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Buying Patents To Bury Them C. 1860's - And Early Pen Prices

steel pens history patents

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#1 AAAndrew


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Posted 25 May 2018 - 18:32

According to the Birmingham Daily Post in 1865. 


Not sure I quite believe it, considering how little hesitation the manufacturers had to come out with new designs. Perhaps some of the innovations were difficult or expensive to make. That was known to happen with some designs, and until someone could figure out how to manufacture it more cheaply, they never were built. 




Steel pens for writing were first made in this country by Mr. Wise in 1803. For a considerable time they were manufactured with flat cheeks, and a patent was taken out for them in this form in 1812. Dr. Wollaston's rhodium pen, and the iridium pen of others, were both flat. About the year 1824, Mr. Perry began to make steel pens on an improved plan, and, six years after, they were manufactured in Birmingham, where some of the largest and finest steel pen establishments are now flourishing. At first they were neither good nor cheap. Pens very inferior to those we now buy at a shilling a gross, were displayed ostentatiously on cardboard cardboard squares, and sold at half-a-crown a dozen. Many large fortunes were made, and numberless patents were taken out. Every possible shape and quality became the subject of a patent, and not half or those proposed were ever manufactured. A pen maker, who was fast becoming a millionaire, once showed a friend a collection of patented pens, which he had never made nor intended to make. "I buy the designs and models," he said, "of the designers. Then I patent them, and put them to bed. They are well worth manufacturing; indeed, many of them are better than anything in the market; but if I were to bring them out, they would only damage the sale of those I am producing by the million, while I should be at the cost of new machinery. So I let them sleep on ; and if I do not wake them, no one else, you see, can." This was a trait of commercial policy well deserving consideration consideration in connection with the subject of patents.


And for those like me not familiar with the old English money system, 


Shilling = 12 pence

Half a Crown = 2 Shillings 6 pence, or 30 pence (2.5 shillings)


So, they went from 2.5 pence a pen, to .083 pence a pen. 


When they were going for 2.5 pence a pen in England, Williamson in the US was making pens in Baltimore from 1808 to about 1820 and selling them for $1 each. A generation later, in 1857, Washington Medallion was selling their mass-produced pens for 1.04-cents each ($1.50 per gross). 15 years later, Esterbrook sold their Falcon for half that cost. 

Edited by AAAndrew, 25 May 2018 - 18:34.

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#2 Inky-Fingers



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Posted 26 May 2018 - 02:50

I am still looking for just one Washington Medallion nib!

Great article Andrew. Pleasure to read. Thanks

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