You had the first tier companies that made the highest level of quality pens, like Sheaffer, Parker, Waterman, etc... then there was a second, and third, and even bottom tier (religious wars have been fought over designations) who were not the largest companies, but often made quite good pens as well. Often they were not as large, not as prolific and their pens were often not as fancy, but some "lower" tier pens, like the Morrison and the Esterbrook pens, have very loyal followings and their pens are still used today. The bottom tier were companies that made cheap pens in massed amounts sold in drug stores for very little money. ($0.99-cent pens vs. $5.00 Sheaffer, for example)
Think of it like automobiles where there are the big companies like Honda or Toyota which make solid, top-quality cars, and even some luxury lines. Then second tier might be companies like Hundai which make good, solid cars, but not as luxurious as some of the top-tier companies (e.g. stainless steel clips instead of gold or gold-filled clips). Then there was the bottom tier of the pen world. They may have a nib, a cap and a body so should be called a fountain pen, but using them was like driving a Yugo.
“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928
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