Posted 03 November 2005 - 16:00
This is an interesting pen in a number of ways. The nib seems correct. Not counting the Conway Stewart made Relief 1-R eyedropper, early pre-V clip pens (eyedroppers and self fillers included) have a number of different nibs. I have three distinctly different eydropper nibs in my collection, including one I believe similar to the one Simon identifies, and i have seen at least one other variant. Hoban's speculation was these were made for export to the UK, thus the "14ct" designation. I don't know, but the natural question would be if there are any US manufacturers marking nibs in a similar way, and why they did it.
We do know Wirt was responsible for a majority of the early Esterbrook eyedroppers people see. De La Rue also made an overfeed Gold Relief eyedropper, and I have some suspicions that Aiken Lambert might have had their hands on production as well.
We could speculate (that's all this is, no proof to any of this yet) that during the first decade of the 20th century Esterbrook saw the need to have fountain pens manufactured in order to remain competitve. Also, this would be a normal extension of their business, but since the manufacture of nibs was their specialty, they might have been hesitant to start producing barrels and caps and other parts to make complete pens. So, Richard Esterbrook II goes to a number of manufacturers, Wirt, Aiken Lambert, De La Rue, Conway Stewart and perhaps others and says, "Make me a fountain pen, stamp it Relief 314 and I'll evaluate how well you do". Remember the Relief 314 designation refers to the nib style, not the model of the pen. Interestingly enough, it doesn't appear as though Esterbrook actually manufactured the nibs for these pens. So, a number of manufacturers come back with small runs of pens for Esterbrook to evaluate. Wirt wins the contract and starts producing eyedroppers and self fillers for Esterbrook.
Or...., Esterbrook has Wirt make some, then switches to ALCO, has De La Rue make them in the UK, along with CS, and their are a number of manufacturers making them at the same time.
Interestingly enough, as a mid to late 20's or early 30's pen, this is close to V clip production in 1932. I don't have the patent information with me, but Esterbrook had been planning the V clip design early 30's if not late 20's, so this jade self filler is definitely late production. I wonder why they didn't decide to go with this design instead of the steel re-new-point route.
Early Esterbrook history is fascinating and much of it is unwritten. So one can only speculate until actual proof can be found.