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Early Steel Pen Makers In America

josiah hayden massachusetts hayden steel pens history

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#1 AAAndrew

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Posted 21 November 2017 - 17:30

I've finished a new post on individual pen makers. The first one was Peregrine Williamson, who've I've written about before. He was most definitely first. Charles Atwood came second-ish, but not much is known about him. The one I just finished was Josiah Hayden, maker of Hayden's Premium Pens in the early-mid 1840's. 

 

fpn_1511285093__1842_hayden_j_and_p_prem

 

Hayden also made gold pens for a while before selling those works off to Dawson, Warren & Hyde who made a lot of gold pens up until the 1860's. 

 

fpn_1511285059__1863_dawson_warren_hyde.

 

I find this lost history of early industry quite interesting. And Hayden was another of the early makers who were forgotten not that many years later when the first histories of the US pen industry were first jotted down. I'm trying to bring their stories back when possible. 

 

I've also added a helpful Table of Contents that helps find the topics you're interested in on the blog. You can find it by clicking on the link on the left, or just go here.

 



“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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#2 AAAndrew

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Posted 28 November 2017 - 19:16

I've added C. C. Wright, a famous engraver and medallion carver who went commercial for a while and made pens in the 1840's. 



“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#3 AAAndrew

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 03:43

I published another one today. Myer Phineas is someone I've been looking at for quite a while. While he was the longest-producing US pen maker to come out of the 1840's (over 20 years), there are still so many mysteries. Like Athena he seems to spring to life fully-formed with a complex and disparate pen line. This seems to point toward his starting with someone else's machines, dies, etc... but it's not clear where these could have come from. Except for some odd dates, I would lay odds on C.C. Wright, but their dates overlap by a couple of years. He could have continued making Wright's pens for a year or two under contract while developing his own line, we know Wright was not really into making pens, but that's just pure speculation. 
 
One interesting thing I think I discovered is that he may well have been the inventor of what later became the Double Spring pen in his 1853 patent. (see the Esterbrook 126 Double Spring as a common version, but there were many others) He even called his a Double Spring pen years before Esterbrook even arrived on these shores. 
 
Anyway, one more major 1840's maker down. A few more to go, but we're starting to know less and less about the next couple. 
 
And I forgot to mention Mark Levy & Brothers, who I wrote about just the other day. That post is interesting because I actually have a Levy Brothers pen, and since they started in 1843 and stopped making them in 1845, it's also one I can date pretty accurately. 


“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#4 Bobje

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 12:49

Andrew, you’re creating an entertaining website that allows us to tag along on fascinating research. I especially enjoyed your observations on the differences between everyday writing and decorative writing in historical documents. Much of the everyday writing is so well composed that it appears decorative to my modern-day eye.

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#5 PAKMAN

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 15:09

Do you have any info on Perry nibs?


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#6 AAAndrew

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 19:14

Some. I have the early history of Perry but that’s probably not what you’re looking for. :)

What are you wanting to know?

“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#7 PAKMAN

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 16:54

My first name is Perry and I got my hands on a Perry Dip nib but didn't know any history on the company.


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#8 AAAndrew

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 18:01

Well, there's a little bit in the post on the 1820's in my blog. I can get more for you later, but tl;dr is basically Perry was one of the first and most successful pen makers and marketers. Josiah Mason actually made all of James Perry's pens until about 1870 when he went off on his own. Perry made all of the Spencerian Pen Company pens for most of that company's history. They also made pens for many other brands. They were a first-rate maker of top-quality pens. 

 

At one point (will get dates and details later when I have access to my book) they merged with several other pen companies, moved to Birmingham and formed Perry & Co. pen works. 

 

When I get back to the office where I have my main reference for British pens, I'll add more. 



“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#9 AAAndrew

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 21:22

As to the above question, Perry merged with several other Birmingham pen makers to form Perry & Co. Ltd. in 1879, with offices in London and Birmingham. 
 
I also wanted to announce a new maker just added to the blog
 
Added an interesting maker this afternoon. He was a tricky one to track down, but thanks to some help from the lovely Linda at the Birmingham Pen Museum, I think I've nailed down the British connections for Henry Benjamin Herts, known in the US as H. B. Herts & Sons, active in the 1840's and into the early 1850's in New York City. 
 
Herts was interesting in that he started making pens in Birmingham, and then moved to America in 1843. This is the first confirmed British pen maker moving to the US. It's not clear how the earlier makers learned how to make pens. Some like Atwood just invented their own techniques. It is clear that by the 1850's British pen manufacturing methods were the norm in American factories. 
 
