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FP ads in The Tech - Part I: 1881-1899


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Few months ago I found, "The Tech", my alma mater's student newspaper, digitized on the web. All the issues from 1881 till today were scanned and OCR processed. I thought that such original publication would be an excellent source of fountain pen ephemera. The ads can give us a sense of the pens in the context of the times. In the beginning they were gadgets, and who would be more gadget-maniac than the university students. Then they became practical tools and slowly emerged as symbols of status. Finally their demise was evident, the early flood of ads slowly brought to a stop. They had to share space with ball point ads and eventually disappeared. I enjoyed immensely going through these ads and I felt that I had to share them with the fellow FP users and collectors Thanks to Wim, they are now permanently posted on the FPN server. I will attempt to walk you through them with some elementary commentary. I do not claim any special knowledge in pen history so suggestions and corrections, as well as photos of the pens discussed are always welcome.


In the very first issue we find an advertisement of a stylographic pen sold by someone who was probably an entrepreneurial freshmen. This is the only advertisement of that period that is accompanied by a sketch of the pen. All others are using just words.


high res (Oct. 11, 1882)


In later issues the "price was advanced" to $2.00 and the seller now has a store in downtown Boston. We also find for a first time a reference to a well known name, A.T. Cross.



high res(March 7, 1883)


Soon competition comes from general stationary stores. In 1885 Ward and Gay are offering stylographic pens from $1.00 and up.



high res


In 1893 the first reference to fountain pens is found. No specific brand is mentioned.



high res(first appearance in February 27, 1893)


On December 28, 1893 and for most of 1894, together with a reference to Esterbrook's (dip) pens, advertisements appear that

reference Waterman Ideal Fountain Pens for the first time.



high res(first appearance in December 28, 1893)


Another seller places 18 ads within the same year that claim among others "Get the Best - Fountain Pens. - Waterman's is the best". This is not a surprise, as L.E. Waterman planned to dominate the market by heavy advertisement.

The fountain pen era is clearly beginning.


high res


In 1896 a seller advertises the "APEX" fountain pen: "Fully guaranteed for $1.00 - no further discount!". I could find no information about APEX until Rob Astyk at Lion and Pen explained: "Apex was a trademark of the Benjamin Grieshaber Company of Chicago although I don't know whether it was registered as such in 1896. The Apex pen that MacLachlan was selling may have been the Grieshaber or it may have been some more local brand. The ad also sounds as if this is a close-out sale on the Apex pens." (this article) MacLachlan was in charge of the student co-op store as we can see few ad above.




high res


On October 29, 1896, a NY seller offers fountain pens by registered mail from $2.50 to $3.50 with 20% discount in fine, medium and coarse points. There were only 4-5 ads and then they stop. Again Rob Astyk at Lion and Pen explains: "Mr. O'Keefe obtained patent #547,355 on October 1, 1895" and provides more information about these pens in this article.



high res(October 29, 1896)


On December 15, 1898 and during 1899, six advertisements of the A.A. Waterman pens appear. The price is a mere $1.50. Fischler and Schneider place the creation of the A.A. Waterman company in 1887 in NY, while Fultz says that Arthur A. Waterman founded the company in or near Boston, Massachusetts before 1900. Jonathan Steinberg places the creation of the company in 1895. As the sales of fountain pens is now becoming a serious business we have the first major legal battles. LE Waterman will sue this company in 1902 and forced them to label their pens and nibs as "Not Related to the LE Waterman Pen Company".



high res(October 29, 1896)


- to be continued

Edited by antoniosz
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Thanks for the info!

Please note, however, that vintagepen.com (Jonathan Steinberg's site) is not the same as vintagepens.com (David Nishimura's site); I myself make no statement regarding the foundation date of A.A. Waterman.


Note too that there was more than one bout of litigation between A.A. Waterman and L.E. Waterman -- though I don't have the details of the whole messy business in memory at the moment.

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David, I am sorry for the mistake. I made the correction :)

You are right, there is a lot on the LE Waterman - AA Waterman legal tanglings - there are some articles on (penbid.com, and some discussion on lionandpen.com that give some basic info to people that may be interested.

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