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By Ron Dutcher
From BROADBRIM’S NEW-YORK LETTER
One of the oldest educational institutions in the city is the American Institute, which is now holding its annual fair in the Great Building on 59th Street and Third avenue. This vast structure, in tho past few years has been used for all sorts of purposes; Religious revivals, walking matches, running matches, skating carnivals and political gatherings innumerable. On consecutive nights its walls have echoed with shouts for Grover Cleveland and Bonanzas for the Plumed Knight, But its legitimate use is for an industrial exhibition; and once a year it sets aside its motley, and comes down to solid work. No other instruction antedates it in continual annual exhibition. When I was a little boy, I can recollect with what eager expectation I looked forward to the opening of the American Institute Exhibition in the Fall. It used then to be held in Castle Garden, and all the young fellows and their sweethearts made the walls of the old fort a trysting place, and many a tale of love has been whispered in willing ears, while looking over the waters of the beautiful bay, and watching on its waves the playful beams of the October moon. But all that romance has faded into the long ago: and the sighing lovers of those days, are grandfathers and grandmothers now — with pains in their bones, and rheumatism and lumbago, and neuralgia, and all the ills that make the lives of old people so uncomfortable, but while generation after generation comes and goes, the American Institute still remains, and with each renewing year it seems younger and fresher than before. More marvelous still, there is Charles Wagner Hull, the superintendent, looking younger than he did a quarter of a century ago; and John Chambers; the secretary, not a whit the worse, for his long years of service, whose reminiscences of the Institute run back bright and clear, a half hundred year.
The exhibit this year fully sustains its old time reputation, if indeed, it doe not surpass any exhibition that has proceeded it. Engines of every class are there, from the gigantic Titan, which could drive an ocean steamer, to the dainty little motor, which a lady attaches to her sewing machine. Scattered over the vast floor is a multitude of things, beautiful and useful, which it would take a month to describe: Gorgeous furniture, rich hangings, splendid specimens of pottery, elegant cutlery, luxurious cases of preserves, ingenious appliances for simplifying and ensuring excellence in cookery; and the thousand and one appliances that add to the happiness of life. While all these things interested me very much, I am free to confess there was a small exhibit which had for me a greater attraction than anything I saw in that vast exhibition. It was the display of the Yale Fountain Pen Company; of 149 William Street New York. “The pen is mightier than the sword,” says Richelieu, but the Old Cardinal spoke of a gray goose quill. The old time Scrivener went about with a bottle of ink hanging from his buttonhole. In due time the goose quill was superseded by steel, and while the pen advanced the ink bottle remained stationary. Then came the era of gold pens, when every accomplished book keeper and scrivener walked about with a gold pen in his pocket — but if he wanted to use it, he had to hunt for an ink bottle or his fine gold pen was of no use. Then came the invention of the Yale Fountain Pen. One of the greatest boons e ver conferred on poor wretches, who like myself are compelled to write for a living — no one can appreciate it more than the editor whose hands are black with ink, and whoss manuscripts are foul with blots, which always occur on the most particular words.
Behind the table at this exhibit sat a modest little lady intently engaged in writing; there was no unusual flourish about her, but how deftly and cunningly she used that magic little wand, as she covered sheets after sheets without looking for an ink bottle. Where is your ink I inquired? Right here sir, she pleasantly answered: enough to write for a whole day, and she instantly took the pen apart. It was a marvel of simplicity and strength, and then the little lady gave one of those wonderful flourishes — which when finished — proved to be a pair of turtle doves cooing, and presented it to me with one of the most bewitching smiles, and as I wandered down the main aisle contemplating the magnificence before me, I could not help wondering as I looked on my turtle doves — if the dainty little representative of the Yale Fountain Pen Co. meant one for herself and the other for me? — perhaps!
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.