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Early Paul E. Wirt Eyedropper Filler



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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.

 

post-109852-0-65467200-1438498929_thumb.jpgpost-109852-0-43428100-1438498967_thumb.jpg

 

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.

 

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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

 

post-109852-0-38135900-1438533569_thumb.jpg

 

 

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.

 

post-109852-0-41362900-1438499283_thumb.jpg

 

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.

post-109852-0-95342700-1438499339_thumb.jpg post-109852-0-89775600-1438499370_thumb.jpg

 

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.

 

post-109852-0-19516600-1438499406_thumb.jpg

 

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.

 


[2] Patent US 311,554.

[3] Patent US 324,169.

[6] Patent US 260,134.

[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.

Edited by Alex2014
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Beautiful pen and great presentation.

 

I have a Wirt taper cap overfeed eyedropper that looks a lot like the one in the middle of DanDeM's second picture. The patent date on the cap is "Feb 83" but I haven't found the patent document for it. While not exactly a flex nib in terms of line variation, it's exceptionally soft and springy. By far the bounciest nib I've ever used, and it takes a bit of practice to write with it.

 

The feed looks different from other early Wirts I've seen and lacks the rear stem or "tail", so I'm wondering if it may be a replacement, or perhaps the tail broke off. Or were some early Wirt feeds designed like that?

 

http://i.imgur.com/pteNdZt.jpg

 

http://i.imgur.com/Ymp78pQ.jpg

Edited by Goudy

http://i.imgur.com/utQ9Ep9.jpg

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Goudy:

Wirt was issued patent #288,290 on Nov. 13, 1883. The reference on your cap

is likely the date on which that patent was submitted or applied for. But if you

read some of the conversations linked above, you’ll see that Wirt was a little

relaxed about the dates his pens carried.

Early ED’s were notorious for burping ink, a condition that created a frenzy of

corrective activity. New feeds were designed (Wirt had patents for at least four

styles —over, over and under, under and slotted) and flow collectors were added

to the rear of the section, extending up and into the barrel in an attempt to

regulate ink movement to the nib. Ultimately it took the design of a lever, a sac

and yet another feed to correct the problem.

The regulators were very fragile; easily broken. Their loss makes little difference

since, in any case, they weren’t very effective in reducing the burping problem.

And yes, at that time Wirt and John Holland (both the “giants” of that day) offered

some exceptional nibs.

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Finally! A Paul Wirt thread! And of course, with DanDeM who always seems to share my tastes. Maybe we bring Wirts to the next So Cal Pen Club meeting, or try to revive the OC Pen Legion/Posse/whatever.

 

My question for everyone: Can anyone show some good pictures of the two part feed? I have one and always wondered if it was correct, having never seen any others either in person or in photos.

 

My example has the single line imprint, diamond pattern chasing, no bands. I have two other single line imprint Wirts with paddle type over feeds.

 

fpn_1438661001__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000

fpn_1438661009__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000

fpn_1438661017__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000

fpn_1438661023__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000

fpn_1438661030__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000fpn_1438661037__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000

fpn_1438661044__wirt_two_piece_feed_0000

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Goudy,

 

The feed in your half overlay is a replacement. The Wirt underfeeds are vented, and have a tail that is deeply grooved. I have a nearly identical pen - the sections are distinct and identical. I have taken two pictures to match yours for comparison. All of my Wirt underfeeds look just like this one.

 

fpn_1438661680__wirt_taper_half_overlay_

fpn_1438661689__wirt_taper_half_overlay_

fpn_1438661700__wirt_taper_half_overlay_

Edited by Greenie
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Alex, I have to take a moment to compliment your beautiful presentation! Very nice!

 

Please post some photos of the feed and let's compare! Hopefully other Wirt collectors have two piece feeds as well that they can show.

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Alex, I have to take a moment to compliment your beautiful presentation! Very nice!

 

Please post some photos of the feed and let's compare! Hopefully other Wirt collectors have two piece feeds as well that they can show.

 

Thank you Greenie. My feed is different, being rather a rubber band with the lower half rounded on a face. There is no groove along the band, like in your picture. You can see an identical feed here. I do not remember Wirt would have mentioned in his patent description something about an ink draining groove, but your ED being earlier, it's possible Wirt had made some changes in time. In any case, the long tail looks very fragile, as DanDeM mentioned above.

 

Beautiful pen and great presentation.

 

I have a Wirt taper cap overfeed eyedropper that looks a lot like the one in the middle of DanDeM's second picture. The patent date on the cap is "Feb 83" but I haven't found the patent document for it. While not exactly a flex nib in terms of line variation, it's exceptionally soft and springy. By far the bounciest nib I've ever used, and it takes a bit of practice to write with it.

