Richard’s Pen Collection : Vintage American Fountain Pens

Writing instruments on this page are part of my personal collection and are not for sale.

The Color — and Size — of a Nib Arrow Design Features

Manufacturer logoThe L. E. Waterman company had been producing pens of red rippled hard rubber for a while when, in 1927, it introduced two new No 5 and No 7 “Ripple” models. Instead of describing nib tip shapes only with words that might have little meaning for the average purchaser, Waterman assigned “colors” to the six (later ten) nib styles for these models.

The Ideal No 7 is one of the most collectible Watermans. I inherited my first No 7 from my grandfather, a pictorial photographer and novelist. It has a BLUE (Improved Stub) nib, and it writes wonderfully. This second-model pen (with narrow white bands next to the blue-colored band on the cap) is 558" capped, 718" posted.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Despite having gone to the 2007 Triangle Pen Show in Raleigh, North Carolina, with absolutely no intention of purchasing a No 7, I bought the next pen there. (It really is a No 7 despite having a cap that is apparently from a No 55.) This pen, which is 51932" capped and 7132" posted, is also the second model. It bears a nib marked to indicate that it is the mythic WHITE (Coarse) nib. The magnifying-glass symbol to the left of the image below affords you a close-up view of the nib. Investigation has shown that the nib is not a true WHITE nib; the color imprint was not there when John Mottishaw worked on the nib in 2003. But it’s still a nice pen and a very nice big fat wet stub nib.

Magnifying glass Fountain pen Magnifying glass

With no brassing anywhere and all three barrel imprints so crisp they still show raised edges, this PINK No 7 is as close to perfect a specimen as I’ve ever seen. When it was offered to me I really couldn’t turn it down. It’s 52132" capped and 71764" posted, and I’m seriously in love with it — the rubber is unusually rich in black, and the dark color is intriguing. I even like the nib!

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

One of the most exciting items in my collection is this Waterman’s Ideal No 7 pen and pencil set in BHR. As you can see from the photo of the pen capped, these are not an ordinary pen and pencil. The set is one of a batch that were made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the the first F. W. Woolworth store. The furniture and the Woolworth Building on the pen’s cap are solid 14K gold, and the gold ring above the peak of the Woolworth Building is the eyepiece for a Stanhope viewer showing a portrait of Woolworth himself. The pen i51316" capped, 738" posted, a skosh longer than the ordinary No 7. The pencil also has a Stanhope, this one featuring a view of the Woolworth Building with the date January 23, 1930.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

I don’t suppose there’s a law saying that if you have a No 7 you also have to have a No 5, but when this PURPLE No 5 jumped out of another dealer’s case at the 2008 NY/NJ Show and said, “Buy me,” who was I to refuse? The No 5 is of course smaller than the No 7, at 5532" capped and 61332" posted. There is a certain charm about the slight flare at the cap crown of the No 5. ¶ What makes this pen even more special (to me, at least) is that it was rather less than “correct” when I bought it. I had examined it and knew most of the flaws, and the first thing I did upon returning to the Nashua Pen Spa was to take the pen into the shop and put it up on the rack. The cap’s color band was, and will remain, a modern replacement. The pen’s original lever box assembly died somewhere along the way, and the assembly in the pen when I brought it home was the more streamlined version, from a 1930s or ’40s celluloid pen; the Waterman pressure bar was also long gone, replaced with a third-tier J-bar. I’ve refitted these parts with correct ones. Now the pen looks and works as it should.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

At 414" capped and 51132" posted, this itty-bitty “Ripple” pen is the “other” 51. Its unnumbered flex nib is tiny — about the size of a Wahl No 0 — and it’s the smallest (and skinniest) self-filling Waterman pen that did not carry the 12V designation. With its nickel-plated furniture, the Waterman’s Ideal No 51V is something of a “sport”; most rippled pens featured gold-filled furniture.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

So, if nibs have colors, maybe “Ripple” pens do, too. Yup. There were several colors of rippled hard rubber; these Ideal No 94 pens are in Ripple Olive and Ripple Bluegreen, respectively. The 94 surprised me by being a delight in the hand despite its somewhat greater-than-52-size girth. Both of these pens have flexible nibs that are wicked fun to write with.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Just the Pen for a Doctor

If you’re like me, you associate doctors with syringes. One of the simplest and most reliable filling systems of the early 20th century was the syringe, or “pull,” filler, often called the Post filler because it was first used by the Post Fountain Pen Company. This is a Post No 3, made c. 1910. A 1911 Post advertisement offered this model for $4.00. The pen is a long 6332" and 7164" posted.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Here, the filling system is implemented on a pen by Salz Brothers (a company probably best known today for its diminutive Peter Pan pens). The one significant disadvantage of the syringe filler is that the plunger, when the pen is full, uses a lot of extra length. And with its large nib, this pen is a big one anyway; capped, it’s is 51532"; posted, it grows only to 61932". It’s a little clunky, but the No 4 nib is very nice.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The basic syringe filler is simplicity itself, but the Franklin Pen Company of Philadelphia elaborated on it in a very sophisticated way, by providing a mechanism that allows the user to tighten the packing seal as it wears in use. My Franklin No 5 is also a large pen, bigger even than the Salz at 51116" capped and 61516" posted. The No 5 flexible nib is extremely nice.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Convenience (Mostly) Wins Out Over Economy Arrow Profile

Manufacturer logoI’m not really a “metal pen guy,” but when this Waterman C/F in Barleycorn came my way I pretty much had to snap it up. Introduced in 1953, the C/F is a fascinating pen — not only because it was the first widely popular cartridge-filling pen but also because the nib fits into the section in an unusual way: inserted from the front, then pivoted into position and locked in place by the feed (which slides in from the back). This pen is 51132"capped; posted, it’s 51316". The nib on this puppy is a flexible fine that I’ve made a little wetter and a lot smoother, and it’s a wonderful nib. A wonderful pen, actually.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

The common man’s C/F was still quite attractive, and it was fitted with a 14K nib, at least on U.S. production, like the red pen below. This pen’s nib is “living proof” that Waterman hadn’t abandoned its longstanding reputation as a maker of pens with great nibs — this pen’s nib, as indicated by the barrel chalkmark, is a flexible fine. A very nice flexible fine, by the way.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

And here we have the common man’s C/F in another color — at least that’s what it looks like until you see that lever there in the middle of the barrel. There goes the convenience factor! This pen, apparently relatively uncommon, was conceived by those wacky Canadians, and the only thing I have that resembles a model number or name is the R.D. on the cap band. This genetic sport has a fine No 2A 14K nib, and it’s actually a quite nice writing instrument (by which I mean it works very well and feels good in the hand).

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
For a Lifetime

Manufacturer logoIn 1920, Sheaffer trumped all of its competition by offering pens with a lifetime warranty (which at the outset applied only to the nibs). Roughly four years later, soon after its introduction of Radite (celluloid) pens, the company created what remains one of the most identifiable brand marks in the industry, the famous White Dot that identified a pen bearing a lifetime warranty. Hard rubber pens didn’t remain in production too long after that time, so hard rubber pens with the White Dot are somewhat uncommon. Inset into the cap crown, the White Dot on this BCHR Senior Lifetime pen can’t be seen here, but I assure you it’s there. This pen, sized at 51332" capped and 634" posted, holds a remarkably smooth fine-tipped “nail” that’s a real pleasure to write with. The furniture is badly brassed, but — at least for the moment — I don’t care. I like the pen too much to send it off for replating.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
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