Profile: The Eversharp Symphony Family

(This page revised March 30, 2017)

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Symphony Advertisement, 1948 Magnifying glass
This early Symphony adver­tise­ment appeared in the Oc­to­ber 30, 1948, issue of The Sat­ur­day Evening Post. The pen was priced at $5.00 (no tax).

Railroad locomotive In 1941 Eversharp introduced a new pen called the Skyline. Designed by Henry Dreyfuss, it was a runaway success, becoming the best selling pen the company ever produced. But shortly after the end of World War II, Eversharp found itself in serious trouble. Its hooded-nib Fifth Avenue, introduced in 1943 to compete with the Parker “51”, was anything but a success, and its unreliable CA ballpoint pen, rushed to market after Milton Reynolds had effectively stolen Eversharp’s thunder with his International ballpoint, was a warranty nightmare. Foundering, desperately needing another Skyline, the company turned again to a professional industrial designer.Nib illustration from advertisement This time the nod fell to Raymond Loewy, the “Father of Industrial Design.” Among his many successes, Loewy had earlier designed the Pennsylvania Railroad’s S-1 steam locomotive (illustrated above) and GG-1 electric locomotive, the 1935 Coldspot refrigerator, the Electrolux vacuum cleaner, the 1946 Greyhound Scenicruiser, and the 1947 Studebaker. (Loewy had also unintentionally collaborated with George D. Cloutier in the design of the Eversharp Fifth Avenue; after Loewy had completed the design, the company decided the pen needed a hooded nib and tapped Cloutier to replace Loewy’s open-nib section design with a hooded version.)

Loewy came through brilliantly, creating a sleekly minimalist modern design that was unique and, unlike the complicated Skyline, relatively easy to manufacture. The Symphony, as Eversharp named the new pen, was catalogued as model 500, and it appeared in late 1948 at a price of $5.00. Internally the same as the Skyline, featuring Eversharp’s proven breather-tube Magic Feed and superb nibs, the new pen should rightfully have been another runaway success. That it was not as great a hit as its predecessor does not diminish in any way its exceptional writing qualities or its smart, dramatic styling.


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This is a Blue Eversharp Symphony (first version).

It is interesting to contrast Eversharp’s fanciful advertising artwork, as seen above in the circular vignette of the nib and section, with the shape of the actual pen.

Also offered, for $3.75, was a matching pen with a smaller nib. This model, named the Sphere Point, is notable for the unusual convex contour of its section, which has a rounded clutch end with no flare, strongly resembling the section of the contemporaneous Parker VS. The Sphere Point was advertised as being “Platinumized” for longer life and smoother writing.

One of the most distinctive styling features of the Symphony is an asymmetrical metal “slipper” cap that appears almost to have been made from the halves of two caps, one slightly shorter than the other, welded together. The clip, creased along its center and attached at the apex of the cap’s shorter side, matches the overall contour perfectly; if its curve is extended past its anchor, the curve intersects the apex of the cap’s longer half:

Eversharp pen cap

Viewed from the side, as shown above, the bright silver-colored slipper cap gives the pen an air almost of a streamlined train or airplane in motion. To further enhance the effect, Loewy designed the cap with no band or other trim — only that well-placed gold-filled clip. Ironically, it may have been the modernity of its styling that kept the Symphony from being a great hit. Advanced to the point of edginess, the pen’s looks may simply not have appealed to the buying public.

Too Edgy?

Whatever the reason, Eversharp withdrew the original Loewy Symphony after only about a year, replacing it for the 1949 Christmas season with a second version that was restyled to soften the edgy design. The barrel had lost the metal cap threads, and the pronounced step between threads and body had become a tapered transition reminiscent of the contours of the Skyline’s barrel. Although the slipper cap remained, its lip was now rounded, and the clip had slid downward some distance away from the apex of the slipper’s shorter side. This latter change did away with the speedy look that had characterized Loewy’s cap design.

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The second generation marks the appearance of several trim levels distinguished by their cap trim, including a narrow gold cap band (Model 701), a broad Autograph-style band that wraps around the cap lip (Model 703, the Deluxe, illustrated above), and a gold-filled cap (Model 705, the Golden Symphony, illustrated below).

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Still Too Edgy?

