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FP Ads in the Tech Part V: 1930-1941


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I continue today with the presentation of the vintage pen ads in the MIT Tech by discussing the ads from 1930-1941.  I chose to include 1940-41 simply because thematically the 1940-41 ads are similar to those of previous year, while the next years ad have a war theme and then the appearance of the Parker 51. During 1930-1941 the only brands advertised in this student newspaper: Parker (mostly) and Waterman to a lesser extend. The only other (implicit) reference to other brands is the markdown clearance note shown below. At $1.95 regular price (or even more at 95c clearance) these pens were significanty lower than the advertised Parker and Waterman ones ($3.00-$10.00)



I do not think that there are many who will dispute the fact that Parker was indeed at the top of the fountain market in the 30s. Waterman was probably left behind in the "glory" of earlier days. But it was definitely a follower - not a leader. Sheaffer had the success of the Balance that provided fame and cash the demand for continuous innovation and the competition of the visually impressive and gadgety Vacumatic was tough to match. Wahl had very nice pens but I do not think that they even moved higher than the 4th place among the big four :)   So Parker was indeed the king of the 30s.

The success of the Duofolds carried into the early years of the decade. The early (1931) advertisements highlight the regular Duofolds as well as the pocket and desk pens. In one advertisement the name of  Arthur Conan Doyle is used  - part of a long tradition of Parker to use authors and other famous persons in their ads.


Late in 1931 an advertisement for the Burgundy Duofolds appears.  Try to get a chance to  see such a pen first hand.  The burgundy black combination is indeed very dignified and beautiful.


On 2/13/1934 THE APPEARANCE OF THE VACUMATIC is made known in an ad. The pen is hailed as the Miracle Pen ( :) :) :) ). The main points of the ad are :

 -   it holds 102% more ink

 -   it is sacless (really? and the diaphragm?)

 -   transparent barrel  

Interesting is also that the term "transparent amber" is used... I thought ambering in the modern parlance is a defect :)  Can a Vac expert clarify this for us?


During 1935-1938 no other Parker ads appear in the Tech. Perhaps the success of the vacumatic was such that it was not worth to address such a small market as the students of MIT.  In 1939 the Vacumatic ads return full force - but the tone is "gimmicky"... To begin with "scholarships for students for "free" - a nice way to attract students attention.


Next comes the infamous Parker Vacumatic versus the Railroad Spike :)  They filled a Vac with acid and it "wrote" for a day with no problem - while they put a railroad nail intoferric chloride (essentially an acid solution) and got eaten alive. Of course with the vac been celluloid, rubber and gold there is nothing to be attacked by the acid, so it is apples and oranges but the point was made to the general public.

Denis R. asked rhetorically: "Did the railroad spike manufacturers ever replied with an acetone test?" :)


Note also the "television" ink supply claim (it was roughly the time that TV started been available to the public.


The 1940 ad emphasize the impression that a Parker Vac would make and the promotion of the idea that  using a Vac makes you "the Man Most likely to Succeed"


The Ripley's believe it or notad of Quink is either the best or probably as good as the Railroad spike ad.  A timely ad as Ripley has been a major personality of the airways in the 1930s. Also an interesting new style not seen before in the previous FP ads placed in the Tech.



The last ads of the Parker vac in 1941 highlight the large ink capacity of the pen.  Two months later the Japanese attack pearl Harbor....

s_Page_37_Image_0001.jpg9/26/1941s_Page_37_Image_0002.jpg 10/7/1941

Waterman has also a sizable presence. A number of ads placed between 1935 and 1938 mainly focus on the Ink-vue.  Look carefully at the ads the first is a common lever filler but all the others are an ink-vue.  I copy verbatim from R. Binder's site: Ink-vue= Waterman proprietary design: A Rube Goldberg bulb filler; mechanical squeeze of bulb at end of barrel. A metal pressure bar, located beneath a slotted hole in the side of the barrel, squeezes the bulb laterally. A two-piece jointed pivoting lever is mounted in the slot. Lifting the lever’s longer end raises the first arm of the lever to 90°, at which point it engages the second arm. Lifting further depresses the other end of the second arm to push against the pressure bar." This was the answer of Waterman's to the Vacumatic.  The level mechanism was apparently mechanically troublesome (the lever consisted of 2 pieces).   The other feature of the visible ink supply was also an attempt to match Vac's stripes.  Incidentally Vac's stripes were not the first.  Wahl's little Bantams' barber pole patterns were before the Vac :)

s_Page_31_Image_0001.jpg9/27/1935s_Page_32_Image_0001.jpg9/25/1935s_Page_32_Image_0002.jpgs_Page_33_Image_0001.jpg9/24/1937a href="https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/az/az_Page_33_Image_0002.jpg">s_Page_33_Image_0002.jpg10/1/1937


- to be continued -

Edited by antoniosz
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In checking out the gimmicky Vacumatic ad - it mentions an "oxygen bomb". Was it some kind of pressure chamber test or something? I was hoping someone might be able to shed some light on this. Acid, dropping from an airplane - I can accept that! But an oxygen bomb? Maybe. ;)



"My shoes were reasonably clean, my rent was paid and I had two boxes of cereal and plenty of coffee at home. The world was mine, and I had plenty of time."

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As far as I know oxygen bomb is a calorimeter - i.e. a device that measures the heat that comes out of a reaction. It is a pressure vessel that contains pure oxygen (perhaps under pressure). Maybe they were using it to "see" reaction with oxygen under high pressure (to "simulate" long term behavior) to contrast with older hard rubber pens. But there oxygen is not the key to degradation. But I donot see the true reason behind it...Maybe someone else can elucidate this one...

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  • 3 years later...

People are too naive back in the days... :o

A man's real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor.

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In checking out the gimmicky Vacumatic ad - it mentions an "oxygen bomb". Was it some kind of pressure chamber test or something? I was hoping someone might be able to shed some light on this. Acid, dropping from an airplane - I can accept that! But an oxygen bomb? Maybe. ;)




From context, it appears the "oxygen bomb" was what we'd now call a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, used for an early form of accelerated aging test. If a pen can be placed in high pressure pure oxygen for weeks and not suffer corrosion or oxidation, the implication is it will last many decades in one atmosphere, of which only 21% is oxygen (and they did!).

Does not always write loving messages.

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  • 4 months later...

Attached is a fun Vacuumatic ad from the 1933 Georgia Tech 'Technique', a campus publication.http://www.library.gatech.edu/archives/ads/img/categories/pens/parker.jpg

Edited by mousestalker
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thank you for posting these.

Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time


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  • 2 weeks later...

I have an ad for Namiki-Dunhill I won off of fleabay last year. From the looks of it,

it would fit in your time frame of coming from the 1930's.




Irony is not lost on INFJ's--in fact,they revel in it.

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  • 7 years later...

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