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Why two pen desk sets?


Mille
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When you see desk sets they often have two pens, and as often just one pen, but never three. Why?

The pen is mighter than the sword. Support Wikileaks!

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For my part, I've got the "regular" pen (blue-black) and the "highlighting" pen (was red, but after clogging issues is now green) in my desk-mount. As far as why there's never three-- one runs out of hands, perhaps?

Edited by Ernst Bitterman

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It's mainly pens, just now....

Oh, good heavens. He's got a blog now, too.

 

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Maybe paperwork where two people need to go back and forth signing off a document - say, in a banking application?

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After a surf back in time, older style sets also often come with two pens. The actual reason might originate from these sets, and it is just a tradition to have two pens? But I do not know if they have two ink wells, which would strengthen Ernst idea that you need two inks.

The pen is mighter than the sword. Support Wikileaks!

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There certainly are old bookeeping desk sets that included two inkwells - one for red ink, one for black. Some of the deskset look may have come from that.

 

A deeper look at the cultural sources is called for though. Maybe Roger (he is a desk-set guy) has some old ad material that explains some of the reasons. (maybe a look through Rogers series on Sheaffer desk sets would be a worthwhile start)

 

John

So if you have a lot of ink,

You should get a Yink, I think.

 

- Dr Suess

 

Always looking for pens by Baird-North, Charles Ingersoll, and nibs marked "CHI"

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When you see desk sets they often have two pens, and as often just one pen, but never three. Why?

 

That is your million-dollar ticket! Patent, produce and sell like mad! It would be like printing your own money!

 

Sorry, sorry. Sarcasm aside, I am sure that a patent search will reveal that someone tried a time or two, but they just never took off. Two pens were probably enough maintenance and rarely if ever were there ever more needed than that. Not on a desk anyway. I could see in a large bank or post office where a long "bar" of pens and paperwork that would allow 10+ people to work at once would need a larger number. But even then, putting more than two together would encourage crowding. Spacing them out as singles, or doubles separated by 3-4 ft would allow people to work comfortably without getting too tight.

 

I am sure that there were a few 3+ models produced to put in the center of a table, or to allow for different colors (as accountants used) as well as a signature pen, but the need was probably very low, and the maintenance on one would be much higher, so few would have been made, especially if they did not sell well.

 

So if you ever find one, buy it fast. It may be the only one you ever find! Or build one-off sets yourself and sell them here.

 

Your calling awaits . . .

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Two was a common set up for your normal black and your red. Early Sheaffer sockets are so marked with the red on the left and the black on the right. After double sets had been used for a number of years this overt distinction was no longer needed. The second socket is rarely ever used for a pencil and I've only two pencils out of hundreds of pens (1925-1941 post war probably has more pencils). As to three you don't get those until snorkels and I assume that is to accomodate the ball point for purposes in which one would prefer the ball point.

 

Roger W.

 

http://www.sheafferflattops.com/images/19straight.JPG

#19 set with red and black sockets

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When you see desk sets they often have two pens, and as often just one pen, but never three. Why?

 

That is your million-dollar ticket! Patent, produce and sell like mad! It would be like printing your own money!

 

Sorry, sorry. Sarcasm aside, I am sure that a patent search will reveal that someone tried a time or two, but they just never took off. Two pens were probably enough maintenance and rarely if ever were there ever more needed than that. Not on a desk anyway. I could see in a large bank or post office where a long "bar" of pens and paperwork that would allow 10+ people to work at once would need a larger number. But even then, putting more than two together would encourage crowding. Spacing them out as singles, or doubles separated by 3-4 ft would allow people to work comfortably without getting too tight.

 

I am sure that there were a few 3+ models produced to put in the center of a table, or to allow for different colors (as accountants used) as well as a signature pen, but the need was probably very low, and the maintenance on one would be much higher, so few would have been made, especially if they did not sell well.

 

So if you ever find one, buy it fast. It may be the only one you ever find! Or build one-off sets yourself and sell them here.

 

Your calling awaits . . .

 

You need not look to patents as Sheaffer/Parker/Wahl locked up most everything with the joint venture of the Pen Desk Set Company started on January 21, 1929. This incorporated all of their patents at that point and several new ones they added. This joint venture was disolved after the war on May 4, 1950 as desk bases are past their golden age.

 

Roger W.

