This seems mistaken on several points:
- Americans learned Palmer Method writing starting with a text from about 1885 called "The Palmer Method for Business Writing". Palmer emphasized simplicity, clarity, and speed. No flourishes, nothing artistic. A business writer hoped to write nearly as quickly as a typist.
- I recently read through court documents from 1866. All but one document was written in what looks like the sample letters, Palmer or Zaner, that were posted above the blackboard in American public schools...at least until I graduated high school in 1966, and probably much later. Nothing fancy or artistic, no "line variation", probably written by a copyist using a steel pen. One document, a short one in reply to the plaintiff, was written in something like Spencerian.
- It seems that American students were not taught Spencerian in the 20th Century.
- Stiff nibs fit the way most people wrote. Think of the Parker 51. If the design had fought the way people wrote, then Parker would never have released it. Companies go broke by offering what people do NOT want.
- Ballpoints displaced liquid ink in the late '50s, after Parker and other pen-makers improved on Biro's original design. Read ballpoint advertising: liquid ink could spill from the bottle, ruining carpet, clothing, or furniture. Fountain pens might leak or ink-sacs give way. Sheaffer and Parker competed, the two biggest US pen companies, competed to offer the cleanest and most reliable filling systems. Think of Parker's aerometric 51 and the capillary P-61, or Sheaffer's touchdown and snorkel systems, or, ultimately, of the cartridge/converter system in the Parker 45.
- Is there evidence that pen makers had many flexible pens returned because owners had boshed the nib? Outside Germany, which companies offered flexible nibs after about 1960?
I suspect that flex nibs were always rare, a small slice of the fountain pen market, and an even smaller slice after 1945.
I agree with the prominence in the U.S. of the Palmer method in early 20th century education, print handwriting was also becoming widely taught by the early 1920's. Doing a quick search of handwritten documents from the U.S. in the 1920's will show that though many did write in cursive, one, it was often with little to no line variation, and two, most of it lacked a consistent elegance, often rushed or individualized beyond common recognizable writing styles. Outside of the U.S., or more European focused, you may find a bit more line variation(Italic, cursive italic) in the writing, but like in the U.S. one thing is missing...
Which is the reality of who is writing with a fountain pen, and who isn't? Certainly, over time as with many technologies, fountain pens became cheaper to buy, but compared to a pencil, they were still unaffordable to most people. As well, the literacy rate though high for some in the U.S. and elsewhere in the 1920's-1930's, was very low for others, and the disparity of this rate did not disappear until ~1969 in the U.S., so who was writing with fountain pens, and what was being written is significant. When one chooses to say everyone was writing this way, at this time, it is really saying everyone in this socio-economic group, perhaps even in this specific region of the country is writing this way. Because, though it still remains true to a degree today, education in U.S. in the early 20th century was unevenly attained, leaving significant portions of the country unable to fluently write, to afford to do so if they can with anything other than a pencil, and then in a manner that was meant to communicate ideas, needs, and information to others in need of it, versus any desire to do so with flourishes or line variation.
The need for a "business hand" was not something born of the 20th Century. The need to use writing to communicate ideas, over an artistic presentation of such words has always been necessary throughout history. The need of a baker to record orders, or a writer to make drafts of plays, poems, or novels, or speeches formal or informal, lists and letters, and notes to remember. There are very few of these writings that are expressed consistently with flourish or line variation from hairline to triple bold lettering. Because, that type of work was limited to a smaller population of penman who were tasked with creating fine contracts, letters, certificates etc., and to those who believed fine calligraphy skills defined a certain class status within society.
Whenever this topic arises, I always come back to these thoughts, it is not my intention to stir any pots, but to have people realize handwriting has a much more complex history than many realize. And, to raise one type of tool, or handwriting style as defining of a culture at any one moment in time, misses out on the diversity and reality of the handwriting that was present then. If you enjoy flex nibs, great! If you find a type of handwriting that excites you, wonderful! But they were not the only type of nib needed, or desired in the fountain pen's heyday, they did not define a whole society's handwriting, and they were always more uncommon, even though they were more widely made in the early 20th century. Though many wish to list a number of degrees of flex with these nibs, I cannot imagine pen makers were doing so at the time, many so called semi-flex nibs were undoubtedly not made to provide much line variation, and comparing the handwriting I see from the 1920's to what I see many people currently do with pens from the 1920's, has me more certain of that than ever.
Edited by JakobS, 14 February 2018 - 18:42.
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