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Mabie Todd Swan "safety Pen" Eyedropper: Can You Help With Information?

mabie todd swan eyedropper

2 replies to this topic

#1 stephanos



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Posted 18 February 2015 - 21:46

I was given a rather lovely Swan pen yesterday, of a sort that (in my limited experience) I haven't seen before. So I would very much like to know more about it. This is a long post, but I'm putting as much detail in as I can to increase the chances that someone will be able to help. I didn't find anything on FPN that might help - but if I've missed something, please just point me in the right direction.


It looks like a good quality piece, and there are no leaks or cracks. An overnight soak of the nib revealed lots of gunk, and it needs further cleaning, but it is unblocked enough that water flows through. I guess it's pre-WWII, given that it's an eyedropper. But it has clearly been reasonably well looked after, so I doubt the nib is a replacement. It also seems likely that the box is original to the pen. Pictures follow, but I don't have a good camera with me, so please note the following details (all writing on the pen is in CAPS, and / indicates a new line):


* Cap: feels like solid metal, and is gold coloured (rolled gold?), with the Swan logo at the top of the clip. No finial 'jewel'. It's a screw-cap.


* Barrel: deep green - can read as black in poor light. No evidence of fading. Smells a bit funny - if I had to guess, I'd say it isn't plastic. Barrel imprint is slightly faded, but still reasonably crisp. It has the Swan logo with "trade mark" written underneath. The imprint says, "'Swan' Safety Pen / Mabie Todd & co. Ltd / Made in England"


* Section is black and has an imprint: "Swan"


* Nib appears to be fairly rigid - much less flexible than the thin Swan eyedropper (e.g.) and Blackbird lever-filler (e.g.)  pens I have (EDIT for clarity. It's not a nail - you can get some line variation out of it, from what I can see when it is filled with water - but it differs markedly in feel from the other Mabie Todd pens I have tried). The nib seems to be a number 1: it is marked, "Swan / 1 / 14ct / Mabie Todd / & Co Ltd


* Feed is black, smells a little like the Noodler's pens and is marked "Swan". I haven't yet removed the nib and feed for cleaning.


The box is as shown in the first picture - pretty standard. The end of the box is marked "Safety" in black and "Fine" in red.


I'm including a picture of a bottom side of the box which quotes postage costs in both then-standard and imperial denominations, in case that helps to date it more exactly.


Finally, the pen came with an eyedropper in the box. The rubber feels a little old and slightly inflexible, but it works fine. I don't imagine it is original.





Entire ensemble



Pen: nib, barrel & cap



Nib close-up (to the extent that my camera does close-ups)



Finallly, instructions on exchanging nibs, including postage prices

Edited by stephanos, 18 February 2015 - 21:50.

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#2 Cob



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Posted 18 February 2015 - 22:23

Yes Swan made these eye-dropper safety pens in the 1950s; similarly Macniven & Cameron produced an eye-dropper (manufactured in fact by Burnham) with the famous Waverley nib.  I know that the Macniven and Cameron pen was manufactured for use in the Civil Service in the colonies since rubber sacs had a very short life in tropical conditions.  I imagine that Mabie Todd made these eye-droppers for similar reasons.


I imagine that the rubber on the eye-dropper is original...  You can buy new ones from Vintage Pens in the USA.  The nib looks quite fine.  Of course it should be removed and the feed thoroughly cleaned as the channels are likely to be partially clogged with dried very old ink.



Edited by Cob, 18 February 2015 - 22:25.

fpn_1428963683__6s.jpg “The pen of the British Empire” fpn_1423349537__swan_sign_is.jpg

#3 stephanos



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Posted 21 February 2015 - 00:18

Thank you, Cob.

1950s is more in keeping with the style of the pen, and the reason for an eye-dropper makes a lot of sense. So 1950s seems quite plausible.


And oh yes, there was an enormous amount of gunk in the channels. Even after a thorough manual clean it's still putting out a line of dirty water: clearly a good candidate for the ultrasonic cleaner, when I get one.

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