Profile: The Parker 45

(This page revised June 22, 2012)

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Parker 45 Advertisement, 1961 Magnifying glass
This 1961 Parker ad­ver­tise­ment des­cribes the 45’s con­vert­i­ble cartridge/converter filling system.

Manufacturer logoThe U.S.A. of the 1950s and early 1960s was enamored of TV Westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel, Wanted: Dead or Alive — the list is almost endless. So it’s really no wonder that when Parker introduced its first cartridge-filling fountain pen in 1960, the pen wore a name that tied it to the ubiquitous Colt .45 Peacemaker: the Parker 45. The name was a cultural nod, of course, but its real purpose was to tell the pen buyer that this pen was as easy to load as the “other” .45 — just open it up and drop in a new cartridge. An added value was the inclusion, as trumpeted by the 1961 adver­tise­ment here, of a converter that allowed the pen to use bottled ink or cartridges as the user preferred.

Based on engineering that had been brewing in the Eversharp company when Parker purchased it in 1957, the 45 received an elegant exterior (U.S. Patent No 3,134,362, by Homer T. Green). Tapered to a concave tassie at the cap and a matching depression at the end of the barrel, it was, and still is, a very attractive pen. Priced at only $5.00, the pen featured a 14K gold nib, and, considering its virtually “bulletproof” design, it was a tremendous bargain. Unlike the “21” and 61, both in production at the time of the 45’s introduction, it is made of a plastic that does not tend to crack. Some 45s do shrink, and some show depressions in the shell where the cap clutch fingers bear on it, but in general the 45 is a really durable workhorse of a pen. Although not aimed explicitly at the school market, it was ideal not only for ordinary use but also for the rougher treatment it was expected to receive at the hands of students.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

This Teal 45 GT (Gold-plated Trim) and Burgundy
45 CT (Chrome-plated Trim) are typical examples.

Based as it was on Eversharp engineering, the 45 offered Parker an unparalleled opportunity to market the same essential product into two different market segments in the same way as automobile makers apply different sheet metal to the same chassis and affix different brand badges. The Eversharp version of the 45, called the Big E, carried a steel nib, lacked the trim ring at the shell where the barrel screws on, and had a tab clip instead of Parker’s usual washer design. It was aimed directly at the low-end school market occupied by Scripto, Wearever, and others, and it sold for only $2.98. The pens’ shared heritage becomes even more apparent when you notice that some early 45s included converters marked Parker Eversharp.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

This is an Eversharp Big E, built on the 45 chassis.

45 nib packagingNot only did the 45 introduce the world to the now-standard cartridge/converter filling system, but it also offered the user the ability to interchange nibs without having to send the pen to Parker or even take it to the repair department of the local Parker dealer. The nib unit (included in U.S. Patent No 3,134,362) simply screws out of the nose of the shell. As time went by, the variety of available nibs grew to include extra-fine, extra-broad, stub, left-foot and right-foot oblique italics in different sizes, and more.

Parker 45 interchangeable nib

The 45 hit the market with a reasonable selection of colors, and when the pen took off almost like a rocket, Parker began applying more colors and more types of finishes to it. Remaining in production until mid-2006, the 45 appeared in more different finishes than any other Parker model. There was, inevitably, a stainless steel Flighter, and at the same time (1964) Parker introduced a gold-plated version called the Insignia. In 1965, the Insignia (pictured here with a Flighter Deluxe) stepped up in the world and donned gold-filled dress:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
The 45 Flighter and Insignia.

As new manufacturing techniques became available, Parker applied them to the 45. One of the new techniques, high-volume production of very economical plastic caps, resulted in the appearance in 1964 of the 45 Arrow. With the advent of the Arrow, Parker also applied its new plastic cap to the new Eversharp Challenger, which became even less costly with the elimination of the 45’s removable nib unit.

Initially, the Arrow had a white imprint on its barrel; but the imprint was more like a “chalk mark” than a permanent imprint, and — like the gold plating on bottom-feeder pens of the 1930s — it rubbed away almost immediately. Parker deleted the imprint and changed the pen’s name to 45 CT.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
The 45 Arrow/CT and the Eversharp Challenger. The Eversharp
pen has no black nib collar; its nib is not removable (U.S. Patent
No D188,637). Pens lent by Joel Hamilton.

1967 saw the advent of the Coronet, whose metal barrel and cap were finished in matte metallic colors.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Having discovered that it had a true hit on its hands, Parker was also extending the 45 higher and higher into the product line, and some quite interesting finishes appeared. Among the least common are the 1970s “Harlequin” Circlet and Shield patterns, which feature areas of exposed metal that are incised below the surface of the pen’s body (lacquered brass or Flighter-like brushed stainless steel). Most of these exotic finishes were produced in England; and, because of their high cost, they did not remain in the product line for very long.

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A 45 “Harlequin” in the Gray Shield pattern (stainless steel)

Also included in the lineup were several very attractive clipless pens like the two Lady 45s (in a finish often called “Brocade”) shown here:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
The Lady 45 in gold trim features wooden
tassies at both ends for an extra touch of luxury.

The last 45 version, the Special GT, shows slight exterior design enhancements in the form of a more streamlined clip and a black cabochon on the cap crown. The Special GT was produced as a Flighter and in black, blue, and red:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
45 Special GT

In 2006, Parker announced that it was discontinuing the 45, a pen that had been in continuous production for 46 years and was, for millions of users, the Volkswagen “Beetle” of pens.

Colors

I do not yet have sufficient documentation to illustrate the complete range of colors used for the 45 during its product life. The following table shows the plastic colors I can be sure of and a sampling of the metals.


Colors of the 45
Color Name (Code)

Black Black (11)
Dark Gray Dark Gray (21)
Light Gray Light Gray (50)
Burgundy Burgundy (17)
Rage Red Rage Red (23)
Matador Red Matador Red (67)
Pink Pink
Mandarin Orange Orange (78)
Olive Olive (49)
Green Green (18)
Navy Gray Navy Gray (18)
Turquoise Turquoise (31)
Teal Blue Teal Blue/Dusty Blue (35)
Midnight Blue Midnight Blue

45 Metals (a Sampling)
Finish Name

Stainless Steel (Flighter) Brushed Stainless Steel (Flighter)
Gold Plated and Gold Filled (various models) Gold Plated and Gold Filled (various models)
Brocade (gold plated or chrome finish) Brocade (gold plated or chrome finish)
Harlequin (stainless steel or lacquered brass) “Harlequin” (Gray Shield)
Matte Blue (TX) Matte Blue (TX)

Notes:
  1. Color codes are taken from wall-mounted cards used by the Parker factory repair department in Janesville, Wisconsin.

  2. The 45’s 1960 introduction saw the pen available in the footnoted colors.


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