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An Anachronism From Philadelphia - John H. Simon

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3 replies to this topic

#1 AAAndrew


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Posted 02 December 2019 - 22:11

I picked up an interesting pen last week. It is a steel dip pen from Philadelphia. It is marked "John H. Simon's College Pen Philadelphia" and is in the shape of a barrel nib mounted on a turned, bone holder. 










The best I can find is that John H. Simon was a bookseller in Philadelphia from 1846-1856 after which he  specialized in the rag and paper business. This was most likely made for him by either his own workshop or a local artisan and imprinted for him. This period is before the Philadelphia area became the center for steel pen production in the US (1870's). It's even before Washington Medallion opened up their factory in NYC, which was the first true pen factory in the US (1857).


What's particularly interesting is that by this time, British pens were flooding the American market. These high-quality British pens looked pretty much just like more modern dip pens, small slips of steel inserted into the end of a holder. 


This pen, on the other hand, is reverting to a style which was common a half-century earlier. This looks like the pens of Williamson in the US, or Wise and others in England from the turn of the 19th-century (c1789-1815 or so). These were barrel pens, like this one, generally mounted on turned, bone handles, like this one. They sometimes had bone caps which protected the steel pen during transport. This was particularly critical during this time since pens hadn't been made at an industrial scale (not until 1820's-30's) and so were particularly expensive. One of Peregrine Williamson's pens made in Baltimore in 1809 would cost you $1 a pen. Thirty years later (before even this pen was made), you could by a gross of better-quality pens for less than $0.75. 


This pen originally had one of those caps as you can see the screw threads on both the barrel down by the nib, as well as on the tail of the holder for posting the cap to create a full-length pen holder. 





Just thought I'd share an interesting anomaly of a pen created out of time by an unknown craftsman. 


“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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#2 Bibliophage


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Posted 04 December 2019 - 16:03

Thanks for the post.  


After 150 years, this one is in amazing shape. You could polish the nib and go right to using it.   Makes you wonder what it went through, and where the cap ended up.

#3 aalmcc4



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Posted 11 January 2020 - 17:42

Wow, that's a very interesting piece of history!

#4 JotterAddict62



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Posted 11 January 2020 - 23:08

Very nice pen and information.

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