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Fountain Pens During Its Heyday

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#21 inkstainedruth

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 04:28

I remember, a few years ago, looking up what the price of a Parker 51 would be today on some website that calculated inflation.  At the time it would have been the equivalent of roughly $140 US.  Which doesn't sound all that expensive for a well made fountain pen today (I think I paid roughly that for Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Purple Cosmos last year, with a zoom nib.  And maybe a little less for a Pelikan m200 Café Crème.  

But then you have to remember to look at the price in scale with other items of that time.  Dinner in a nice restaurant which had a bar would be 50¢ in 1939 (my mother went on a trip to Florida over Christmas break that was run by her biology professor, and that's what the place they stopped for Christmas dinner cost, because the restaurant had a bar; the professor was appalled that he'd actually taken students to a place THAT expensive -- not to mention being appalled by the concept of taking students to a place with a bar!  A second tier pen. like an Esterbrook, would be around $3 (replacement nib units about a buck and a half); and and a third tier pen like an Arnold or Recall was probably 89¢.  It's no wonder my mother couldn't understand the fascination I had with my grandfather's pen (a long since lost blue pen/pencil combo, where the pen side was a lever filler) -- for her, fountain pens were messy and not worth the effort; but growing up in West Virginia during the Depression (my other grandfather was a foreman in a coal mine) -- my grandparents probably couldn't afford a "good" pen.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

edited for formatting


"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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#22 pajaro

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 04:57

I suppose the point of good pens and upscale models of pens is that many of us can't afford them or won't want to spend the money on them, rendering them exclusive.  Life is too short.


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#23 Parker51

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 05:39

Yes, life is too short, too bad we can't talk about why ‼️⚛.

#24 txomsy

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 12:34

Let's not get mythological.

 

The Heyday of Fountain Pens is now.

 

So, let me show it with some anecdotes.

 

My great-grand-father was nicknamed "the man who reads". There was a time when "reading" was enough to earn you a distinguishing nickname.

 

His daughter, born in 1901, my grand-mother, became a midwife in her youth. When I was a kid, I remember this monthly ritual at her house: people would gather to bring the letters from their immigrant sons for her to read and write the answers back. By then,  a lot of youths would go elsewhere to work and their main communication form with their families was by letter, which would be sent back (and forth) once each one-three months (I remember 1 was "normal", 3 was considered stretching and people would start worrying). She was one of "the" reference persons in the village/town. So, not everybody did a ) write daily nor b ) have an FP or other writing devices. The most pervasive one was the pencil, used by artisans like my grandfather and carried on the ear.

 

In the 50's, her brother authored a successful book that became a best-seller and made it into a movie... by typing the memories of illiterate war heroes in an old Underwood typewriter from the early 20th C I would see when staying at his house (and learned to use).

 

My grandma made it a point that her daughter got an education (a "real" one, not a "ladies" one) and my mother became a primary school teacher. When I was too young (maybe 4) we moved to a capital city, where there was more work (and less migration). That's why I would see those scenes at my grandma's back in the village. Still, when I was in primary school I would often be asked by my father (also a primary school teacher), or my mum, to go back to school at 8pm to remember the other parent to go back home. They alternated in giving reading/writing/4 rules lessons for adults after kids' school. Even as late as through the 70's, there was many illiterate people. I also remember the one-person stands at the entry of public buildings where someone with a typewriter offered typing in documents for people as a way earn his living. Even owning a typewriter could be "distinguishing" before the Xerox machine.

 

In the very late 60's or very early 70's I was finishing primary school, with a meager "weekly pay" (remember my parents were teachers, and around here the  saying was "you're hungrier than a school teacher"), and still one year, I was so proud of them, I decided to save my pay to buy them each a nice pen in sterling silver engraved with their name. Took me almost a year's pay (including birthday, Xmas presents and all), to get the two Sheaffers. So, even a kid could get a good pen -well, yeah, not that swiftly, it's true, and you had to be motivated-.

