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Profile: The Parker VS

(This page revised March 18, 2022)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


Logo As World War II was drawing to a close, the G. S. Parker Pen Company began thinking about its future product lines. The flagship “51” was going strong, even in the limited numbers that Parker was allowed to produce for the civilian market, and it appeared to have a bright future once wartime restrictions were lifted so that Parker could deliver pens in quantity to pen stores around the world.

The Vacumatic, on the other hand, had already begun to show its age; and the company set out to replace it with a pen that could take advantage of modern materials and would also be more suited to the coming fashion. The “51” had shown that people were eager to buy pens with metal caps and monochrome plastics — so to create its next open-nib pen, Parker essentially took the streamlined shape of the “51” and replaced the hooded nib and its collector with an ordinary open nib and feed.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The smoothly tapered clip came from the striped Duofold line. The result, introduced in 1946, was the Parker VS. Although no one today knows what the “VS” part of the name was intended to mean, it is generally thought to have stood for “Vacumatic Successor”. Like the number “51”, it required no translation into foreign languages. The VS is a good looking pen, and Parker also improved the design of the venerable (and inexpensive) button-filling mechanism to make it more reliable and easier to work on. The VS was the last button-filling fountain pen model produced until 2003, when Filcao of Italy introduced its Columbia, using the same filler design.

The plastic material used for the barrel and section of the VS was acrylic, but it was apparently a slightly different formulation than that in the “51”. This change might have been a cost-saving move, but the result was that the VS was somewhat more brittle than the “51”.

Parker chose to produce the VS in a very limited choice of colors. In the U.S.A., the pen offered only four colors, but at least two additional colors appeared elsewhere. (See the table below.) Similarly, the choice of cap designs was restricted to only two, the Lustraloy version shown above and a gold-filled version with interrupted sets of three parallel lines running the length of the cap (shown below). Unlike the “51”, whose Blue Diamond Split-Arrow clips were all gold filled except on the Stacked Coin cap, the VS bore a smooth tapered clip that matched the cap color. Also, unlike those on the contemporaneous “51”, the clutch rings on gold-capped VS pens were plain stainless steel with no gold wash.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Clear VS feedThe latter half of the 1940s marked an end to the broad popularity of transparent pens, as injection-molded polystyrenes replaced celluloid as a primary pen material. With the VS, Parker made a last attempt to provide a view of the pen’s ink supply by using a feed made of clear acrylic (shown to the right). This “Vis-O-Feed,” as Parker dubbed it, worked acceptably well, but its appearance turned out to be rather unappealing; with ink under it, it looked dirty. Midway through the first quarter of 1947, Parker replaced it with an ordinary black hard rubber feed.

Let’s Fill This Baby!

Early VS button

For the VS’s filler, Parker chose the system that had worked so well for the company since 1912: the simple, reliable, and inexpensive button filler. The prewar button filler, however, had been a relatively crude system, with a brass button that was inserted through a rather sloppily fitted hole in the end of the barrel. Parker improved the system by devising an aluminum button that slipped smoothly into a retaining collar and snapped in place. The collar was then screwed into the back of the barrel.This design, shown to the left, is easy to assemble, aesthetically pleasing, and much more reliable than the earlier version. With typical design efficiency, Parker engineers specified the same screw thread that was used on the Vacumatic’s blind cap so that workers could assemble the VS with the same tool they used for assembling the filler into the Vacumatic and “51”. This meant that repairers in the field could also use the standard Vacumatic block tool that was part of Parker’s field repair kit.

But the two-piece button was more costly than it needed to be. To further reduce the pen’s cost, Parker soon redesigned the filler slightly. In the first quarter of 1947, probably at the same time as the changeover to the hard rubber feed, VS pens appeared with the button collar machined integrally with the barrel itself (shown to the right). The precision-fabricated aluminum button snapped just as easily into the new barrel as into the older aluminum collar, and this is the form the button filler retained until Parker discontinued it in favor of a squeeze filler like that on the “51” Special.

Late VS button

That Old-Fashioned Pen? No, Thanks!

Even with the “51”-like streamlined shape of the VS and the pen’s good engineering, it was not long before the handwriting was on the wall. The VS was a very good pen, but people weren’t buying pens just because they were good. Looks have always played a rôle in the marketplace; and since the appearance of Parker’s own trendsetting “51”, tip-to-tail streamlining was hot. Most major pen companies were selling pens with nibs that were hooded or at least reduced in size and streamlined — or, in the case of Sheaffer’s “TRIUMPH” point,, a streamlined extension of the pen body itself. Nobody who could afford a high-quality pen wanted the dated look of the VS’s big open nib.

In 1948, Parker introduced the “21”, a less expensive pen featuring an ordinary steel nib concealed within a streamlined shell. The shell, unlike that of the “51”, was nonfunctional, but that didn’t matter to the buying public. The “21” sold well. In 1949, about a year after the introduction of the “21”, Parker discontinued the VS.

Christian Olsen, Parker’s longtime Danish licensee, also produced VS pens. Among Olsen’s production are at least two colors that were never used in the U.S.A., brown and green. Olson also , took license to make a change in their operation by retrofitting a squeeze filler like that in the “21”. The picture below shows a green squeeze-filling Olsen VS:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Colors

The following table shows the colors I have been able to document for the VS. The first four colors are the originals that were released in the U.S.A. in 1946. I own, or have handled, 1946-dated pens in all of these colors except Brown. (The color of the Brown chip is speculative.)


Colors of the VS
Color Name

Black

Black

Rust

Rust

Royal Blue

Royal Blue

Gray

Gray

Green

Green (Christian Olsen, Denmark)

Brown

Brown (Christian Olsen, Denmark)



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.

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