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Best Fountain Pens Manufactured During Or Prior To 1920



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I've been collecting fountain pens for a while now, but my oldest pen is just a Parker 95 (manufactured in 1988, so just shy of 30 years old). I'm currently looking to vastly increase that number in hopes of owning a piece of early fountain pen history. The two pens I'm currently looking at are a Mabie Todd Swan (1884/1887(?) +) or a Waterman 52 (1915 +, so just barely applicable). From the research I've done, these two pens definitely stand out but it's by no means a conclusive decision. I'm looking for at least a few of the following qualities:

 

  • Gold (tipped) Nib
  • At least a semi-flex nib (as an available not-rare option)
  • While capped, no smaller than ~5 inches or 15.5mm
  • Can be found in working condition for under $200 USD
  • Reliable brand that doesn't require tons of maintenance
  • Not a dip pen (just don't have much use for one)

 

I don't really care about the filling method, and the brand doesn't matter as long as it meets most of the criteria. I'm not very interested in sets so that doesn't affect my budget. A minor preference is that the pen was manufactured before 1914 to put it before WWI, but I know there was a "boom" of fountain pens during and just after the war that I wouldn't want to exclude for such a petty reason.

 

I look forward to reading any suggestions!

Edited by Khranos
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  • Khranos

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1902 Sears Robuck's catalog carries Paul Wirt fountain pens as the best in the world.

 

US made Morton nibs were perhaps the best 1900-1914 (and later). Kaweco had been using Morton nibs from 1900 to April of 1914, when they bought some machinery from Morton and had some of Morton's US workmen come to Germany to teach Germans how to make great nibs...................Soennecken and MB were in a race for second.

Then came August and the Americans went home...but not before teaching what was needed.

The gold nib was hand hammered on a tiny anvil and annealed and so forth. In order keep the iridium from burning off, the tip of the pen was stuck in small potato parts......so I guess they had a lot of potato soup in the canteen.

 

1930 Kaweco went broke because the boss lost it all in the market crash. The first thing the new owner did was cut costs....and get rid of what had made Kaweco the best pen in Germany it's grand nib.

So 1930....Kaweco falls to MB&Soennecken level......................I'm not sure when exactly Pelikan stopped using a MB nib.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 

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inkstainedruth

Someone brought a very lovely Mabie Todd Swan eyedropper to the Steel City Nibs meeting tonight. It was hammered sterling silver and had the most incredible flex nib. I think he said it was from about 1910. And he said that he'd paid $79 US for it and the rest of us all sort of cried.... Because we were all *completely* jealous....

Someone asked if the nib was a wet noodle and someone else said "it's a weak-kneed wet noodle...." B)

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."

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"it's a weak-kneed wet noodle...." :thumbup: :happyberet:

 

Johan Sowboda(sp) Oxnard on the com, invented that saying. I use it often. (have none)

I had a '20's MB Safety Pen in my hand that was so....the only one I've run into, but I'm alone with out a possy, and don't get to pen shows..... :( and have only three wet noodles.

 

I do have dip pen nibs that make a wet noodle look uncooked.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 

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-snip-

 

I've never heard of Paul Wirt pens or Morton nibs before. The process sounds very impressive, so pens with that nib (and the aforementioned brand) are definitely in the running now -- it'll be nice to have a few other research options. Thank you for the interesting information and history!

 

-snip-

 

$79 is absolutely insane for that swan model, the best swans I can find for that price these days are the risky "for TLC" listings that will likely end up being very expensive after repairs and maintenance. My congratulations to the lucky owner.

 

Put a dip pen nib in a fountain pen and you’ve got a THING!

 

Once I get a whole pen from the desired date, that's actually not a bad idea for future tinkering. I've got a good few pens that I don't use on account of bad nibs that'd be perfect test subjects.

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I had a Wirt ringtop - the nibs are distinctive: they dont have a breather hole. Theyre nice writers, though.

 

Those Morton nibs sound very interesting, too. Ive collected some Fairchilds, but the handwork sounds charming.

Edited by sidthecat
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I was wondering about the lack of a breather hole. I saw a listing for one of their nibs earlier and even the poster was unsure if it was for fountain or dip pens because of it -- nice to get some clarification. While I suppose it's much more feed dependent, did it seem to cause any minor flow issues/anything of the like?

Edited by Khranos
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ParkerDuofold

1902 Sears Robuck's catalog carries Paul Wirt fountain pens as the best in the world.

 

US made Morton nibs were perhaps the best 1900-1914 (and later). Kaweco had been using Morton nibs from 1900 to April of 1914, when they bought some machinery from Morton and had some of Morton's US workmen come to Germany to teach Germans how to make great nibs...................Soennecken and MB were in a race for second.

Then came August and the Americans went home...but not before teaching what was needed.

The gold nib was hand hammered on a tiny anvil and annealed and so forth. In order keep the iridium from burning off, the tip of the pen was stuck in small potato parts......so I guess they had a lot of potato soup in the canteen.

 

1930 Kaweco went broke because the boss lost it all in the market crash. The first thing the new owner did was cut costs....and get rid of what had made Kaweco the best pen in Germany it's grand nib.

So 1930....Kaweco falls to MB&Soennecken level......................I'm not sure when exactly Pelikan stopped using a MB nib.

Fascinating bit of history there, BoBo... thanks for letting us in on it... I can almost here it now... "Hey! Look! There's a nib in my soup!"

 

 

- Anthony

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Conklin Crescent 40. Simple, reliable filling system and some have flex nibs but it may not be old enough for you. There are some very nice older Conklins out there as well.

 

I'll second previous posters comments about Wirt nibs but most of the Wirts I see are very slender and under five inches. Larger ones are out there but you will have to hunt for them and they tend to be expensive.

 

If you are looking for history, Conklin and Wirt were both endorsed and used by Mark Twain. He preferred the Conklin.

 

And I'll toss in a vote for Moore pens. Some of their nibs are nails but the earlier models, especially the safety pens, have very flexible nibs.

 

Most pens in the age range you are looking at will be a bit quirky but that can add to the charm. Enjoy the hunt.

Dave Campbell
Science Teacher and Pen Addict
Every day is a chance to reduce my level of ignorance.

fpn_1425200643__fpn_1425160066__super_pi

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