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Roger,

 

Looking through some old posts in the Sheaffer Forum, I also noted a couple of threads where people had Snorkel-era double-pen sets where one pen was an M5, and the other an F5. Maybe by that era there was also a market for two sizes, in cases where people were not doing accounting functions.

 

John

So if you have a lot of ink,

You should get a Yink, I think.

 

- Dr Suess

 

Always looking for pens by Baird-North, Charles Ingersoll, and nibs marked "CHI"

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For my part, I've got the "regular" pen (blue-black) and the "highlighting" pen (was red, but after clogging issues is now greed) in my desk-mount. As far as why there's never three-- one runs out of hands, perhaps?

 

 

What is the color of greed?

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

Oscar Wilde

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The red ink/black ink need is likely the original reason. However, I would imagine that as time went along there was also an incentive for the companies to heavily market the two pen set to make more money by getting people to pay for a second pen and a larger base to hold it.

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Is it possible that the two-pen desk-sets were placed in the middle of a partner's desk? Each pen was filled with black ink and the sockets were angled a certain way so that the two men at the desk could access their pens easily?

http://www.throughouthistory.com/ - My Blog on History & Antiques

 

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I have a Parker and a Sheaffer set which have a pen and pencil. The diameter of the pencil holder being smaller. When I had a desk in the classroom I kept a Sheaffer two pen set on my desk. One side had a fountain pen which I used and the other side had a BP pen for when someone needed to borrow one while standing at my desk.

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time. TS Eliot

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Is it possible that the two-pen desk-sets were placed in the middle of a partner's desk? Each pen was filled with black ink and the sockets were angled a certain way so that the two men at the desk could access their pens easily?

 

I think it possible but, not likely the main reason for a double set. Of the some 706 bases offered by Sheaffer from 1925-1941 138 were double bases or just less than 1 out of 5. Doubles and singles were offered from the inception of desk bases. The original "D" set for double came with 2 2oz. bottles of skrip one red and one blue (not black). Here is a picture of the original "D" set courtesy of Dan Reppert-

 

Roger W.

 

http://www.sheafferflattops.com/images/D%20Set.jpg

D set circa 1925

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I thought the less common double bases were for the bookkeeping/accounting staff (debits in black, credits in red), and the single bases for the vast majority of other people.

YMMV

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I thought the less common double bases were for the bookkeeping/accounting staff (debits in black, credits in red), and the single bases for the vast majority of other people.

 

This is reasonably an explanation why these people had two pens, and why we can find them for such a long period. The two piece set is, however, quite common. On Ebay the single ones are more common, but it is not difficult to find two piece sets, so although it does not explain everything.

 

There are also enourmous pieces from the Victorian which definitely are not accountants pieces, but expresses power and prestige. An example is M in the earlies Bond movies who always sports an oversized desk set.

 

If people occasionally wanted to write in red, it cannot have been that often, they could have had an extra pen in the drawer. And why not a third, or fourth? Black, red, blue and green like the standard whiteboard pens. (Ah, I miss the times when there was orange as well! You cannot quite draw a proper design without orange!)

Edited by Mille

The pen is mighter than the sword. Support Wikileaks!

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I suppose this is a stretch, as the pen in the middle here isn't original to the set, but this base does have three factory positions for them. Perhaps one with 3 pens could be found.

 

http://pic.phyrefile.com/n/na/nabster/2010/02/23/DSC03671.JPG

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I like the popular style with the rotating ball a little amusing. As if you could position them as a target and use the pen as a mini javelin. At the same time it has a kind of yesterdays fasion I like.

The pen is mighter than the sword. Support Wikileaks!

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I think the red/blakc debit/credit explanation most likely for original pen sets, and once something becomes a tradition...

I remember from somewhere in the crypts of my mind a comment about the 'olden days' in banking (ie when I was a lad) when a junior clerk was expected to provide his own fountain pens - two - one red and one black for debit and credit figures.

 

Chris

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This my my personal experience only and is not intended to be a generalization. I have seen pre-1950's desk sets with color coded inserts for different color inks. I have seen a large number of post 1950's sets with a FP and pencil or BP. I have also seen desk sets with no color coding and FP's that have different sized nib points, e.g. a F or M for general writing and a B or stub for signatures. I do not recall if the later were pre- or post 1950's. I am trying hard to remember for sure, but I think I do recall a three piece desk set from the 1960's or '70's by Cross that accomodated a FP, BP and pencil.

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