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Original Big 4 Fountain Pen Companies


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22 replies to this topic

#1 punchy71

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 18:10

I read a website that said Waterman was part of the original "Big 4" fountain pen companies in the United States, but the site didn't mention who the other "Big 3" companies were. Who were the other 3 and who was the biggest of the 4 and who was the smallest? I guess it would go by market share- who had the largest slice of the pie and who had the smallest say during the golden age of American Fountain pen companies.

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#2 Brian

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 18:20

Waterman, Parker, Eversharp or Wahl Eversharp, and Sheaffer. It's hard to say who was the biggest as that title seems to have changed hands depending on the year. I wonder if we ask that question today who would today's big four be?

#3 Delphideo

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 18:35

Waterman, Parker, Eversharp or Wahl Eversharp, and Sheaffer. It's hard to say who was the biggest as that title seems to have changed hands depending on the year. I wonder if we ask that question today who would today's big four be?


Here on FPN it's Lamy, TWSBI, Edison, and Noodler's.

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#4 punchy71

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 18:56

Would someone kindly move this post to the history section, thank you.

#5 OldGriz

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 20:36

Waterman, Parker, Eversharp or Wahl Eversharp, and Sheaffer. It's hard to say who was the biggest as that title seems to have changed hands depending on the year. I wonder if we ask that question today who would today's big four be?


Here on FPN it's Lamy, TWSBI, Edison, and Noodler's.

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Ain't ever going to happen..... :rolleyes: :thumbup: :rolleyes:
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#6 raging.dragon

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 22:06

I read a website that said Waterman was part of the original "Big 4" fountain pen companies in the United States, but the site didn't mention who the other "Big 3" companies were. Who were the other 3 and who was the biggest of the 4 and who was the smallest? I guess it would go by market share- who had the largest slice of the pie and who had the smallest say during the golden age of American Fountain pen companies.


The original big 4 were: Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Conklin. Conklin declined through the 1920's and by 1930 Whal Eversharpe had supplanted Conklin on the Big 4 list.

NOTE: I got this information from Richard Binder's article in the April 2011 issue of Pen World.

Edited by raging.dragon, 07 August 2011 - 22:09.


#7 FarmBoy

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 22:06

Waterman, Parker, Eversharp or Wahl Eversharp, and Sheaffer. It's hard to say who was the biggest as that title seems to have changed hands depending on the year. I wonder if we ask that question today who would today's big four be?


Here on FPN it's Lamy, TWSBI, Edison, and Noodler's.

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Ain't ever going to happen..... :rolleyes: :thumbup: :rolleyes:

Sure it could. I already non-moderate the first, you could take on the second. I'll send you a kilt.
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#8 Florida Blue

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 23:23

As much as pen connoisseurs wouldn't like to admit Wearever was the largest fountain pen manufacturer in the world by the 1950s making tens of millions of pens each year easily surpassing the production of Parker or Sheaffer.
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#9 DrPJM1

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 00:36

As much as pen connoisseurs wouldn't like to admit Wearever was the largest fountain pen manufacturer in the world by the 1950s making tens of millions of pens each year easily surpassing the production of Parker or Sheaffer.


That's because we are in The Nile ;) The big 4 were Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Conklin.
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#10 Florida Blue

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 01:52

As much as pen connoisseurs wouldn't like to admit Wearever was the largest fountain pen manufacturer in the world by the 1950s making tens of millions of pens each year easily surpassing the production of Parker or Sheaffer.


That's because we are in The Nile ;) The big 4 were Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Conklin.


It's not just a river in Egypt :roflmho:
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#11 ANM

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 02:20

When you speak of the big four in fountain pens in the United States, it generally refers to the golden age which could arguably be at about same time as the decline of hard rubber pens. That was the mid twenties through the forties. That was the time Conklin was in decline and also about the time the Wahl Evershsarp company began aggressively marketing fountains pens. By then they had introduced the rollerball clip, desk pens with tapers, Gold Seal Insignia and Art Deco style pens and probably some of the most beautiful plastics. In my opinion, Conklin was never part of the big four during the golden age of fountain pens. It is generally acknowledged that Sheaffer, Parker, Waterman and Wahl-Eversharp were the classic big four in fountain pen. Before then and after then other companies held some degree of prominence but those are the four of which are meant when Big Four is mentioned in respect to that historical era.
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#12 ANM

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 02:36

I read a website that said Waterman was part of the original "Big 4" fountain pen companies in the United States, but the site didn't mention who the other "Big 3" companies were. Who were the other 3 and who was the biggest of the 4 and who was the smallest? I guess it would go by market share- who had the largest slice of the pie and who had the smallest say during the golden age of American Fountain pen companies.


The original big 4 were: Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Conklin. Conklin declined through the 1920's and by 1930 Whal Eversharpe had supplanted Conklin on the Big 4 list.

NOTE: I got this information from Richard Binder's article in the April 2011 issue of Pen World.


I don't see how Sheaffer could be considered a part of the 'big 4" along with Conklin. Sheaffer did not become a large company until around 1926. They incorporated as a pen company in 1913 but reached the status of a large pen company with the introduction of Radite (Pyroxylin) as a fountain pen material. That corresponds with the era of Conklins decline and Eversharp's emergence. Waterman, Parker and Conklin were big companies in the early part of that century but the big four were the largest pen makers during the latter part of the 20's through the early part of the 50's. Waterman was declining by then.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. TS Eliot

#13 ANM

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 02:43

I read a website that said Waterman was part of the original "Big 4" fountain pen companies in the United States, but the site didn't mention who the other "Big 3" companies were. Who were the other 3 and who was the biggest of the 4 and who was the smallest? I guess it would go by market share- who had the largest slice of the pie and who had the smallest say during the golden age of American Fountain pen companies.



