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  1. When I acquired a year ago a Conklin Crescent fountain pen, similar to that for which Mark Twain wrote an endorsement (1903), my next object was to get an early Paul E. Wirt eyedropper filler (ED) that Twain previously had considered (1889) “an absolutely perfect reservoir pen, a pen compared with which all other pens are frank failures.” I spent some months hunting such an ED, as close as possible to that the famous writer referred to. Finally, it came some days ago and, as it were, it exceeded all anticipation. The ED is an early model for sure. Its dimensions suggest an old stylograph: 145 mm long capped (5 11/16 in), 170 mm posted (6 11/16 in), and a tubular thin body (7.5 mm in diameter). It has a short straight slip-cap (36 mm) and weighs only 6.8 gr. A slender, delicate fountain pen! Another feature proving its age is the section with its distinctive gracious shape of a Grecian Urn neck and a three-rope band at the end, specific to an early Wirt ED. The black hard rubber is well conserved, showing very few hardly perceivable oxidation. The chasing on the barrel has a checkerboard (rare?) pattern. There are two shiny gold filled repoussé bands on the barrel ends. Another mark betokening its age is the two-line imprint on the barrel: PAUL E. WIRT FOUNTAIN PEN PAT'D JUNE 27, 1882 FEB 3, 1885 Not the earlier one-line imprint, but – after some searches on the net – I found that imprint was used by Wirt until April 1903[1]. Could I date the ED more precisely? Maybe, but not VERY accurately. I unscrewed the section to see the overfeed tail and instantly felt a thrill: it was the very two-rubber-shaft type, the first patented by Paul E. Wirt, on February 3, 1885[2]. On October 13 of the same year, the pen maker from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, patented a second overfeed[3], a single-shaft one. His “famous paddle feed”[4] was to be introduced much later, in 1901. Therefore, I concluded that my ED was certainly manufactured in the end of the 19th century. I did not find a logical explanation for which Paul E. Wirt would have used concomitantly his both overfeeds after 1885, as Dr. Ron Dutcher suggests[5]. I neither found when Wirt began imprinting on the barrel the date of Marvin C. Stone’s patent from June 27, 1882, concerning the capillarity[6]. A remark of George Kovalenko[7] was useful to me however, referring to the collection of The American Stationer[8] where it is said that Stone sold his patent to a William Nicholas who, in his turn, sold it to Wirt on June 13, 1888. Wirt bought it for showing himself a supporter of the patent rights, in a time when he was to carry on lawsuits with some pen manufacturers who had infringed his own patents. Did Wirt imprint Stone’s patent data on barrels before buying the patent? I doubt. More likely, he printed this data since June 1888 on. In conclusion, having the earliest Wirt’s overfeed and the above mentioned two-line imprint on the barrel, I dated my ED between 1888 and 1900, most likely at the beginning of this interval. This was precisely the period when Mark Twain wrote his first endorsement, few years after buying a Wirt pen from Horace M. Smith’s shop on Nassau Street in Manhattan, in November 1886[9]. Twain’s endorsement was extensively used by Wirt in advertisements. In The American Stationer[10] it can be read that Wirt already had sold 200.000 pieces of this model, but the number was to increase in the next years to 250.000 and, finally, to 350.000 pieces sold. Involved in many other businesses, even Wirt was to patent his own trendier “vented underfeed” in April 1903, and Twain wrote for him a second, widely disseminated endorsement, he lost the competition with L.E. Waterman in the first decade of the 20th century. A competition that Wirt had led until 1899. As for Marvin C. Stone, few people know nowadays he patented the working principle of the fountain pen, based on capillarity, as long as he remained famous in the history for patenting in 1888… the drinking paper straw. The above image is a writing sample after I tested the ED inked with Pilot/Iroshizuku Syo-ro. To write with a fountain pen like this, which could have the venerable age of about 125 years, is just pure chance for any collector. Note: As background of the above pictures I used the vintage photo of a Bloomsburg Normal School class taken in the spring of 1899. I can only suppose that some of those girls used them also Paul E. Wirt’s fountain pens like mine’s in their daily school activities. Each vintage fountain pen carries with it a fascinating story. More often than not, we do not know it and will not know it ever but, at least, we can imagine it at will. [1] Ron Dutcher’s site, http://www.kamakurapen.com/Paul_Wirt/Paul_Wirt_Imprints.html. [2] Patent US 311,554. [3] Patent US 324,169. [4] http://www.kamakurapen.com/Paul_Wirt/Paul_Wirt_Feeds.html. [5] http://www.kamakurapen.com/Paul_Wirt/Paul_Wirt_Feeds.html. [6] Patent US 260,134. [7] George Kovalenko’s blog, http://fountainpenhistory.blogspot.ro/2014/08/wirt-v-wirt-himself.html. [8] The American Stationer, vol. XXXIX, No 1 (1071), January 2, 1896, p.56 – not January 9, as G.K. mentioned in his article. [9] See Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers, Univ. of Columbia Press, 2013, p.127. [10] The American Stationer, vol. XXX, No. 1 (706), January 3, 1889, p.436.
  2. Very long detailed review with large image files. Consider thyself prepared. The disclaimer: no affiliation whatsoever. I requested and paid for this custom nib grind. This review is entirely my own opinion. YMMV. Etcetera. Photo: Drawing Totally amateur drawing with the Da Luz modded nib. (First ever drawing with a flex nib, go easy!) First Impressions After seeing Joseph Da Luz’s (FPN name: FPVIBERIAN) custom nib grind work on Noodler’s flex nibs, I wanted one. My expectations were that it would be a fun nib, but possibly not on par with my favourite vintage Conklin Crescent Toledo #2 Gold Nib. I was wrong. This Da Luz modded nib in a Noodler’s Konrad (acrylic) has now taken first place in my tiny fountain pen flex selection. If you’re looking for your entry-level Spencerian fountain pen with great flex and modern fittings – this is it. On arrival it was inspected, disassembled, flushed (it had been inked for nib trials), dried, then reassembled. I set the ebonite feed up in my usual position for a Konrad Acrylic – about 4mm back from the nib tip. I had wondered whether it would be difficult to get the titanium overfeed in place, but it wasn’t. Easy. Worked first time. (I’d taken a photo of the titanium overfeed’s positioning prior to disassembly, just in case.) Inked it up, and… oh, my, goodness. Immediate joy. Better than anticipated in every way. Finished better than I had hoped for, wrote wider than anticipated, could write finer than anticipated, and was housed in a modern pen body I was already familiar with that could easily and affordably be replaced.





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