 711, 713, 715, and 717, and Models 911, 913, 915, and 917. These pens had plastic bullet caps and gold nibs, and they were offered in all of the second- and third-generation colors except Brown. They differed in their nibs and their furniture. Shown here is a Dubonnet Model 715 with a fine manifold nib; below the pen is a table listing the Economy Gold Nib models:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The Eversharp Symphony Family
Model No Furniture Cap Band Nibs

711 Gold Plated Small flexible
713 Narrow (0.050") Small flexible
715 Broad (0.188") Large flexible or manifold
717 Very Broad (0.375") Large flexible or manifold

911 Chrome Plated Small flexible
913 Narrow (0.050") Small flexible
915 Broad (0.188") Large flexible or manifold
917 Very Broad (0.375") Large flexible or manifold

Where the 715 and 915 had a broad cap band, the bottom-line 711 and 911 had a series of grooves instead. The clip on the 717 and 917 was shorter and placed higher on the cap to make room for the very broad cap band, which did not wrap around the cap lip like the band on the Model 703 Symphony.

Section assemblyIt is not clear exactly when these budget-minded pens were introduced. Their barrel shape matches that of the second-generation Symphony of 1949, but some authorities date them to 1951, when the third generation was introduced. At some point, they lost their gold nibs, being fitted thereafter with gold-plated steel nibs. As shown to the right, these steel nibs are imprinted with the diagonal eversharp banner and MADE IN U.S.A.; they do not say 14K.

Also offered, apparently with the second generation, was a new “Luxury Set” pen, Model 707; this pen had the same barrel and small nib as the 711 and 713, but its gold-plated bullet cap was a foreshadowing of the third-generation Symphony design:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The Luxury Set cap had a flat end that did not wrap around the lip as on the 705 Golden Symphony.

Two further models are known:

The Economy Gold Nib chassis also provided Eversharp with a great opportunity to make a demonstrator for its dealers to show, and such a model did appear in dealers’ shops. It was similar to the third-generation Model 715, but with no cap band:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Turning the Color Wheel Backward?

The Symphony shows an interesting evolution of colors. The colors of the original Loewy version are mostly vibrant and — if one can judge by the color evolution of Parker’s and Sheaffer’s pens from 1949 through the 1960s — ahead of their time. But as Eversharp backed away from Loewy’s advanced design, the company also backed away from his bright colors, returning with the second generation to subdued darker tones nearly identical to those of the Skyline.


Original Symphony Colors
Color Name

Black Black
Blue Blue
Green Green
Red Red
Brown

Brown


Second- and Third-Generation Colors
Color Name

Black Black
Blue Blue
Green Green
Dubonnet Dubonnet
Brown Brown (second generation only)


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 Jim Mamoulides, who lent the Sphere Point and the Model 707 for photography.

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