 

Fast forward to the early 90's. I was a successful young professional, had my own flat. One day the neighbor downstairs calls to tell me of a water leak. I come down to see it before calling the plumbers and masons in and notice a K1 reading-booklet. I ask her if she had the grand-sons around and she proudly informs me she's learning to read. I tactfully show my interest and she lets me know that her husband had died a month ago (I knew him, but wasn't aware) and she had never had any need or reason to learn reading and writing (or the numbers) because it was her husband that took care of everything. After the decease, she had to fill in all paperwork and needed to learn. I couldn't but express my deepest admiration for her and offer any help I could give.

 

Mind you, that was the early 90's! Even that late there was still people who were hardly able to write.

 

Fast forward again, to the 2000's. My mother in law, who certainly knew reading and writing, and even a couple of foreign languages, informs us she's enrolled in the University at 80+. She had finally decided to address her lifelong frustration of not being able to attend University. She would became the oldest person to graduate in the country.

 

Many forget that women had very few rights and, although there were certainly exceptions, they were so, exceptions. That, even among men, not everybody knew how to read or write. Most women would not get a proper education and aspired to, at most, become secretaries by learning shorthand and typing. A few would (like my parents)  volunteer their spare time for free to educate adults, because there was a lot of illiteracy.

 

The time when everybody writes is now. The time when if anybody makes a new pen, ink or paper anywhere in the World and is instantly known worldwide is now. The time when getting a pen hand-crafted by an expert artisan in the antipodes mailed to your doorstep at a price affordable for most people is now. Even more, the time when writing is easier on a computer is now, and so when you take a pen, you give a special meaning and value beyond plain functionality for communication, to writing, style, calligraphy, color and tools, is now.

 

The heyday is now.

 

It is lovely to have fond memories of Ye Olde Times, but let us not paint everything rosy in our memories, for it wasn't.

 

Plus, wouldn't it be a pity otherwise? What would it say of progress if any past time was better than now? These are rethorical questions, please do not answer, because that would enter the realm of politics, but, if you have a few minutes, try to think of them.



#25 corniche

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 12:58

Let's not get mythological.
 
The Heyday of Fountain Pens is now.
 
So, let me show it with some anecdotes.
 
My great-grand-father was nicknamed "the man who reads". There was a time when "reading" was enough to earn you a distinguishing nickname.
 
His daughter, born in 1901, my grand-mother, became a midwife in her youth. When I was a kid, I remember this monthly ritual at her house: people would gather to bring the letters from their immigrant sons for her to read and write the answers back. By then,  a lot of youths would go elsewhere to work and their main communication form with their families was by letter, which would be sent back (and forth) once each one-three months (I remember 1 was "normal", 3 was considered stretching and people would start worrying). She was one of "the" reference persons in the village/town. So, not everybody did a ) write daily nor b ) have an FP or other writing devices. The most pervasive one was the pencil, used by artisans like my grandfather and carried on the ear.
 
In the 50's, her brother authored a successful book that became a best-seller and made it into a movie... by typing the memories of illiterate war heroes in an old Underwood typewriter from the early 20th C I would see when staying at his house (and learned to use).
 
My grandma made it a point that her daughter got an education (a "real" one, not a "ladies" one) and my mother became a primary school teacher. When I was too young (maybe 4) we moved to a capital city, where there was more work (and less migration). That's why I would see those scenes at my grandma's back in the village. Still, when I was in primary school I would often be asked by my father (also a primary school teacher), or my mum, to go back to school at 8pm to remember the other parent to go back home. They alternated in giving reading/writing/4 rules lessons for adults after kids' school. Even as late as through the 70's, there was many illiterate people. I also remember the one-person stands at the entry of public buildings where someone with a typewriter offered typing in documents for people as a way earn his living. Even owning a typewriter could be "distinguishing" before the Xerox machine.
 
