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Blackbird Safety Pen - Did It Exist?

mabie todd merle blanc blackbird safety pen 1920s

14 replies to this topic

#1 iiiiiii

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 20:13

I have stumbled across the Merle Blanc retractable safety pen made in England. I have not yet found any information on similar Blackbirds and been wondering whether there were any or this particular Merle Blanc was just a rebranded version of the Swan safety pen made for the French market?

Edited by birchtine, 19 August 2015 - 20:26.


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#2 Cob

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 20:17

No information from me I'm afraid, just the observation that the Safety Pen seems to have been very attractive to the French.  No doubt having recently assumed ownership of all Mabie Todd territories outside the USA, the English operation was keen to exploit this opportunity. I have never seen a Swan safety pen, by which I mean of course a retractable one.

 

Merle Blanc was of course the French version of the Blackbird; "Merle Blanc" curious!

 

Cob


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


#3 iiiiiii

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 20:44

Thanks Cob, I will post some pictures of the pen soon. Regarding the Swan safety pens I can't remember seeing any advertisements but I saw some pictures before and the pens pop up on ebay at times. There is at least one on sale at the very momement but the price is way too high for my limited budget:

http://www.ebay.co.u...=item5d5ba73d90

You may be right that they were more popular in France than for example in the UK since I rarely see them locally but quite often on French ebay.

#4 Cob

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Posted 19 August 2015 - 21:00

Thanks Cob, I will post some pictures of the pen soon. Regarding the Swan safety pens I can't remember seeing any advertisements but I saw some pictures before and the pens pop up on ebay at times. There is at least one on sale at the very momement but the price is way too high for my limited budget:

http://www.ebay.co.u...=item5d5ba73d90

You may be right that they were more popular in France than for example in the UK since I rarely see them locally but quite often on French ebay.

That's a nice one and I'll bet that the nib is a gem.

 

.  I have bought several safeties from France and still have two of them which I must get moving on.  There are always quite a few available there, hence my conclusion that they enjoyed a vogue there.

 

Cob


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


#5 MarcShiman

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Posted 20 August 2015 - 13:24

Swan did something called the "Self Propelling Pen" - it must be what they rebadged for Merle Blanc at the time to satisfy the needs of the market. I'll see if I can find some advertising on it.



#6 Azuniga

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Posted 20 August 2015 - 15:38

This is the only information I can add to this important post

Attached Images

  • 1.jpg


#7 Cepasaccus

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 19:42

My P.R.2 is also from France with 18k nib. It is capped 124.2mm long. How long is your Merle Blanc?

 

I really can't understand why the British didn't like safeties. They are fantastic regarding drying up. The P.R.2 lost in 20 days less than the precision of the scale, i.e. less than 10 mg water. On a typical fountain pen of that time it would be in 20 days about 100 to 200 mg. This resistance to drying up is what I like of them too. I can store an inked pen for halve a year without any problem. So why not in the UK? Maybe the British are to hectic? Just kidding. :)



#8 iiiiiii

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Posted 24 August 2015 - 14:23

Thank you all and I apologise for keeping you waiting. I am attaching several basic photos. I will try to take proper ones sometime later.

So, I haven't attempted to clean or polish it yet.

The 'Warranted 18Ct 1st Quality' nib is almost certainly a replacement; probably the feed too.

The barrel is chased in a very similar way to other Blackbirds of the same period. Also it is of similar size and shape.

I am not sure if the cap belongs to this model. It does seem to fit, but it is plain and slightly wider than the caps of my other Blackbirds. I'm afraid I have no suitable Swans I could compare it to.

The cap doesn't have a breathing hole. I am not sure if there is any inner cap. Instead, I can see a sort of cork insert (to protect the nib?).


Lengths (in mm):

Pen closed: ~125.8
Barrel: 116.5
Cap: 37.5

Diameter:

Cap: 12.8
Barrel (max): 11.2
Knob: 10.9

Weight: ~13 g (cap/barrel: ~3.5/~7.5)

merle_safety_res3.jpg
merle_safety_res5.jpg
merle_safety_res4.jpg
merle_safety_res2.jpg
merle_safety_res1.jpg

Is this pen based on one of the regular Blackbirds or rebranded Swan Minor? What do you think?

Edited by birchtine, 24 August 2015 - 14:25.


#9 Cepasaccus

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Posted 24 August 2015 - 15:40

If there is a cork inlay in the cap it is likely, that the cap is a replacement. Genuine caps don't have that.

 

Here is a dis- and reassembly of a Waterman's pen:

http://www.penexchan...ller_reparieren

 

This is also how French companies built their pens. The Mabie-Todd mechanism is similar, but the pin shown in this photo:

http://www.penexchan...der_Helix-3.jpg

is going sideways through the turning knob.



#10 iiiiiii

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Posted 28 August 2015 - 23:22

Thank you Cepasaccus. I'm not going to restore the pen for now, but your manual is really helpful in understanding how safety pens were built and work.

You are abslutely right that the cap is a replacement. I was playing with other Blackbird caps from the period and they provide better fit, although the original one must have been way shorter.

Finally, I managed to find the answer to my original question and apparently there was a retractable Blackbird. It was mentioned in one of the older FPN threads:

http://www.fountainp...an-came-flying/


Edited by birchtine, 28 August 2015 - 23:43.


#11 sidthecat

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 17:43

I have a tiny Invicta safety that I fill with a hypodermic syringe...it really is small. "Safety", however, is a relative term. We discovered this when we let the recently-filled pen fall from our fingers while the nib was still retracted. Perhaps they were less hazardous than a dip pen in the day.



#12 Cepasaccus

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Posted 01 September 2015 - 20:20

Try to put an inked dip pen into your pocket.



#13 sidthecat

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Posted 02 September 2015 - 04:22

Perhaps that's the origin of the term "ink-stained wretch".

#14 Cepasaccus

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Posted 02 September 2015 - 14:30

I have to confess. I bought the mottled Swan from ebay linked above. It is also has an 18ct NY nib. Upon disassembling the pin at the knob broke into three pieces, but I am not sure it is the original one as it is all black and it was to short by 2mm. Should I reuse the two longest pieces? Should I look for a different BHR pin? Or should I make a 1.5mm silver wire as a pin which could be blackened if needed?

 

Cepasaccus



#15 Cepasaccus

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Posted 02 September 2015 - 18:01

That is it. Dimensions in the Dimensions thread. I put in the borken pin. If I find something better, I can change it.

 

fpn_1441215367__mottled_swan_pr2-1.jpg

fpn_1441215394__mottled_swan_pr2-2.jpg
 





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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: mabie todd, merle blanc, blackbird, safety pen, 1920s



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