Of course, it's also not clear if Herts actually made pens here or still made them in Birmingham and just sold them here through his American company. That's part of the mystery behind this relatively unknown pen maker of the 1840's. 


“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#10 mitto

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Posted 11 December 2017 - 10:28

Fascinating pages of history.
Khan

#11 AAAndrew

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Posted 11 December 2017 - 10:51

Fascinating pages of history.


Thanks! I’m glad someone else thinks so. I’m definitely having fun with it.

Things are getting much more complex as we move into the 1850’s. And more interesting.

“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#12 AAAndrew

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 19:11

I just added a new post looking at an 1850's account of the history of the US pen industry. When I first read this article from 1857 I had little if any idea of who they were talking about. Now, I can identify pretty much everyone, with only a couple of exceptions. 

 

In this post I go through the account and see what we can learn from the time, including what we don't know. 

 

This will be a good springboard to start looking at the next two decades together, the very momentous 1850's-1860's. 



“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#13 AAAndrew

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Posted 03 June 2018 - 16:48

I’m writing up some of my early history for an article for the Pennant. In the process I came across an account of an even earlier maker of steel pens than Peregrine Williamson. This famous person made pens of steel, gold, silver and platina. They were definitely in the realm of the crafts person making pens for themselves and maybe friends, so Williamson still stands as the earliest professional pen maker, but not all evidence has been reviewed. In he same set of letters is the first account of Wise’s pens here, in 1804. They were brought back from London by this famous person’s younger brother.

More details to come.

“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#14 AAAndrew

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Posted 25 July 2018 - 18:27

I haven't added much of late because I'm going through a rather intense self-study refresher course in the Industrial Revolution, both in Britain and in the US.
 
There were really two industrial revolutions or two phases of the same revolution. The first occurred primarily in Britain and really caught hold in the 18-teens to the 1840's. The second happened in both Britain and the US and began in the 1850's and really took off through the end of the century.
 
So many things changed about work, about how people lived, about materials and technology during these upheavals. There's a very good reason they're labeled "Revolutions." I'm working at placing the steel pen industry within these two periods. It's clear that the British steel pen industry was a product of the first phase of the industrial revolution. It benefited from advances in abundant and cheap steel of high quality, the greater availability of quality machine tools, and the innovations in assembly lines and management that occurred at this time.
 
In the US, the early pen makers seem to still be working in the workshop model of the previous century, until we get to the 1850's. Some of the early makers, like Myer Phineas,  and Mark Levy are complete mysteries as to how they actually made pens. I suspect they may have used a kind of hybrid workshop, assembly line approach. I think this because we do know they produced relatively large numbers of pens of various types, but they hadn't yet adopted the manufacturing practices of the British factories. A workshop large enough would most likely have incorporated some of the practices already being adopted in manufacturing in the US at the time. But this is just speculation.
 
The first pen makers who we know used true, industrial processes were Washington Medallion, Harrison & Bradford, and Esterbrook. This is a direct result of bringing trained British pen makers over to implement the British model here in America. This would be a recurring model for many new industries in the US. Many of the early industries were at least inspired by, if not wholesale stolen from, their British predecessors.
 
I'm not sure how far I'll take this because there is so much into which one can immerse oneself. Labor practices, including women in the workforce (most workers in pen factories were women, and this continued into many of the fountain pen makers as well) and workforce organization, is one area ripe for investigation. Tariffs and protectionist policies and their influence on the growth of the US steel pen industry is another. And there are many more.
 
I just wanted to put it out there why it's been so quiet. It doesn't mean I've stopped the research, it just means the research is beginning to become richer and there is so much more to find.
 
Cheers,
 
Andrew


“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#15 Hanoi

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Posted 09 September 2018 - 02:11

when did fountain pens become a middle class object of possession in America?  I thought that in the 19th century most fountain pens existed as jewelry or novelty for the then emergent industrialist class with too much money than they know what to do with.



#16 europen

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Posted 09 September 2018 - 18:18

A A Andrew, your research is fascinating and revealing, and I for one am following it with utmost interest. It is clearly dispelling the notion, if there ever was one, that pen use was ever merely status-seeking amongst the bourgeois, or pen making ever done for its mere decorative or novel effect. Pen-making was always a skill based on utility, filling a large gap in an existing market. 


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#17 AAAndrew

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 01:48

Thank you for your kind words. The steel dip pens I study were always the everyday kind of writing implement. Some were more expensive than others, but everyone could afford a nib or two. I have a store display from around 1920 and they were selling individual nibs for 1-cent each. (a nice profit when a whole gross, 144 nibs, cost $.75, but then it's always been expensive to be poor). 

 

At one time, these steel dip pens were no fancier or "exotic" then today's ball point pens. 



“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



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne






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