In the very late 60's or very early 70's I was finishing primary school, with a meager "weekly pay" (remember my parents were teachers, and around here the  saying was "you're hungrier than a school teacher"), and still one year, I was so proud of them, I decided to save my pay to buy them each a nice pen in sterling silver engraved with their name. Took me almost a year's pay (including birthday, Xmas presents and all), to get the two Sheaffers. So, even a kid could get a good pen -well, yeah, not that swiftly, it's true, and you had to be motivated-.
 
Fast forward to the early 90's. I was a successful young professional, had my own flat. One day the neighbor downstairs calls to tell me of a water leak. I come down to see it before calling the plumbers and masons in and notice a K1 reading-booklet. I ask her if she had the grand-sons around and she proudly informs me she's learning to read. I tactfully show my interest and she lets me know that her husband had died a month ago (I knew him, but wasn't aware) and she had never had any need or reason to learn reading and writing (or the numbers) because it was her husband that took care of everything. After the decease, she had to fill in all paperwork and needed to learn. I couldn't but express my deepest admiration for her and offer any help I could give.
 
Mind you, that was the early 90's! Even that late there was still people who were hardly able to write.
 
Fast forward again, to the 2000's. My mother in law, who certainly knew reading and writing, and even a couple of foreign languages, informs us she's enrolled in the University at 80+. She had finally decided to address her lifelong frustration of not being able to attend University. She would became the oldest person to graduate in the country.
 
Many forget that women had very few rights and, although there were certainly exceptions, they were so, exceptions. That, even among men, not everybody knew how to read or write. Most women would not get a proper education and aspired to, at most, become secretaries by learning shorthand and typing. A few would (like my parents)  volunteer their spare time for free to educate adults, because there was a lot of illiteracy.
 
The time when everybody writes is now. The time when if anybody makes a new pen, ink or paper anywhere in the World and is instantly known worldwide is now. The time when getting a pen hand-crafted by an expert artisan in the antipodes mailed to your doorstep at a price affordable for most people is now. Even more, the time when writing is easier on a computer is now, and so when you take a pen, you give a special meaning and value beyond plain functionality for communication, to writing, style, calligraphy, color and tools, is now.
 
The heyday is now.
 
It is lovely to have fond memories of Ye Olde Times, but let us not paint everything rosy in our memories, for it wasn't.
 
Plus, wouldn't it be a pity otherwise? What would it say of progress if any past time was better than now? These are rethorical questions, please do not answer, because that would enter the realm of politics, but, if you have a few minutes, try to think of them.


Hi Everyone,

One could make a case that this is the "heyday" of the fountain pen simply because today they are a choice; not a necessity.

Back then, there essentially was nothing else. Today, to be freely chosen when there are so many other options available, does show that today really is the "heyday" of the fountain pen. :)


Sean :)
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#26 austinwft

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 15:35

Hi Everyone,

One could make a case that this is the "heyday" of the fountain pen simply because today they are a choice; not a necessity.

Back then, there essentially was nothing else. Today, to be freely chosen when there are so many other options available, does show that today really is the "heyday" of the fountain pen. :)


Sean :)

 

In a general sense today may be more of a "spirited revival" period.

 

But with what seems to be a continued increase of new fountain pens and F.P. products being produced, as well as interest in vintage pens, maybe it is the "new heyday" of the fountain pen. 

 

Or it could just be wishful thinking of a hobbyist. YMMV!

 

(To be clear, I'm the wishful hobbyist here. :))


Edited by austinwft, 02 February 2020 - 15:42.


#27 txomsy

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 16:01

Hi Everyone,

One could make a case that this is the "heyday" of the fountain pen simply because today they are a choice; not a necessity.

Back then, there essentially was nothing else. Today, to be freely chosen when there are so many other options available, does show that today really is the "heyday" of the fountain pen. :)


Sean :)

Thanks, you managed to say it in much less words. I should learn the lesson for the next time.



