(This page revised November 4, 2021)
|This July 27, 1942, double truck advertisement (two pages together, in the center of the magazine) in Life Magazine was the first public appearance of Sheaffer’s radically new “TRIUMPH” pens.
Immediately 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. In January 1942, about a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor plunged the U.S.A. into World War II, the company sent out a bulletin to its dealers announcing Sheaffer’s “TRIUMPH” — the new line of pens the company had created for its conical nib. Six months later, beginning in July, the company went all out as advertising appeared in general-circulation magazines such as Life and Collier’s. The July 27 issue of Life featured the double truck advertisement shown to the right (two pages in width, placed in the exact center of a staple-bound magazine so that it could be printed entirely on one sheet of paper for better appearance), which cost more than a two-page ad elsewhere in the magazine. The new pens all bore the White Dot, symbol of Sheaffer’s Lifetime warranty. It appears that as part of a general realignment of priorities under the orders of the War Production Board (WPB), Sheaffer discontinued the production of its venerable Balance at that time. The last Balance models in production were thus the military-clip versions, both Lifetime (Valiant and Vigilant) and non-Lifetime (Defender and Commandant). It is not clear whether production of the cherry-red Balance service pen stopped at this time or later.
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Because Sheaffer used the “TRIUMPH” point (initially called a sheath 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.
The black “TRIUMPH” below, without the distraction of Sheaffer’s striated celluloid, shows the design’s elegantly slender profile to great advantage.
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.
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 the location of the White Dot and subtleties in the line pattern on the cap, the “TRIUMPH” version revealed its new identity when uncapped:
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.
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. There is no White Dot on the cap of the “TRIUMPH” Crest because Sheaffer did not develop a way to attach a White Dot to a metal cap until early 1948. Instead, the White Dot moved from its prewar mid-barrel location to the back end of the barrel (on a Vacuum-Fil model, the filler knob/blind cap).
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.) In October 1942, however, the WPB severely tightened rationing on rubber. In response to the new restrictions, Sheaffer stopped making lever-filling pens, and for this reason the lever-filling “TRIUMPH” is today much less common than the Vacuum-Fil version. Because of this fact and many collectors’ aversion to the Vacuum-Fil system due to the difficulty and expense of restoring it properly, a lever-filling “TRIUMPH” in excellent condition usually commands a premium. Users, on the other hand, appreciate the much greater ink capacity of the Vacuum-Fil model.
This Marine Green Vacuum-Fil “TRIUMPH” is a Vacuum-Fil model.
|This Golden Brown “TRIUMPH” has a lever filling system.
As it had done with the Balance before the war, Sheaffer included the popular 1930s “ink view” feature in the “TRIUMPH” line. For Vacuum-Fil models, the barrel included transparent longitudinal windows; and for the short-lived lever-filler, the Visulated section was replaced by a transparent band adjacent to the thread ring, as shown here:
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 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.
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.
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 pens (and to some Jet Black pens), while all the other colors had 14K solid gold or gold-filled furniture.
Except for a small number of Jet Black pens, the Gray Pearl
“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.
It is not clear when production of the “TRIUMPH” ended. A year or so after the model’s introduction, with wartime restrictions limiting pen production, Sheaffer contracted with Jam Handy Productions to produce a 30-minute motion picture, titled Right to the Point, to highlight what Sheaffer was doing for the war effort and explain why the supply of pens the company was producing was so limited. The film was completed on July 12, 1944, and it was intended to be shown to company salesmen, dealers, and end customers. Some scenes showed design features that are associated with postwar production, such as a longer “Spiral Groove” gripping section and a new clip with a built-in spring action, but pens that included those features did not appear on the market immediately. In early January 1945, Sheaffer published all-text newspaper advertisements that hinted at new features with this disclaimer: “We cannot say ‘more’ — we can only say ‘better’ until the demands of the Armed Services decline…” By the middle of March, there were full-page ads showing the new styles and including this text:
These are the pens and pencils that are going to the men and women in the Services overseas. Quantities available for civilians are very limited, but Sheaffer dealers will take your reservations now.
It is probably reasonable to speculate that production of the “TRIUMPH” range came to an end sometime late in the last quarter of 1944, as Sheaffer would then have needed to retool for the new postwar models.
As the first implementation of Sheaffer’s remarkable “TRIUMPH” point, “TRIUMPH” pens 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.
There is one “gotcha” of which collectors should take note: you will occasionally see a full-length “TRIUMPH” pen with a clipless cap, but this version is a Frankenpen. Sheaffer did not offer any of the full-length models in a clipless or ringtop version. The cap on any such pen came from a Tuckaway.
Because the “TRIUMPH” was a wartime model, Sheaffer did not expend any effort creating new colors for it. The color palette, as laid out in the following table, remained the same as the palette of the Balance had been before America went to war. The color chips shown here are taken from photographs of actual pens. (3D highlighting was added with a computer.)
|The Colors of the “TRIUMPH”
The feed for the new nib was actually an embodiment of the ink collector concept that was covered by Russell T. Wing’s U.S. Patent No 2,187,528, the invention that Parker had used for the collector in the “51”. In 1943, Parker threatened Sheaffer with a lawsuit for patent infringement. The two companies, together with Wing, signed an agreement under which Sheaffer, for a payment of $25,000 and royalties, was granted a license to use the concept and was excused from penalties for the pens it had already sold that embodied the concept.
These so-called “reverse trim” pens are quite uncommon and highly desirable.
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 Brian McQueen, who provided the 1942 dates for the introduction of the “TRIUMPH” along with the double-truck ad at the top of the page.