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When Did Dip Pens Fall Out Of Common Use?

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58 replies to this topic

#1 Threadbear

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 20:12

Sorry if this has been covered before, but it's been nagging at me and a search didn't turn anything up.

I've seen topics about the early history of fountain pens, and how the rise of biros put them into eclipse. But I've been wondering, how long did dip pens continue in common use, i.e. not just for calligraphy? I'm sure I've seen posts by people mentioning that they used dip pens in school, and Sheaffer was producing dip pens with inkwell stands in the mid 20th century.

Can anyone shed any light on this?

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#2 Charles Rice

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 20:25

Just judging from movies and documentaries, dip pens pretty much went bye bye after WWI, BUT, I just watched a Ken Burns presentation about FDR, and there he was using a dip pen (while he was in the White House) and it was NOT some kind of ceremonial signing. 

 

PS - I just wrote a three page letter with a dip pen and Shelby Foote wrote all of his books with one. 



#3 jar

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 20:25

They were certainly still pretty common in the 40s and 50s. I don't remember seeing them much after that though.


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#4 Yaakova

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 20:29

I inherited a cache of pen nibs from my great grandmother. They were stored in a hundred-year-old prescription pill tin. I'm sure my grandmother used this kind of pen in the one-room country school she attended up until the early 1930's. For all I know, some of these may have belonged to her.

 

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Edited by Yaakova, 25 September 2014 - 21:13.

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#5 Jerome Tarshis

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 20:50

I entered elementary school in 1942 and during the first few years of being taught to write in school, I used dip pens, which were called in the United States "straight pens," in the classroom. There was actually ink supplied by the school for the inkwells that were ubiquitous in school desks in those years. In a short time I evolved into using fountain pens, although the school still had huge bottles of ink for us to refill our pens.

 

During the 1950s I was a summer clerk with the New York Life Insurance Company, doing a rather Dickensian kind of work that involved writing numbers in large worksheets. Amid acres of other clerks. Although it seemed clear to me that in the earlier history of that company and similar companies, the clerks would have been writing with straight pens and dipping them, we used fountain pens. The company supplied ink for those who wanted it. That was pretty common in the business world of my youth, at least in large enough companies.

 

Although the ballpoint pen had been introduced immediately after World War II, and I once owned a Reynolds Rocket, they were a novelty that didn't really take off until some time in the 1950s. Fountain pens were still normal, though. The Parker 75 was introduced into a world in which the fountain pen was beginning its transition from universality to luxury or eccentricity. It is no use saying that schoolchildren are or were required to use them in one country or another; FPN members from countries that required or still require children to write with them now tell us hardly anyone of adult years uses them. (Well, maybe lawyers.) From Mother India we hear complaints that it's hard to find bottled FP ink. Our world is not ruled by elementary-school teachers.



#6 Threadbear

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 21:00

Thanks guys, all this info is really great! It seems incredible to me that dip pens were still being used on a fairly large scale not long before ballpoint pens took off. If the convenience of the ballpoint meant they largely displaced FPs within a couple of decades, I would've thought the apparently even greater convenience of FPs compared to dip pens would've killed off the latter in short order.

#7 brownargus

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 21:09

I was at school in England until 1953. I can confirm that dip pens were still in use up to that time, but many pupils including me owned, our own fountain pens. Can't remember about the source of ink but I probably provided my own. Ball pens were still quite expensive and the ink quality wasn't good - it tended to bleed through the paper over time. In any case, they were banned at the grammar school I attended ostensibly because they detracted from the development of good handwriting.

Edited by brownargus, 25 September 2014 - 21:11.

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#8 Ernst Bitterman

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 21:25

They were still being produced, in a developed form, Sheaffer ("Safeguard"), Parker ("Guardsman"), and Esterbrook ("Dipless" 440 model) through the 1950s, and in the case of the latter two, well into the 1960s-- the Guardsman used a section the same shape as the VP, and that didn't exist until after 1960.  These all had their own ink supply in the base of course, but the 1956 Esterbrook catalogue still had pages of the more commonly thought-of dip pens listed as for commercial, accountant and school use, which suggests there was a market for that sort of thing at least as late as... well, 1955.

 

One of the reasons for dip pens to hold on in certain areas is because the nature of the beast tied the pen to its ink supply.  Banks, hotel counters and similar public-use points kept various dippy pens around for ages after BPs became not only available, but good to use (remembering that 1945 to 1950 or so, BPs were relatively expensive and unreliable).


Edited by Ernst Bitterman, 25 September 2014 - 22:04.

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#9 Roger W.

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 21:31

I was given the dip nibs that were used by the local bank.  I assume they had been in use in the 50's possibly 60's.  They were in excellent condition and I got them around 1980 so they had sat around for some time.

 

Roger W.



#10 JMichael

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 22:48

I attended high school in the early sixties and the school office had the Esterbrook dipless pens on all the office counters.  These were dip pens with feeds which had a base filled with ink.  We used them to fill out excuse slips for this or that, or to sign back in if we were returning from an authorized absence. 



