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By Ron Dutcher
The Broadway Gold Pen Company seems to have been a cooperative effort created by a group of Manhattan jewelers/swindlers, mainly Merrick, Dean and Benton, to sell their pens to rural cities and towns, mostly in Ohio, prior to the Civil War. To the left below is a copy of one of their numerous newspaper advertisements. This one was published in the Delaware State Reporter on September 25, 1857.
However, the pens delivered were not quite as nice as what the advertisements claimed. Below is a section from the book The Secrets Of The Great City, published in 1859 by Edward Winslow Martin. It explains well how disappointing the pens were.
If you ever bought a junk pen from ebay that the seller described as "Mint" then you can relate. I assume that these ebay scammers are the great grandchildren of the people behind the Broadway Gold Pen Company.
Excerpt from the book The Secrets Of The Great City, by Edward Winslow Martin:
“What village poetaster or scribbler for the weekly journal — enjoying a reputation among his acquaintances for ‘smart writing’ — imagining himself a second Byron or another Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., but what likes to sport a gold pen with ‘silver case’ before the admiring eyes of friends or the envious glances of rivals, as the instrument with which the flow of melody or pathetic romance in the ‘Trumpetown Blower’ is produced. By such the circular of the ‘Broadway Gold Pen Co.,’ sent through the post-office, is warmly welcomed. A careful perusal, a comparison of the different styles and prices, and then, of course, a remittance. The pen arrives in a handsome velvet-lined box. A glance and the possessor is entranced; he tries it, it writes smoothly, and forthwith it is cleaned, placed in the pocket and carelessly shown by accident’ to friends. Another trial — alas! the ink sticks; the pen corrodes; the gold comes off; the silver holder turns black; polishing fails to produce a shine, and eventually it is apparent that a swindle has been perpetrated and that the ‘cheap gold pen’ is, after all, but copper or brass; thousands of these pens are sent in a week by express to all parts of the country and as many dupes made to pay fifty times their value to the adroit swindlers who manufacture them.
“The postmaster at Wakeman, Huron county, Ohio, having heard of this — Pen Co., sent for a circular, which was at once forwarded. Selecting a certain pen he remitted the money for it; in reply he received an old copper pen not worth three cents; he immediately remonstrated in a second letter, and a third, of which no notice was taken, and the unfortunate United States official was obliged to consider himself swindled. This is but an instance of many.”
Customers could also send in their pens to the 355 Broadway address to be repaired.
This article is part of the Manhattan Pen Makers Project, originated by Ron L. Dutcher. Except for typographical corrections, the text is as Ron published it. Ron wanted to include photos of advertisements or pens from each maker; he had some photos, but the gallery was far from complete. Photos here are a mixture of what Ron had and what I have been able to add from my own photo library. As with other reference articles on this site, you should not take this information as absolutely authoritative or complete.