Summer is a strange period of the year. You happen to do things in summer that you wouldn’t do during the rest of the year. This summer my pen love is the Skyline. Under impulse I purchased two specimen from ebay, one from UK and one from USA. They came at my door on the same day, then I spent some happy night on cleaning and (partially) restoring them, and now I am enjoying their nice presence at work. Here’s my review of this underrated pen.
The writing instruments division of Eversharp Inc. was sold to Parker more than 50 years ago (in 1957), so it is possible that someone today never heard about it.
The Wahl company was sort of a uniqueness in the early American pen market. While the major firms (Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer’s) were the brainchild of a single man and later developed under the same family, Wahl was a big corporation that wanted to enter in a new market to diversify its investment portfolio. Originally the Wahl Corp. was in the business for a Calculator, which they manufactured primarily as an add-on calculator for the Remington Typewriter Co.
When they decided to enter the writing instruments field, they proceeded in two steps:
- 1915 Wahl start to produce the Eversharp Pencil in Chicago (It’s not clear if that kind of pencil was invented in Japan by Hayakawa Tokuji who later founded the Sharp Electronics company or in New York by Charles Keeran in 1913, but either way, there we go);
- 1917 Wahl acquire the Boston Pen Company, that already had in production a good quality fountain pen made in ebonite marked by a clip wheel. The pens were marketed branded "Wahl";
The early forties were a period of innovations in the fountain pen industry: Parker just released the 51, Sheaffer’s was about to introduce the Triumph nib, new filling mechanisms were tested. Eversharp wanted something to mark the watershed with the previous production and called the famous Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972, who designed the 20th Century Limited locomotive) to design a pen that had to be like no one else.
The NYC 20th Century Limited locomotive designed by Dreyfuss
The pen was a success, eventually becoming, by 1945, the best selling pen in the USA. However in the same year Eversharp stopped advertising the Skyline in favor of other models such as the Fifth Avenue, but the "old" model was produced until 1948, when the Symphony was introduced.
Because of the success and the long production timeframe, the pen can be found in a broad variety of colors and finishes. The most common are: full solid color cap & barrel; Striped (only cap or cap & barrel); Presentation (gold filled cap); all metal (caps and barrels in gold-filled, sterling silver or vermeil); metal cap (stainless steel, sterling, vermeil or 14kt gold caps);
The Skyline came in three basic sizes: standard, short, and the oversize Executive (about 4 ¾ inches, 5 ¼ inches, and 5 ½ inches long, respectively). The last is quite rare, despite having been a regularly catalogued model. The caps on the two smaller models are threaded the same and can interchange. The earliest Skylines have a black visulated section and an ink drain, rather than the later breather tube. No major change can help in better dating a Skyline after this change.
Between 1992 and 1995 there was a series of reissued cartridge / converter Skylines. These included a chrome and gold plated cap model similar to the silver and gold radial engraved capped pens from the 1940s. It is unclear to me who actually produced these reissues.
So, now, back to my two specimens. They are:
- A dark blue solid color, purchased in ebay USA, that once belonged to a nun (her name is engraved on the pen "sr. m immaculata”);
- A dark brown Presentation model, purchased from UK again on ebay;
Size & Appearance
Both models are the Standard size, around 5 ¼ long when capped. The pen looks like an arrow, with a big domed cap end and a pointy, thin end. The design of the cap is especially striking, with the round “derby” fasten by the two gold bands. I found this detail very distinctive and beautiful.
The barrel has a step on the middle of the barrel that is useful to preserve a clean line when the pen is capped and provide a nice place where the fingers can hold the instrument.
When the Skyline was introduced, plastics technology was under a revolution as polystyrene plastics replaced celluloid. Polystyrene did not need to be machined and finished by hand and could be molded with even quality and uniformity.
But the Skyline, as an “early adopter”, proved to be prone to shrinkage, discoloration, and deterioration. I don’t see any of these problem on my pens, but possibly these dark colors are not original to them and are the results of a discoloration process.
Design & Features
The pens, especially the Presentation, have a good weight. I don’t post when writing but I guess that even the “posters” here will find the weight of the cap too much for posting. The pen results unbalance towards the end (only for the Presentation model). However posting is easy nevertheless the strange shape. The cap sits down and securely firm in the barrel, completely covering the lever (that may result in some damage if done inaccurately, I guess…)
The clip is attached on the back of the derby and runs all around the cap top, creating a nice spring movement. Also, because of this design, it is possible to push the pen in the pocket quite down. No surprise it was designed in a wartime period!
The clip sports the name Eversharp written in vertical and the famous double check, which was the “quality” sign of the company, just as the white dot still is for Sheaffer’s. Around the ring that divide the cap from the derby there is the following engraving: “Eversharp Skyline Pat. Made in USA”
Compared to the advanced design, the mechanic is quite conservative. Along with Waterman, Eversharp was the only from the big four having a lever filler on the top pens.
Lever filler is synonymous with reliable, but that was not the case. Out of the two pens I got from ebay one had a broken inner lever, and the other broke the section mouth when I attempted to remove a stuck sac. Too bad. Now I have adjusted the broken section, but I had to live with a “pump filler” for the other one. Here is a picture of the broken lever. Next is the section while is drying shellac with a new sac.
Nib & Performance
Unfortunately there are no sign to mark the nib size on either of my pens. Looking at the point I’d say these are two fine points, but once inked (I inked only one so far, since the broken section is still under reconstruction…) it proved to be a smooth and wet nib, and the line is more a medium than a fine. I’ll post some writing sample later on. There is some flexy feeling too. A very nice writer.
I’ve inked the Presentation pen (the one that now is a pump filler) with Pelikan Royal Blue. The flow results even and abundant, possibly thanks to the 1cm long breather tube that was introduced after two year to improve the ink flow.
Cost & Value
Originally the pens sold in a wide price range, from low-cost all-plastic pens to all solid 14 karat gold models: pens from US $3.50 to $125.00, pencils from US $1.50 to $75.00, and complete sets from US $5.00 to $200.00.
Well, today one of the nicer things about the Skylines is that they are not so popular. I got them for 14,38$ (the blue one) and 25£ (the Presentation) which nowadays can be considered fair prices. You won’t find the same prices for Snorkels or 51s these days...
In addition they are quite easy to repair and they promise a long serving life.
All in all that’s a great pen. Striking design, reliable mechanics (despite my experience, but I have several Sheaffer’s from the 20s/30s that works like a charm), nice writers, good value for the money. There are a lot of ingredients to make the Skyline one pen to look at when purchasing vintage.
Thank you for reading and regards,
Some reference material in case you want to read more:
Edited by theUser, 05 December 2009 - 17:43.