#11 dcwaites

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 23:12

A dip pen is given to Janet Leigh by Anthony Perkins to sign in to the Bates Motel in the film Psycho in 1960. It is such a natural part of the scene that I have never seen anybody remark on it. I assume therefore that dip pens were still not unusual up until at least the early '60s.

And, as others have mentioned, they were still used in schools to teach handwriting up until the mid 1960s.


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#12 JMichael

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 23:55

I lived in Europe in the late fifties and remember many of the hotels still used dip pens for guests to sign the guest register.

#13 Sasha Royale

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 00:45

Let's see ---- The personal fountain was common in the 1930's among those willing to spend the money.

WWII staff offices still had ink bottles on the desks, for use with office dip pens.  My dad's accounting 

office used ultra fine dip pens.  Edith filled the inkwells on Mondays.  Some, or most, of the staff had 

personal fountain pens.  Sheaffers were popular.  

 

As a pre-adolescent boy (DOB 1950), Dad opened a savings account for me.  The counter at the bank

had a dip pen.  He took me to the main Post Office, in Washington DC, several times.  I remember dip pens 

at the counter.  By 1960 / 1961, they were mostly gone.  Until 9th grade (1964 ?), my desks at school had

the round, ink bottle hole in the corner.  

 

Dad liked to give Parker Jotters as gifts in the 1950's and 1960's.  Parker made another bp before the 

Jotter.  I wanted one more than life !  However, fifty years later, I have survived without ever seeing one.

It was the "HOPALONE CASSIDY BALLPOINT PEN" .   :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:

 

Will one of our Parker-loving members post a photo, and give me peace ?  


Edited by Sasha Royale, 26 September 2014 - 00:48.

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#14 jar

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 01:09

Let's see ---- The personal fountain was common in the 1930's among those willing to spend the money.

WWII staff offices still had ink bottles on the desks, for use with office dip pens.  My dad's accounting 

office used ultra fine dip pens.  Edith filled the inkwells on Mondays.  Some, or most, of the staff had 

personal fountain pens.  Sheaffers were popular.  

 

As a pre-adolescent boy (DOB 1950), Dad opened a savings account for me.  The counter at the bank

had a dip pen.  He took me to the main Post Office, in Washington DC, several times.  I remember dip pens 

at the counter.  By 1960 / 1961, they were mostly gone.  Until 9th grade (1964 ?), my desks at school had

the round, ink bottle hole in the corner.  

 

Dad liked to give Parker Jotters as gifts in the 1950's and 1960's.  Parker made another bp before the 

Jotter.  I wanted one more than life !  However, fifty years later, I have survived without ever seeing one.

It was the "HOPALONE CASSIDY BALLPOINT PEN" .   :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:  :puddle:

 

Will one of our Parker-loving members post a photo, and give me peace ?  

 

Not the Parker but rather a Barlow.

 

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#15 Florida Blue

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 01:48

Both John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used Esterbrook Dipless dip pens as president in the 1960s.


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#16 Octo

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 02:22

I remember my mother buying  Sheaffer dip pen in the 1950's.  It was a true dip pen with a square base containing the ink reservoir.  The top of the base had four spirals as decorations.  I was not allowed to touch the pen (too young.) 

 

Sheaffer cartridge pens and ball point pens came in at about the same time as I recall.  Ball point pen inks were greasy, skippy, and unreliable.  I've wondered if cartridge pens were a last-ditch effort to challenge the rising popularity of the new ball point pens.  ?



#17 Charles Rice

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 03:15

Hmm, by dip pen, I was referring to nib only pens (the kind that give you at most about a line of writing per dip), not dip pens that held ink in a feed of some sort.  I certainly do remember going to a bank in the 60s and using a dip Esterbrook. 



#18 scrivelry

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 04:02

On my father's side of the family, there were no fountain pens at home through the 50's.  There were dip pens and ink.  On my mother's side of the family, there were fountain pens at some point, but I am not sure there were any at home in the 50's. 

 

As for holes in the desks for the inkwells, however, in NYC it was after 2000 and there were still desks with holes in them for inkwells in some schools..  The students stuck their umbrellas in the holes on rainy days.



#19 LamyOne

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 12:07

Hello Threadbear,

 

I find this question a little confusing. :huh:  What to do you mean, "when did people stop using dip pens?"  Do you mean we stopped using them and nobody bothered to tell me about it? :o

 

Best regards,

 

Chris

 

PS: I must confess, I haven't used mine in around a year. :D


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#20 LamyOne

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 12:11

As for holes in the desks for the inkwells, however, in NYC it was after 2000 and there were still desks with holes in them for inkwells in some schools..  The students stuck their umbrellas in the holes on rainy days.

 

Hello Scrivelry,

 

I am really surprised to read this!  I went to elementary school in a small town in the '70s and we didn't have desks with inkwells in them anymore - we did have recesses carved out for pencils and pens, though.

 

Best regards,

 

Chris


- He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me; and I in him. (JN 6:57)

- "A woman clothed in the sun," (REV 12.1); The Sun Danced at Fatima, Portugal; October 13, 1917.

- Thank you Blessed Mother and St. Jude for Graces and Blessings obtained from Our Lord.

 






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