Profile: Sheaffer’s “TRIUMPH”

(This page revised June 22, 2012)

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“TRIUMPH” advertisement, November 23, 1942 Magnifying glass
This November 23, 1942, adver­tise­ment (on the inside of Life magazine’s front cover) is selling “TRIUMPH” pens as gifts for Christmas, but it also speaks to the loneliness of the troops at war.

Manufacturer logoImmediately before the United States entered World War II, Sheaffer had been developing a new nib design, unlike anything that had been seen before. This new nib (U.S. Patent Nº D130,997) was large and conical in shape; its size and structure gave it great strength and a very positive alignment with its feed, a new design that that was much larger and more effective at flow buffering than earlier feeds. “TRIUMPH” point, 1942 In May 1942, just five months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor plunged the U.S.A. into World War II, the company produced a short motion picture for its dealers, to announce Sheaffer’s “TRIUMPH” — the new line of pens the company had created for its conical nib. The new pens all bore the White Dot, symbol of Sheaffer’s Lifetime warranty, and for this reason the venerable Balance remained in production for a brief period, reduced to a limited selection of non-Lifetime models and the military-clip versions, both Lifetime and non-Lifetime.

Because Sheaffer used the “TRIUMPH” point on many models from the 1940s to the 1990s, the most immediately obvious distinguishing feature of the “TRIUMPH” pens themselves is their extravagantly broad cap band, as illustrated below.

This band (the principal element of U.S. Patent Nº 2,314,563) allowed the pen’s designers to create a very slender profile, trimmer even than the sweeping modern lines of the Parker “51”, which was at that time enjoying tremendous popularity. The broad band extends the slim barrel silhouette to the cap without a visible step while still allowing the use of a threaded cap — and by adding a threaded metal ring between the nib section and the barrel, Sheaffer bumped up the “bling” a little while at the same time eliminating the possibility that the metal threads in the cap might damage celluloid barrel threads.

TRIUMPH cap, 1942

The black “TRIUMPH” below, without the distraction of Sheaffer’s striated celluloid, shows the design’s elegantly slender profile to great advantage. (If there is a magnifying-glass symbol (Magnifying glass) next to an image, click the magnifying glass to view a zoomed version for more detail.)

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Caps: Getting Personal

One of Sheaffer’s prestige models for many years was the Autograph, which featured a solid 14K gold cap band intended to be engraved with the signature of the pen’s owner. Here is an Autograph in the black color that so many of these distinguished pens wore. This pen also displays fairly good barrel transparency.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Caps: Celluloid and Metal

There is some question as to why Sheaffer did not simply give the “TRIUMPH” an all-metal cap like that on the Parker “51”. The likely answer is that such a design would have increased the pen’s cost; and, in view of wartime restrictions on the use of brass and steel, the increase would have been a substantial one. (When Eversharp introduced the Fifth Avenue in late 1943, that pen’s cap was gold filled — but it was gold over sterling silver, not gold over the more economical and better suited brass.) The wartime restrictions on metals did cause Sheaffer to choose silver for the base metal in its pen furniture, and that choice has led to an interesting situation for collectors. Over the years, silver ions have migrated upward through the gold alloy layer, appearing on the surface as a distinct layer that has tarnished to a dark gunmetal-like gray color (but can be removed easily without harm to the pen). This phenomenon, which is not unique to Sheaffer’s pens, is a good marker for pens that were manufactured during the war.

Metal caps were not altogether absent from the “TRIUMPH” line. The Crest, introduced in 1937 and initially referred to as the Model 47, continued in production. Unchanged externally from its open-nib predecessor except for subtleties in the line pattern on the cap, the “TRIUMPH” version revealed its new identity only when uncapped:

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Although the “TRIUMPH” Crest’s cap looks like the cap of the older open-nib Crest,
the two caps are not interchangeable because the thread location has changed.
(The White Dot on the this pen is at the tip of the filler knob/blind cap.)

Sheaffer apparently considered the Crest a more “dignified” model, and the company made the “TRIUMPH” Crest only in Jet Black (shown above) and Golden Brown Striated.

Continuing with its practice of offering pens at the same prices with the purchaser’s choice of lever or Vacuum-Fil plunger filling, Sheaffer produced the “TRIUMPH” in both versions; shown below are a Vacuum-Fil model and a lever filler. (The two basic designs were covered by, but not identical to, U.S. Patents Nos D130,998 and D130,999, respectively.) The lever-filling version is today much less common; because of this fact and many collectors’ aversion to the Vacuum-Fil system because of the difficulty and expense of restoring it properly, a lever filler in excellent condition usually commands a premium. Users, on the other hand, appreciate the much greater ink capacity of the Vacuum-Fil model.

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This Marine Green striated Vacuum-Fil “TRIUMPH” is the Vacuum-Fil model.
 
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This Golden Brown striated “TRIUMPH” has a lever filling system.

Oversize or Undersize?

Sheaffer’s pint-sized Tuckaway, introduced in 1940, also got a face-lift with the advent of the “TRIUMPH” point. The same broad-band styling carried through to the compact clipless wonder. Shown here is a ’42 Gray Pearl striated Tuckaway. The Tucky’s cap is identical to the standard-sized pen’s cap except for its lack of a clip, and the Tuckaway sold for the same $12.50 price as its larger sibling.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

For the duration of the war, however, Sheaffer’s withdrawal of the Balance meant that there wasn't an Oversize White Dot pen to counterbalance the Tuckaway. And, although Sheaffer did produce pens of increased girth after the end of the war, the company made no more “seriously” oversize pens until 1959, when the PFM made its appearance.

The Shrunken Color Palette

By the beginning of the 1940s, Sheaffer had done away with many of the colors that appeared on the Balance, and the company’s wartime pens, “TRIUMPH” and otherwise, therefore appeared in a very limited set of hues, as shown in the table below. As was traditional at the time, the company applied chrome-plated furniture to Gray Pearl Striated pens (and to some Jet Black pens), while all the other colors had 14K solid gold or gold-filled furniture.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Except for a small number of Jet Black pens, the Gray Pearl Striated
“TRIUMPH” was the only one fitted with chrome-plated furniture.

Interestingly, the chrome-plated cap band differs from the gold-filled version in that its line pattern extends the full width of the band instead of being broken into two groups separated by a blank panel.

Chrome-plated cap bandChrome-plated cap band

Collectible? Usable? Or Both?

“TRIUMPH” pens, as the first implementation of Sheaffer’s remarkable “TRIUMPH” point, are of historical significance. There are very few versions; a complete collection of “TRIUMPH” pens, including both sizes in all five colors, will number fewer than 25 pens. These two factors make the pens worthy of collection and (at least in the Vacuum-Fil version) relatively easily collectible.

They are also durable and reliable — in both lever-filling and Vacuum-Fil versions. The majority of “TRIUMPH” pens on the market today are fitted with the Vacuum-Fil plunger system. These pens are available for very low prices, and once properly restored using modern materials, their fillers should outlast any other U.S.-made filling system manufactured during the early 1940s. They are eminently usable.


The Colors of the “TRIUMPH”
Color Name

Jet Black Jet Black
Golden Brown Striated Golden Brown Striated
Grey Pearl Striated Grey Pearl Striated
Marine Green Striated Marine Green Striated
Carmine Striated Carmine Striated

The color chips shown here are taken from photographs of actual pens. (3D highlighting was added with a computer.)


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