Jump to content

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


Recommended Posts

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
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 5
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • antoniosz


  • Vintagepens


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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Most Contributions

    1. amberleadavis
    2. PAKMAN
    3. Ghost Plane
      Ghost Plane
    4. inkstainedruth
    5. jar
  • Upcoming Events

  • Blog Comments

    • Shanghai Knife Dude
      I have the Sailor Naginata and some fancy blade nibs coming after 2022 by a number of new workshop from China.  With all my respect, IMHO, they are all (bleep) in doing chinese characters.  Go use a bush, or at least a bush pen. 
    • A Smug Dill
      It is the reason why I'm so keen on the idea of a personal library — of pens, nibs, inks, paper products, etc. — and spent so much money, as well as time and effort, to “build” it for myself (because I can't simply remember everything, especially as I'm getting older fast) and my wife, so that we can “know”; and, instead of just disposing of what displeased us, or even just not good enough to be “given the time of day” against competition from >500 other pens and >500 other inks for our at
    • adamselene
      Agreed.  And I think it’s good to be aware of this early on and think about at the point of buying rather than rationalizing a purchase..
    • A Smug Dill
      Alas, one cannot know “good” without some idea of “bad” against which to contrast; and, as one of my former bosses (back when I was in my twenties) used to say, “on the scale of good to bad…”, it's a spectrum, not a dichotomy. Whereas subjectively acceptable (or tolerable) and unacceptable may well be a dichotomy to someone, and finding whether the threshold or cusp between them lies takes experiencing many degrees of less-than-ideal, especially if the decision is somehow influenced by factors o
    • adamselene
      I got my first real fountain pen on my 60th birthday and many hundreds of pens later I’ve often thought of what I should’ve known in the beginning. I have many pens, the majority of which have some objectionable feature. If they are too delicate, or can’t be posted, or they are too precious to face losing , still they are users, but only in very limited environments..  I have a big disliking for pens that have the cap jump into the air and fly off. I object to Pens that dry out, or leave blobs o
  • Chatbox

    You don't have permission to chat.
    Load More
  • Files

  • Create New...