Profile: The WASP Addipoint

(This page revised February 8, 2015)

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Wasp brochure, February 1938 Magnifying glass
This was page 7 in the Wasp Pen Company’s Feb­ruary 1938 dealer sales brochure.

Manufacturer logoBy the mid-1930s, when Sheaffer set up its Wasp subsidiary corporation to compete in the lower-end market, the big “threat” was R. Esterbrook & Company, whose Dollar Pen (priced at $1.00 for black and $1.50 for other colors) was doing a land-office business. Wasp, whose name was merely an acronym made from the initials of the W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company’s name, began selling a range of WASP-branded pens priced from $1.00 to $3.95. At the top of the range was the Clipper, but the Clipper couldn’t compete with the lowly Estie.

As it turned out, Wasp’s $1.00 pen couldn’t compete with the Esterbrook Dollar Pen, either. Esterbrook’s interchangeable nib was the stumbling block, and when Wasp figured that out, engineers went to work to address the issue. The result of the project, the WASP Addipoint, appeared in the market in February 1938.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
No, this is not an Esterbrook Dollar Pen. Look at the clip.

As its name implies, the Addipoint featured user-interchangeable nibs. But the two obvious systems, one with threads at the back of the nib collar (Wahl-Eversharp) and the other with threads at the front (Esterbrook), were both protected by U.S. patents. For the Addipoint, Wasp took a technologically superior — albeit more costly — approach: package an entire gripping section assembly complete with its own sac. Wasp’s dealer sales brochure made a strong case for this better system:

“Every time the point is renewed, a whole new interior for the pen goes with it. This means that when the WASP ADDIPOINT pen needs a new point, replacing the point means new service for the whole pen, because the writing fluid reservoir is replaced along with the whole point. Still, because ADDIPOINT units are complete, this means no messy job for the dealer, no chance of failure or leakage in the user’s hands, and a far better satisfied customer!”
Addipoint nib unit

The section was threaded to screw into the pen’s barrel. Untipped like Esterbrook’s Duracrome series, Sheaffer’s six steel Addipoint nib units all featured rolled-under nibs and were, like Esterbrook’s untipped nibs, priced at 25¢ each. (Addipoint advertising described these nibs, slightly deceptively, as being “double tipped.”) To go Esterbrook one better, Wasp also offered three iridium-tipped gold Addipoint nibs for 75¢ each, raising the price of a pen equipped with a gold nib by the same 50¢ increment. (Esterbrook responded in the fall of 1938 by introducing its short-lived 3000-series tipped steel nibs.) The following table lists the Addipoint nibs with their stock numbers:


Addipoint Nibs and Numbers

Stainless Steel

Flexible Extra Fine 231
Flexible Fine 232
Flexible Medium 233
Flexible Stub 237
Gregg Shorthand 241
Manifold Medium 243

Gold

Extra Fine 75 Ex-Fine
Fine 75 Fine
Medium 75 Med.

The “flexible” steel nibs were not actually flexible in the true sense. They were ordinary firm nibs, with the slight amount of give that is common to inexpensive steel nibs of the time. The Gregg nib was quite firm, and the manifold nib, as expected, was rigid. The gold content of the gold nibs was not specified, but advertising for the WASP Clipper mentioned 12K gold, and it is reasonable to assume that the Addipoint also used 12K gold.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

By providing a complete nib section assembly that was threaded instead of being a friction fit, Wasp was actually producing a product that was better than Esterbrook’s in another way: not only was nib replacement cleaner than with an Esterbrook pen, but the Wasp design also ensured that the nib would always line up with the lever in the pen’s body as shown in the photographs on this page. This alignment is, of course, only an aesthetic consideration, but a pen looks somehow a little better, a little more carefully made, if the nib is aligned with the lever.

Quick and Easy, and Low in Cost

The design of the Addipoint actually embodied no new technology, no invention as such. The pens were lever fillers fitted with a commodity J-bar instead of Sheaffer’s proprietary single-piece sprung pressure bar, and the engineering for the threaded section had already been done for the Vacuum-Fil plunger-filling system. (Sheaffer had used WASP pens as an extended-use test platform for the plunger filler before applying it to Sheaffer-branded pens in 1935.)

As shown by the first pen at the top of this page, the Addipoint’s styling was straightforward as well, with a plain cap band and a military clip. In 1938, the WASP Clipper had a military clip, in the form of a heavyweight stamped washer clip secured by a flattened pyramidal tassie made of brass and plated with gold or chrome as befitted the color of the pen. For the Addipoint, with its $1.00 price, that implementation would have been too costly; but the basic concept was sound, and Wasp implemented it with a thinner washer clip stamped from stainless steel and a plastic tassie. The back end of the barrel likewise got a tassie to maintain symmetry.

At some point, probably about a year after the introduction of the Addipoint, the pen’s design changed; the tassies and military clip disappeared and were replaced with an ordinary ear-type clip. The new design looked more expensive and was much more attractive than the original, and it continued in production until Sheaffer discontinued the WASP brand around the time America entered World War II.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

As was common practice in the 1930s, Wasp offered the Addipoint in two sizes. Here is a “matched set” of men’s and ladies’ Addipoints. Note that although these pens are primarily gray, they have gold-plated furniture rather than the chrome-plated furniture commonly seen on gray pens of the period.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Is That All There Is?

Apparently, not all Addipoint pens received imprints containing the Addipoint name. This pen, which appears contemporaneous with later Addipoint models like the two gray ones above, is fitted out identically to the $1.50 Addipoint pens, with the same furniture and No 3 gold nib; but it does not bear an ADDIPOINT imprint.

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Colors of the Addipoint

Other than the ubiquitous black, Wasp used colors for the Addipoint that did not appear on Sheaffer’s own-branded pens. This choice provided further differentiation between the product lines. The colors shown here might not be the entire range. Color names listed as being from the 1938 catalog are from the 12-page February 1938 Wasp dealer sales brochure.


1938 Catalog Colors on $1.50 Addipoint Pens (Gold Nibs)
Color Name

Black Black
Brown Pearl Brown Pearl
Green Pearl Green Pearl
Gray Pearl Gray Pearl

1938 Catalog Colors on $1.00 Addipoint Pens (Steel Nibs)
Color Name

Black Black
Black Red and Blue
Black Red and Green
Rust and Green Rust and Green

Colors Not in the 1938 Catalog, Seen on Actual Addipoint Pens
Color Name

Red and Black Red and Black
Brown and Black Brown and Black
Green and Black Green and Black
Green Shell Green Shell
Gray and Blue Gray and Blue

Notes:
  1. I have dated the introduction of the Addipoint based on an entry in the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Volume 490, page 747: “Ser. No. 403,806. The Wasp Pen Co. Inc., Fort Madison, Iowa. Filed Mar. 7, 1938. ADDIPOINT For Fountain Pens and Parts Thereof. Claims use since Feb. 21, 1938.”

  2. This design appears in the earliest known Addipoint dealer sales information, a 12-page brochure dated February 1938.


The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information. I am indebted to David Isaacson for the loan of some of the pens photographed for this article.

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