None of the 4 began and ended the classic era as the largest. The one which was the largest switched between Waterman, Sheaffer and Parker. Sheaffer and Parker seesawed the honor. I don't think Eversharp was ever in the lead though. They were the only one of the big four that was a corporation before they ever made fountain pens and never a family run business like the other three. They probably ran their large company by committee and divisional heads. They were the last one to stop using hard rubber altogether and late in the game of introducing plastic pens. They had a big snafu with ball points and were never able to be considered the biggest pen company although as a business enterprise on the whole were probably the biggest in that regard.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. TS Eliot

#14 JefferyS

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 02:48

Until 1968, Parker and Sheaffer were the only two I had ever known. My next FP was a Cross in 1998.
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#15 Silent Speaker

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 04:09

It's Ironic that Mabie Todd's came to be considered the "Pen of the British Empire" during the early 20th, considering the company originated in the US.

I don't know how 'big' they were when their US side was still doing well, but they are certainly 19th century.

#16 Richard

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 02:52

I don't see how Sheaffer could be considered a part of the 'big 4" along with Conklin...

It has to do with a variety of factors. Sheaffer introduced the lever filling system, Sheaffer was the first widely U.S. successful manufacturer to use celluloid, Sheaffer was known for its quality and invented the concept of a lifetime warranty (and in so doing gave Parker fits), Sheaffer was a multinational company by the mid-1920s and was by then selling pens at a faster rate than Conklin ever managed. The consensus among the experienced collectors of my acquaintance (which includes Andy Lambrou and Stuart Schneider as well as others of equal stature if not equal publishing credentials) is that the Big Four were Parker=, Waterman, Sheaffer, and Conklin until about 1927 when Wahl-Eversharp displaced Conklin.
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#17 Richard

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 02:54

As much as pen connoisseurs wouldn't like to admit Wearever was the largest fountain pen manufacturer in the world by the 1950s making tens of millions of pens each year easily surpassing the production of Parker or Sheaffer.

But by the mid-'60s, Esterbrook was making more pens in seven plants worldwide: 600,000 per DAY. That's 6,000,000 pens every two weeks. Put that in your David Kahn and smoke it. :P
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#18 Roger W.

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 04:26

When you speak of the big four in fountain pens in the United States, it generally refers to the golden age which could arguably be at about same time as the decline of hard rubber pens. That was the mid twenties through the forties. That was the time Conklin was in decline and also about the time the Wahl Evershsarp company began aggressively marketing fountains pens. By then they had introduced the rollerball clip, desk pens with tapers, Gold Seal Insignia and Art Deco style pens and probably some of the most beautiful plastics. In my opinion, Conklin was never part of the big four during the golden age of fountain pens. It is generally acknowledged that Sheaffer, Parker, Waterman and Wahl-Eversharp were the classic big four in fountain pen. Before then and after then other companies held some degree of prominence but those are the four of which are meant when Big Four is mentioned in respect to that historical era.


Boston Fountain Pen Company introduced the roller ball clip. They were later purchased by Wahl. Sheaffer introduced the desk pen with Wahl and Parker close behind. These three formed the Pen Desk Set Company to pool patents and control the desk set market with Wahl the obvious junior partner of the other two. Wahl is very interesting in that they are the last company in the big four and the first out with a run from 1917-1957 (I think it is '57) so a mere 40 years in pens (Wahl was founded earlier selling primarily a add on adding machine for the Remington typewriter but, they also made brake parts).

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#19 Roger W.

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 04:36

I read a website that said Waterman was part of the original "Big 4" fountain pen companies in the United States, but the site didn't mention who the other "Big 3" companies were. Who were the other 3 and who was the biggest of the 4 and who was the smallest? I guess it would go by market share- who had the largest slice of the pie and who had the smallest say during the golden age of American Fountain pen companies.


The original big 4 were: Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Conklin. Conklin declined through the 1920's and by 1930 Whal Eversharpe had supplanted Conklin on the Big 4 list.

NOTE: I got this information from Richard Binder's article in the April 2011 issue of Pen World.


I don't see how Sheaffer could be considered a part of the 'big 4" along with Conklin. Sheaffer did not become a large company until around 1926. They incorporated as a pen company in 1913 but reached the status of a large pen company with the introduction of Radite (Pyroxylin) as a fountain pen material. That corresponds with the era of Conklins decline and Eversharp's emergence. Waterman, Parker and Conklin were big companies in the early part of that century but the big four were the largest pen makers during the latter part of the 20's through the early part of the 50's. Waterman was declining by then.


Sheaffer's sales surpassed Parker in 1921 but, both lagged Wahl's gross sales which were based on more than pens. All three were roughly on par by 1926 with the fourth, Waterman, lagging considerably behind. Another interesting fact about the big four is beyond them, only one other company was ever publicly listed in the 1920's and that was Ingersoll in 1926 and 1927.

Also, Radite was introduced in 1924 predating Pyroxylin by two years both of which were proprietary names for Celluloid Nitrate.

Roger W.

#20 ANM

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 05:04

My point is that it is quite a novel thing to say that Conklin was one of the big four for the purposes of answering the original posters question about who they were. During what is considered the 'golden age' of fountain pens, the classic big four did not include Conklin. Putting Conklin in with three others as the big four requires a caveat that it wasn't during the time frame usually thought about when discussing that subject.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. TS Eliot






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