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Peregrine Williamson: The First American Pen Maker


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#1 AAAndrew

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 20:42

If you've ever looked into the history of steel pen making, you may have run across the name of Peregrine Williamson. He's often labeled as the first American Pen maker, and little else is ever said. He certainly was the first known maker, and almost certainly the first to make a living at it, but he was also an innovator and inventor who may well be credited with the most important early change to those first steel pens, the side slits. 
 
Joseph Gillott is often credited with inventing the side slits in order to increase the flexibility of the tines. Gillott's first patent, in 1831, claims this as his invention. Unfortunately for the conventional wisdom on this topic, it's quite clear that Peregrine Williamson first released his own side-slit (three-slit) pens at least as early as 1808, and was granted a patent for them in 1810. After realizing this, I had to find out more. 
 
After much research I've finally been able to piece together a few things about the mysterious Peregrine, and I've put them together along with a bit more information on the claims of Mr. Williamson to the invention of the side slit in my latest blog post
 
One other interesting claim made for him, was the practice of putting up pens on a card by the dozen. This was quite common among the early British pen makers in the 1820's and 30's. But an article in 1835 claims that at least a decade before that, Peregrine Williamson sent a card of his pens to England, and "imitations soon came back, placarded with an Englishman’s name as the inventors, “by His Majesty’s Royal Patent.” The Englishman [Gillott] could not invent so much as a card even, but made almost a facsimile of Mr. Williamson’s. The same cards have been perpetuated to this day..."  Perhaps Gillott just knew a good thing when he saw it, and a whole ocean separated the two, so why not?
 
And for those interested in fountain pen history, I believe I've found the distant ancestor of the Eversharp Doric's Adjustible nib. The ancient form was first patented in 1835 for a steel dip nib. 
 
If you're interested in the early history of pens, there's more in my blog post, with a number of old advertisements. Thanks for reading. 

Check out my Steel Pen Blog. https://thesteelpen.com/ . 

 

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne


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#2 sidthecat

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 04:50

Very interesting article. It makes me wonder, though: if Mr. Williamson was a jeweler, would he not have tried making a nib or two out of gold? It’s an easier metal to work, and certainly more durable than goose quills.
Is there any information regarding that?

#3 AAAndrew

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 12:29

No indication I’ve found that he ever used gold. There were some using gold before him in Britain, but he seemed to stick to steel. Perhaps the market for something as fancy as a gold pen was rather limited in America at that time. Even the market for steel pens seems to have dwindled to the point he left the business and moved on.

I’m no expert on gold pens, not like David Nishamura, but I seem to remember reading the first gold pen maker in the US was Levi Brown. (Levy?)
Check out my Steel Pen Blog. https://thesteelpen.com/ . 

 

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne







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