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Vintage (Like Really Old) Fountain Pens


vikingmedic
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So I've been looking around and it seems to be that recommendations for pens from about 1890-1905 are Conklin and Waterman. The Victorian Era is my favorite time period and I have several books from that time that I enjoy reading and I enjoy reading about that time period. As I delve deeper into the blackhole of fountain pens I've been interested in more vintage pens. I have your basic beginner pens and a TWSBI Diamond 580 and I love them all. I just picked up a Parker 51 from an antique store for $35 yesterday and I'm guessing it's from about 1940's to early 1950's (rough guess) and I have really been amazed by it. Now I'm looking to move on to a pen from my favorite time. Dip pens and I have a bad relationship because the scratchiness of them drives me crazy. Sorry about the length, but here's the question...where in the world do I find a pen this old that still works? My many searches have turned up nothing. The oldest pens I can find are from the 20s and that a bit later than I'd like. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope.

 

Many thanks in advance.

 

Bobby

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There are many pens from this era. I collect Boston's (1904-1917). There predecessors would have been Colonial Pen and Colonial Fountain Pen (one 1899-1904 and the other 1902-1904) - you can forget about these as they are impossible to find. Related to those was projects done by AA Waterman. Aiken-Lambert should be good. Early Parker would work. John Holland and Wirt were really big concerns.

 

Roger W.

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If you are open to making another try with dip pens, get a few #314 Esterbrook nibs. They are not scratchy.

Baptiste knew how to make a short job long

For love of it. And yet not waste time either.

Robert Frost

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Have you looked for eyedroppers? E.g.

 

Waterman 12, 16, 22...

Mabie Todd 1500

 

And many, many more.

 

Early fountain pens were eye dropper filling pens. You can find them on eBay or, probably better, at many reputed online sellers. You can find them in Pen Shows. And if you are lucky even at flea markets.

 

A cursory look pops up a Waterman 22 from 1903 on eBay as the first match. The Buy It Now! ones are -to me- overly expensive. You can get better prices bidding or from a reputed online seller. Just Google up.

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There are quite a lot of Victorian Eagle Pencil Co. pens from this period. Mostly with glass cartridges and horribly scratchy nibs. Otherwise eye droppers and a few syringe pens (also known as post pens?).

Personally I would look for a Mabie Todd & Bard pen.

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All very good suggestions, but I lost my heart recently to those wonderful old dip pens. The gold ones. Some are scratchy indeed, and they’re frequently messed up, but there’s that rare treasure (frequently a Fairchild) that writes like dream.

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Mabie Todd and Bard eyedropper pens would be a good choice. That imprint is pre 1909 (or 1908 or 1907... but around there).

There are certainly Waterman and Parker (which will be eyedropper pens) from that era, but due to the number of collectors for those brands, the early pens can be expensive.

Paul Wirt pens with an overfeed will be pre-1903.

I am a big Eagle collector, and while there are quality Eagle pens from that era, they are scarce. Most are crappy.

 

Or - go shopping in a vintage magazine! See which brands were out.

Indy-Pen-Dance has links to scans of old American Stationer trade magazines. Click on a link for whichever year you want and start scanning the pages for ads. You will find a lot of eyedropper pens from 1890 - 1900, and then you search ebay for these brands. Be sure the nibs are correct and in good shape with good tipping.

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Thank you so very much everyone for your replies!!! I'm still very much open to dip pens so I will look at the Esterbrooks nibs as suggested and I will also look at better paper as well because I'm sure that might have been part of the problem. I will be looking up the models that everyone suggested and I will see what all I can find. Everyone has been an amazing amount of help!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Love those early pens, the way ideas developed and construction methods, particularly interested in US made pen. The earliest really good pens are pretty much determined by the quality of the nibs. Conklins were and are great, the Aikin Lamberts had been well made for 30 years before Water Sheaffer pens, and made some nice early nibs for Waterman. Great early nibs. Really early pens are fragile with the Iridium tipping though, and often there isn't much left, but you can see by pictures usually pretty well. Smoothness can be corrected as well as any flow issues all long as there is adequate iridium. I don't like eyedroppers too much for using, they can blop ink sometimes and water and old BHR really isn't great combo in my view, although I love them. Since the earliest rubber sac pens were the Conklins, one would think more of them would be around, but with all that my favorite nib from circa 1910 is an American Fountain pen nib in a "Moore non leakable", this pen doesnt have a rubber sac, but doesnt burp ink, so glad to have stumbled on it in an antique store. Boston pen co made awesome nibs, and the nib person from there was likely later working for Dewitt- Lafrance, who made sawaco pens and superite pens, later Carter's, all with awesome nibs. I put a Wirt nib (no vent hole) in my earliest conklin a slip cap with no tipping on one side of original nib :(, Fun stuff. When you get to 1918-24 lots of flexible durable nibs were being made by then by most of the main manufacurers, Wahl included for sure. Eclipse used cheap nibs, at least my few, George Kraker tended to use good ones.

