Profile: The Parker VS

(This page revised June 10, 2013)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


Manufacturer logo As World War II drew to a close, the G. S. Parker 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.

(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.)

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. The smoothly tapered clip came from the striped Duofold line. The result, introduced in 1946, was the Parker VS. The “VS” part of the name is generally thought to have stood for “Vacumatic Successor.” It’s a good looking pen, and Parker also improved the design of its venerable button-filling mechanism to make it easier to work on and more reliable.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

With its Lustraloy cap, this 1946 VS is typical of the majority of VSes produced.

Parker chose to produce the VS in a very limited choice of colors; in the U.S.A., the pen offered only four colors (shown in the table below). Additional colors appeared in other countries. 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. The clutch rings on gold-capped VSes were plain stainless steel with no gold wash.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

This Red Brown VS wears the only gold-colored cap,
a gold-filled design with interrupted parallel lines.

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” turned out to be rather unappealing; with ink under it, it looked dirty. In 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 is costly. To reduce the cost, Parker soon redesigned the pen slightly. In the first quarter of 1947, probably at the same time as the changeover to the hard rubber feed, VSes 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!

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 pen companies were selling pens with hooded nibs or, in the case of Sheaffer’s “TRIUMPH” point, nibs that were a streamlined extension of the pen body. Nobody who could afford a high-quality pen wanted the dated look of the VS’s 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 a “51”, was nonfunctional, but that didn’t matter. The “21” sold well. In 1949, about a year after the introduction of the “21”, Parker discontinued the VS.

Christian Olsen, Parker’s 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. The picture below shows a squeeze-filling Olsen VS:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

This green squeeze-filling VS was made in Denmark
by Parker licensee Christian Olsen.

Colors

The following table shows the colors I have been able to document for the VS. The first four colors are the original set that were released in the U.S.A. in 1946; I own, or have handled, 1946-dated pens in these colors.


Colors of the VS
Color Name

Black

Black

Red Brown

Red Brown

Royal Blue

Royal Blue

Gray

Gray

Green

Green (not in the U.S.A.)



The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

© 2013 RichardsPens.com Contact Us | About Us | Privacy Policy