Either Eversharp was in cost-cutting mode or the second version of the Symphony still wasn’t quite it, apparently, and by the time 1951 rolled around, there was a third version. Gone was the slipper cap. The cap shape was as before; but it was now symmetrical, with the clip side having grown to the size of the back side. Gone, too, was the tapered transition between the barrel’s cap threads and its body; that area was now more gently shaped to match the other end of the barrel:

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(It is also possible that Eversharp, by then well into the final decade of its life as an independent pen company, was in cost-cutting mode. The symmetrical “bullet” cap was less expensive to manufacture.)

Also gone was the Symphony name. Eversharp advertising referred to the pen as “this new Eversharp” and concentrated on its writing qualities and its “Flip-Fill” system (with the same unitized lever assembly and breather-tube Magic Feed as before).

Filler assembly
Eversharp Magic Feed

Eversharp made a mistake with the third-generation pen, however, by retaining the original Loewy inner-cap design. To prevent metal-to-metal wear in the threads, Loewy had designed the inner cap to fill the entire length of the cap, with the threads molded into its inside surface. Taking advantage of the built-in alignment mechanism provided by the slipper cap, he had shaped the inner cap’s outside to engage with the step between the two halves of the metal cap to keep the inner cap from turning within the cap. The second-generation Symphony, although it lacked its predecessor’s metal barrel threads, still had a slipper cap with Loewy’s built-in inner-cap alignment mechanism. But the third-generation bullet cap, being symmetrical, had no automatic alignment system, and many of these pens are found today with inner caps that turn freely.

By the time the Symphony appeared, plastics technology had stabilized, and — except for the slight shrinkage of the inner cap that causes the looseness described in the preceding paragraph — Symphony plastics do not share the brittleness or the tendency to shrink or discolor that plagued the earlier Skyline.

For Those Not at the Top

The Symphony was at the top of the heap in the Eversharp lineup, with a series of lower-line models filling out that lineup. A generically titled “Economy Gold Nib” range appeared, including Models 711, 713, 715, and 717, and Models 911, 913, 915, and 917. These pens had plastic bullet caps and were offered in all of the second- and third-generation colors except Brown, and they differed in their nibs and their furniture. Shown here is a Burgundy Model 715 with a fine manifold nib; below the pen is a table listing the Economy Gold Nib models:

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Model No Furniture Cap Band Nibs

711 Gold Plated Small flexible
713 Narrow (0.050") Small flexible
715 Broad (0.188") Large flexible or manifold
717 Very Broad (0.375") Large flexible or manifold

911 Chrome Plated Small flexible
913 Narrow (0.050") Small flexible
915 Broad (0.188") Large flexible or manifold
917 Very Broad (0.375") Large flexible or manifold

The 711 and 911 had a series of grooves in the cap where the broad band was on the 715 and 915. The clip on the 717 and 917 was shorter and placed higher on the cap to make room for the very broad cap band, which did not wrap around the cap lip as did the band on the Model 703 Symphony.

It is not clear exactly when these budget-minded pens were introduced. Their barrel shape matches that of the second-generation Symphony of 1949, but some authorities date them to 1951, when the third generation was introduced.

Also offered, apparently with the second generation, was a new “Luxury Set” pen, Model 707; this pen had the same barrel and small nib as the 711 and 713, but its gold-plated bullet cap was a foreshadowing of the third-generation Symphony design. (The Luxury Set cap had a flat end; it did not wrap around the cap lip.) One further model is known, a small-nibbed pen with a brushed stainless steel slipper cap and chrome-plated furniture. This latter pen’s model name and number are not known, but the number would likely have been in the 900 series, possibly 909.

The Economy Gold Nib chassis also provided Eversharp with a great opportunity to make a demonstrator for its dealers to show, and such a model did appear in dealers’ shops. It was similar to the Model 711, with a slightly different barrel shape and without the grooves where a cap band would be:

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Turning the Color Wheel Backward?

The Symphony shows an interesting evolution of colors. The colors of the original Loewy version are mostly vibrant and — if one can judge by the color evolution of Parker’s and Sheaffer’s pens from 1949 through the 1960s — ahead of their time. But as Eversharp backed away from Loewy’s advanced design, the company also backed away from his bright colors, returning with the second generation to subdued darker tones nearly identical to those of the Skyline.


Original Symphony Colors
Color Name

Black Black
Blue Blue
Green Green
Red Red
Brown

Brown


Second- and Third-Generation Colors
Color Name

Black Black
Blue Blue
Green Green
Burgundy Burgundy
Brown Brown


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