Regards, Glen

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'll vote for giving dip pens another shot. But first, remember that dip pens are not just fountain pens without filling mechanisms--they are an entirely different kind of writing tool, and have to be handled differently. They require prep before first use, regular cleaning, and a quite different--meaning zero writing pressure most of the time--hand. Otherwise they will be scratchy, skippy, blobby, and so forth. But the reason for learning to use dip pens is that the fountain pens in the period you love were designed for people who learned on, and often still used, dip pens. Their feel, quirks, and writing characteristics will be a lot more friendly to a dip-pen user than to a user of modern fountain pens. So I'd recommend a side trip into the wonders of dip-pen land, as preparation for the experience of using a 1900-ish, flex-nib eyedropper pen. It might avoid frustrations with the early fountain pens. You might even find that once you learn the dip pens, you really love them, too.

ron

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Odd, unless I missed it, no mention of John Holland. These EDs from c.1902 carry well tipped, smooth writing nibs

whose only competition came from Wirt or AL.

fpn_1557008435__jh_22_taper_cap_-_3.jpg

fpn_1557008380__jh_filigree_ed_-_3.jpg

Edited by DanDeM
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All wonderful pens (those Hollands are quite lovely) write so well because the nib makers had perfected making wonderful nibs over the previous decades of gold dip pen manufacturing.

 

“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928

Check out my Steel Pen Blog

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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  • 1 month later...

Odd, unless I missed it, no mention of John Holland. These EDs from c.1902 carry well tipped, smooth writing nibs

whose only competition came from Wirt or AL.

fpn_1557008435__jh_22_taper_cap_-_3.jpg

fpn_1557008380__jh_filigree_ed_-_3.jpg

 

That taper cap John Holland.... :puddle:

"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard.

A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have

nothing to do but smell."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you so very much everyone for your replies!!! I'm still very much open to dip pens so I will look at the Esterbrooks nibs as suggested and I will also look at better paper as well because I'm sure that might have been part of the problem. I will be looking up the models that everyone suggested and I will see what all I can find. Everyone has been an amazing amount of help!

All dip pens are not "scratchy." For writing, you want the ball tip dip pens, they are not calligraphic nibs and are designed to be use without flex or pressure. Hunt 513 EF is such a nib and still made to this day. Artist nibs or the more pointed dip nibs have to be "broken in." But not really. You just used some wet/dry sand paper, get it wet and draw little circles to smooth out the tip.

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Scratchy on a new nib (even new vintage) = too much pressure.

 

As might older brother used to always tell me, “lighten up!”

 

The “ball” or “oval” tips are easier to write with with even a semi-heavy hand, but you can’t get good thin lines with them. They work well for rapid writing.

 

“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928

Check out my Steel Pen Blog

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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Here's one for your Victorian Grail Pen. They do exist. I've seen one, but don't have anything like it. Quite rare.

 

The MacKinnon Pen was a luxury fountain pen before Waterman was granted his patent in 1884.

 

Here's a little descriptions I found in The American Bookseller from June of 1879.
Interesting in that they make both a pocket as well as desk pen version. Earliest I've ever heard of a desk pen version of a fountain pen, but I'm sure y'all know of even earlier.
"Fountain pens are considered articles of necessity by many writers in every line of business. The latest improvements in this article is that known as the MacKinnon pen, offered to the trade by D. MacKinnon & Co., at their new location No.200 Broadway. The article looks liken an ordinary pen, but with a conical point, the case being of vulcanized rubber, mounted with 18 carat gold, the valves of pure silver, the springs and point tubes of fine gold, with diamond point on the pen, the whole being made to resist corrosion by ink. The fountain holds ink enough to last some 24 hours, and the flow is certain and regular, and as easily handled as a pencil, the line made being always clear and uniform. In ruling it is simply perfect. There are two kinds made, one for the pocket and one for the office desk. Writers for the press who have used it, speak of it in the highest terms of praise, and the increasing sales indicate its growing popularity."

 

“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928

Check out my Steel Pen Blog

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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Few months ago a seller offered me a deal on a number of special pens , including a mackinon, a bogarate, indipendent and a number of others for a really cheap price :( i didnt know what they were and ended up passing on the offer :(.

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You can find a number of old pens in ebay if you don't mind taking the risk. Some of them are fairly easy to find.

 

Eagle pencil co pens . These are easy to find but not the best to write with :( also the glass is a bit iffy .

 

fpn_1567824407__img_0401.jpg

 

Early watermans

 

fpn_1567824475__img_0410.jpg

 

Early Weidlich pens (not the later ones)

 

fpn_1567824560__img_0409.jpg

 

Paul e Wirt pens (Some of the ones i have on the photo are too new :( sorry )

 

fpn_1567824603__img_0404.jpg

 

Aiken Lamberts with the older feeds. I am not actually sure about this one :(

 

fpn_1567824671__img_0402.jpg

 

Queen pens

 

fpn_1567824716__img_0408.jpg

 

Caw pens . Sorry i don't own one to get a pic. They do show up from time to time in ebay though.

 

Swan pens. This one is also probably too new :(.

 

fpn_1567824759__img_0406.jpg

 

John folly pens and dip pens like fairchild, john holland, Aiken lambert.

 

fpn_1567824803__img_0407.jpg

 

 

Other pens and sub brands like remex

 

fpn_1567824897__img_0405.jpg

 

 

You can find most of them in ebay but obviously there is the risk of something not working as advertised. Unfortunately i don't own a mackinnon, I'll see if i can find a picture of one :(

 

Please do correct me on the age for these pens :)

Edited by shalitha33
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Amazing collection you have there.

 

“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928

Check out my Steel Pen Blog

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne

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