#28 Bibliophage

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 18:03

Hi Bibliophage,

Could not have been a Targa; that wasn't released until 1975. A gold Sheaffer cartridge pen from the 1950's is definitely a curiosity; I'm gonna check that out. Thanks for the riddle. :D

Sean :)

I have a picture of hers and my grandmother's (From when she was young and in the workforce in Toronto).   It's a pain transferring it from my phone to the computer, so that'll have to wait.  Doing some searching now.

 

(One is Lady Sheaffer 630, it appears.  Band is different than model I found.)


Edited by Bibliophage, 02 February 2020 - 18:05.


#29 inkstainedruth

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 20:42

Let's not get mythological.

 

The Heyday of Fountain Pens is now.

 

So, let me show it with some anecdotes.

 

My great-grand-father was nicknamed "the man who reads". There was a time when "reading" was enough to earn you a distinguishing nickname.

Yeah, my mom said that her grandfather was know as "Those" Brake.  Because he'd go to the store (this was in West Virginia, likely about the same time period as your great-grandfather) and say "I'd like to get some of those apples" instead of what most other people said, which was "I want some of them apples".

Most of my mother's aunts and uncles on that side of the family were teachers.  My great uncle Clyde taught high school Latin (my mom grew up in the 1920s and 30s).  By the time I got to high school (upper middle class area, about 50 miles north of NYC) they no longer even offered Latin as an option.  (When I was growing up, they offered French, German, Russian and Spanish in middle school; by high school, all the kids who had had 2 years of Russian had to switch to another language because it was no longer offered; Latin and Japanese had disappeared off the high school curriculum as well.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

#30 corniche

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 21:57

 
In a general sense today may be more of a "spirited revival" period.
 
But with what seems to be a continued increase of new fountain pens and F.P. products being produced, as well as interest in vintage pens, maybe it is the "new heyday" of the fountain pen. 
 
Or it could just be wishful thinking of a hobbyist. YMMV!
 
(To be clear, I'm the wishful hobbyist here. :))


Aren't we all? :D
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#31 corniche

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 21:59

Thanks, you managed to say it in much less words. I should learn the lesson for the next time.


Thank you. :)

Sean :)
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#32 corniche

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Posted 02 February 2020 - 22:15

I have a picture of hers and my grandmother's (From when she was young and in the workforce in Toronto).   It's a pain transferring it from my phone to the computer, so that'll have to wait.  Doing some searching now.
 
(One is Lady Sheaffer 630, it appears.  Band is different than model I found.)


Please don't burden yourself (on my account :unsure: ). I used to own a couple of Lady Sheaffer's; I regret selling them now. I'd like to get a nice PFM, but their prices have become ridiculous, (the last time I looked).

Sean :)
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#33 txomsy

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 14:50

Apologies and Correction

 

After re-reading my last, long post, I realize I ignored a major factor. I said that today anybody can get a fountain pen. That, alas, is not true and I shouldn't have forgotten, for which I duly apologize. There are still many parts of the World where people can hardly get a writing utensil and even what many consider a "cheap Jinhao" would make a handsomely present. I've been in many a one of these places. I should have known better than to make those baseless claims. Forgetting all this people is unforgivable. So sorry.

 

Which means I also owe a correction: the Heyday of fountain pens is not now. It is still to come.



#34 corniche

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 15:33


Apologies and Correction

 
After re-reading my last, long post, I realize I ignored a major factor. I said that today anybody can get a fountain pen. That, alas, is not true and I shouldn't have forgotten, for which I duly apologize. There are still many parts of the World where people can hardly get a writing utensil and even what many consider a "cheap Jinhao" would make a handsomely present. I've been in many a one of these places. I should have known better than to make those baseless claims. Forgetting all this people is unforgivable. So sorry.
 
Which means I also owe a correction: the Heyday of fountain pens is not now. It is still to come.

Hi Txomsy,

I don't know; I think you're being a bit too "woke" and a little too hard on yourself, too.

