OMAS 360 Vintage Red

About Fountain Pens


Waterman 1884 Eyedropper PenThe fountain pen has a number of dates that are noted in terms of its development.

From quils, steel dip pens became the way people wrote. The pen point was inserted into a holder, diped in ink, and wrote.

The ability for the pen to hold a supply of ink was the challenge. Having a supply of ink in the resevoir was the easy part. But having the ink flow out, in a controlled manner, was the challenge. We write today with a fountain pen and take this was granted.

Regulated Flow

Around 1884 L.E. Waterman played a part in the history of the fountain pen by inventing the ink feed system. That meant ink could be stored in the pen and then a regulated flow, through a feed, to the nib and onto the paper.

Holding the Ink in the Pen

The next series of changes were in the way ink was put into the pen, and stored. In the early stages, a droppers drrw the ink from the bottle and then into the pen..

Great inventions along the way replaced that with the use of a sac inside the body of the pen. Various mechanisms would push down on the sac, create a vaccum, to draw the ink through the nib, into the pen.

There were also pistons that would draw ink up into the holding area of the pen, and snorkels and other methods all to get the ink from the bottle into the pen.

In 1953 Waterman came up with the idea of a plastic cartridge that would hold the ink and snap into the pen. A major advancement and the cartridge of course is still around today.

Golden Age of Pens

Waterman PatricianThe 1920's is often referred to as the beginning of the Golden Age for pens. During this time numerous companies in North America and Europe produced fountain pens. There were many styles, however, the Waterman Patrician, issued in 1929, is a good example of the classic style and appearance that illustrates the "Golden Age".

Waterman Patrician to the right.

Black rubber was a popular material used to construct pens. There were also a wide range of coloured bodies and experimentation with different materials. Sheaffer came along with one of the first plastic, cellulose nitrate to produce pens around 1924. With the use of plastic came options for great colours.

The cellulose nitrate opened up greater colour options, but the materila needed a relatively long period of time to cure. This increased production time.

The Great Depression marked the end of numerous pen companies.

There were numerous innoventive pens produced, many still sought after today by collectors. The Parker 51 is considered one of the best pens every produced by many. IT was introduced around 1941 and had a sleek body made from Lucite, a material that was used to make aircraft. The Parker 51 was the pen used to sign the Peace Treaty between the United States and Japan. Parker, even produced a special line of ink, Parker 51 Ink, for the pen. There are websites and books devoted to this pen... this pen has a significant following.

1950 Enter the Ball Point Pen

During the 50's plastic became the new medium for pens.The plastic was heated and injected in molds. This has the economical advantage of shortening the production time as it did not involve the length of time to cure the previously used cellulose nitrate.

By the 50's the ball point pen started making the scene. It was in 1945, at Gimbels Department Store in New York, that marks one of the significant entry points of the ball point pen into the market.

Fountain Pen Use Declines

All Great Eras come to an end, and the 70's seem to be the time frame when the use of the fountain pen started to diminish and the ball point pen became the primary pen of choice. I remember using a fountain pen in grade four buy by grade five the school district replaced the fountain with the ball point pen so even in the school system, my use of a "real pen and ink" was some what limited.

Fountain Pens Remain - Defined Market

The manufacturing of fountain pens is not dead. I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of the pen manufacturers in Italy. The skill remains to design and manufacture fountain pens. This includes all the complexity of ink feeds and the fitting of a large number of individual parts to create a work of art.

Fountain pens are not a mass market production item. They are produced for a defined segment of the market. The pen manufacturers are continuing looking for wasy to broaden the market.

Future of Fountain Pens

When I am asked about the future of fountain pens I think the future remains, in a limited defined market. The real questions is not whether the fountain pen will survive. But rather, the overall future of writing itself. As email, tweats and other electronic forms become the means of communication, hand writing itself will be a limited defined market.





In terms of care and maintenance, there is one golden rule I suggest you follow:

Keep the ink in your pen fresh. If you leave it for a long period of time unused, flush out the ink, use normal water to draw and expel water to wash/flush out the ink feed system.

That probably is one of the best things you can do on a regular basis to keep your fountain pen functioning at a top notch level.

If you use cartridges, then remove the cartridge and hold the nib section of the pen under running water to flush the feed out.