 

The feed looks different from other early Wirts I've seen and lacks the rear stem or "tail", so I'm wondering if it may be a replacement, or perhaps the tail broke off. Or were some early Wirt feeds designed like that?

 

Your feed looks very similar to a narrow keel-shaped Aikin Lambert one from the first decade of 1900. Even the section is similar.

Edited by Alex2014
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Goudy,

 

The feed in your half overlay is a replacement. The Wirt underfeeds are vented, and have a tail that is deeply grooved. I have a nearly identical pen - the sections are distinct and identical. I have taken two pictures to match yours for comparison. All of my Wirt underfeeds look just like this one.

 

 

Thank you. Very interesting. The body is indeed nearly identical. Does it have the same date on the cap (Feb 83)?

 

The feed in mine is an overfeed (no underfeed at all). It's also a little loose - the nib actually holds it in place. For that reason as well, I'm inclined to think it is a replacement.

 

http://i.imgur.com/CcCH8L5.jpg

 

 

Your feed looks very similar to a narrow keel-shaped Aikin Lambert one from the first decade of 1900. Even the section is similar.

 

You could be right about it being an Aikin Lambert overfeed. But I think the section, at least, is Wirt. It's a perfect fit for both the body and the cap, the cap having the Wirt imprint.

http://i.imgur.com/utQ9Ep9.jpg

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You could be right about it being an Aikin Lambert overfeed. But I think the section, at least, is Wirt. It's a perfect fit for both the body and the cap, the cap having the Wirt imprint.

 

Hardly to say. Here is the section of an A.L. eyedropper. It seems to me similar and has the same hole at the barrel end.

 

post-109852-0-34452000-1438677625.jpg

Edited by Alex2014
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Interesting. My half overlay has no imprint on it anywhere. So it could be anything, but with a Wirt feed and nib. The few Wirt overlays I have seen are unmarked, so this doesn't bother me. Could be hard to prove that any overlay pen is truly a Wirt, so we always have to assume....

 

Although, not to be ultra picky, my section and Goudy's are nearly squared off, just only slightly tapered to accept the cap. Alex's has a "quarter round" shape.

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Interesting. My half overlay has no imprint on it anywhere. So it could be anything, but with a Wirt feed and nib. The few Wirt overlays I have seen are unmarked, so this doesn't bother me. Could be hard to prove that any overlay pen is truly a Wirt, so we always have to assume....

 

Although, not to be ultra picky, my section and Goudy's are nearly squared off, just only slightly tapered to accept the cap. Alex's has a "quarter round" shape.

 

More likely, the ALCO overlays were manufactured by George W. Heath (even not marked with "H"). I know nothing about Wirt overlays (also not marked), but this Chased pattern is similar to ALCO and Waterman's, and Ron Dutcher (here) suggests that the "Snail" pattern overlays "were commissioned by New York jewellers". Maybe Heath as well.

 

Three different Aikin-Lambert sections (from c.1885, c.1900, c.1910). The last one (with rounded edges) has a #1 ALCO nib (sorry for the poor quality)

 

post-109852-0-97708800-1438702304.jpg

Edited by Alex2014
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Thanks for the picture. It is interesting that my pen and Goudy's are both seemingly Wirt, but the section is not the most "Wirt-like". On the other hand, so many parts of these early pens were bought from or made by others...

 

I have a Wirt silver overlay marked H Heath, and then at a pen show, I saw the identical pen, but with a Parker section, feed and nib. I don't recall if the overlay was only marked Heath or if it was H and Parker... There are a lot of shared parts on these early pens. My pen very closely resembles those Aiken Lambert pictured above. Was it sold by Wirt after adding a Wirt nib and feed? Did someone replace the nib and feed at a later date (but they fit so perfectly!). Goudy's even has a Wirt date stamp, and mine is unmarked...

 

In my only partially educated opinion, early overlay pens from different manufacturers might actually be the same pen body and cap, but different nibs and feeds. After all, the pen itself is a tube with a cap and was not the "technology" being sold. Put a Wirt feed and nib in any eyedropper body, and then it IS now a Wirt. Put in a Parker Lucky Curve feed and Parker banner nib.... and you have a Parker eyedropper!

 

Thoughts? I am just making some of this up as I go here.....

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Heath was one of many jewelers located in what is now considered lower

Manhattan (it was uptown in 1910) who provided pen makers with overlays

and filigrees. Makers bought them by the gross. Some, like John Holland,

worked with these jobbers to customize designs. He sent his son to live in

New York for exactly that purpose.