For example, we've witnessed a technological revolution in the past 25 years and just because there are many parts of the world, (including parts of the United States), that don't even have broadband yet, doesn't negate the technological "progress" that's been made; or mean it never happened. It only means it hasn't reached its zenith yet; or its subsequential ebb. Take it light. :D


Sean :)
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#35 bemon

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 18:30

Something interesting you can do is Google "vintage fountain pen ad" and you'll get to see a lot of the best promoted brands and what they were selling their pens for. I know that doesn't mean those are the brands everyone carried, and it probably differs by region. But still it's interesting. 

 

If I advertised for a pen company I'd probably try to re-create that vintage look. Not sure how it would work with modern media, but I think it would be a fun project. 


Edited by bemon, 03 February 2020 - 18:31.


#36 Noihvo

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 18:36



 

Apologies and Correction

 

After re-reading my last, long post, I realize I ignored a major factor. I said that today anybody can get a fountain pen. That, alas, is not true and I shouldn't have forgotten, for which I duly apologize. There are still many parts of the World where people can hardly get a writing utensil and even what many consider a "cheap Jinhao" would make a handsomely present. I've been in many a one of these places. I should have known better than to make those baseless claims. Forgetting all this people is unforgivable. So sorry.

 

Which means I also owe a correction: the Heyday of fountain pens is not now. It is still to come.

 

 

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#37 txomsy

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Posted 03 February 2020 - 19:59

Well, thank you all for your kind words. Still, as comiche said, progress hasn't reached its zenith yet and so we should await further improvements.

 

From that perspective, you are all right: we should be optimistic, the best is (hopefully) still to come. What made me upset was thinking how easy it was for me to be carried away by comfort and forgetting what I've been witnessing and fighting all these years. It's not guilt, but can't help feeling sympathy for all the less favoured people.



#38 corniche

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Posted 04 February 2020 - 04:07

Well, thank you all for your kind words. Still, as comiche said, progress hasn't reached its zenith yet and so we should await further improvements.
 
From that perspective, you are all right: we should be optimistic, the best is (hopefully) still to come.


Hi Txomsy,

This is the right attitude. I learned a long time ago that I can't put the weight of the world on my shoulders - and you can't either. Just do what you can; when you can and that's all anyone can do. Anything else is above our pay grade. :D


Sean :)
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#39 Old Salt

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Posted 04 February 2020 - 07:59

During the 60’s, My grandfather kept me in Parker Ballpoints and gave me the P21 that I used in middle school in the US.  Mine was the only fountain pen i ever saw in school.  Then i was shipped off to an English Boarding school where Fountain pens were required.  I was use to the stiff Parker nib on my 21.  The Pelikan they gave me had a flexy nib that I’m embarrassed to say in my ignorance, I nearly destroyed.

It was quite a shock to go from no other fountain pens in school to an environment where fountain pens were considered the only “proper” writing instrument.🧐

For the longest time, I’ve been a loyal Parker pen user until around 30 years ago when i branched out to other brands of fountain pens. Who knew this could be so much fun? 🏄

 



#40 Arkanabar

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Posted 04 February 2020 - 15:39

A fair comparison for that era would be watches.  The prices for pens varied from "everyman" market pens, which could be picked up for a buck to a buck and a half, to luxury items which were quite expensive. 

<snip>

 

I'd say this is an apt comparison.  My dad was a believer in paying enough to get something that met his minimum requirements, which could be fairly steep.  For example, he bought Craftsman hand tools, because he knew he could easily get replacements for any that failed, by going to the local Sears store, but not any of the more expensive and durable tools with the same sort of guarantee, such as Snap-on.  In like manner, even as a relatively impecunious college student after his term in the military ended, he bought one of the earliest aerometric Parker "51"s, with the black cap on the end of the sac cover, in black with lustraloy cap, and an Omega wristwatch with an expansion band. 







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