Heath was one of the few to hallmark some, but not all of his work. Some

of his overlays were offered in what might be called “limited editions”,

simply because they were done by hand and took much time to complete

— Tree Trunk, Aztec, Snake patterns. These were bought in very small

quantities by Parker, Waterman and Holland. I can’t recall any other makers

who chose to enter such a rarified niche with pens that would cost most

people the equivilent of a weeks pay. Parker and Waterman, the new kids,

had to do that to show that they were serious contenders. Holland, who

started offering pens in 1865, did it to show that he was the Champ.

I know of only one maker who was punctilious about marking the overlays

purchased from the New York jewelers, and that was the Edison Pen

Company in Petersburg VA. Holland did it occasionally, Wirt never. Of course,

this applies only to clip-less pens. However, Dutcher claims that if you peel

the overlay off a Wirt, you will find his imprint on the barrel. I’ll take his word

on that!

As for Wirt under feeds, he offered two at various times. The earlier was a hard

rubber, smooth, rounded slab. The later version was flat and slotted. He also

offered a gold, Safety feed. That is discussed in an article I wrote for PENNANT

earlier this year. (Available at the PCA site.).

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Fascinating information about the Heath Company.

 

Do you happen to know if Heath also made overlays for Mabie, Todd/Mabie, Todd & Bard?

 

Cob

fpn_1428963683__6s.jpg “The pen of the British Empire” fpn_1423349537__swan_sign_is.jpg


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Fascinating information about the Heath Company.

 

Do you happen to know if Heath also made overlays for Mabie, Todd/Mabie, Todd & Bard?

 

Cob

 

Don’t know if they actually commissioned specific designs, but would

think it not unlikely they bought some of his output. By the ’20’s there

was some spectacular work being done in Italy for Waterman, Aurora

and Continental Safteys.

fpn_1364062789___cntntlovrly_2.jpg

Might have been easier to import from there.

Edited by DanDeM
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While bumbling around, came across this splendid example of a Heath Snake made for Parker. The photo is from Gary Lehrer’s gopens.com site. He mention’s that Parker commissioned it to give his salesmen something striking to “get their foot in-the-door”, and describes it as the “epitome of your collection”. No doubt. The pen was sold for $15,000. The original retail price was $10.00. At that time, c. 1910, a school teacher earned about $400 per year.

 

fpn_1439321108__box_parker_snake.jpg

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Are those emeralds for eyes? The price is mindblowing. I hope that 1910 schoolteacher invested in a few.

 

On the subject of Wirt eyedroppers, I was watching this recent auction, but didn't join in because the pen looks like a bit of a mixture. I'd say the cap is a replacement. Also, I wonder if that paddle feed is a mismatch for the body. It looks like it may be too big to fit through the section properly; and the Kamakura Pen site seems to suggest that the "Paul E. Wirt Pat. Feb. 85" imprint predates the paddle feed anyway.

 

 

http://i.imgur.com/utQ9Ep9.jpg

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Are those emeralds for eyes? The price is mindblowing. I hope that 1910 schoolteacher invested in a few.

 

On the subject of Wirt eyedroppers, I was watching this recent auction, but didn't join in because the pen looks like a bit of a mixture. I'd say the cap is a replacement. Also, I wonder if that paddle feed is a mismatch for the body. It looks like it may be too big to fit through the section properly; and the Kamakura Pen site seems to suggest that the "Paul E. Wirt Pat. Feb. 85" imprint predates the paddle feed anyway.

 

 

 

The Feb. ’85 date is for patent #311,554, an early over-feed.

You can see it here:

 

http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?PageNum=0&docid=00311554&IDKey=B989C422410F%0D%0A&HomeUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fpatft.uspto.gov%2Fnetacgi%2Fnph-Parser%3FSect1%3DPTO1%2526Sect2%3DHITOFF%2526d%3DPALL%2526p%3D1%2526u%3D%25252Fnetahtml%25252FPTO%25252Fsrchnum.htm%2526r%3D1%2526f%3DG%2526l%3D50%2526s1%3D0311554.PN.%2526OS%3DPN%2F0311554%2526RS%3DPN%2F0311554

 

You’re right, that collector sticking out of the back of the section

is a complete mismatch. As you noticed, it’s too wide for the

section; the feed does not overlay the nib enough, and extends

too far on the barrel end of the section. The cap however, is similar

to the cap shown in Wirt's patent application.

 

Sitting-out that dance was a wise move.

 

Ah, eBay.

Ah, Wilderness.

Edited by DanDeM
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The Master unhesitatingly could sign this magnificent post:

 

http://s30.postimg.org/uk818x2ip/1_WIRT_FIRMA_LAZARD.jpg

Edited by Lazard 20
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