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(This page revised October 2, 2016)
|This 1946 Taperite advertisement features the Stateleigh and the Citation. The autumn hunting motif, with shotgun and Irish Setter, was designed to appeal to the postwar Modern Woman.|
In 1941, the Parker Pen Company introduced its new “51”. A superb pen, introduced at the perfect moment, the “51” swiftly became the world’s most wanted pen. The competition couldn’t copy the patented design of the ink delivery system, whose principal visible feature was a hooded nib. But dozens of companies could, and did, jump on the bandwagon with pens that — if not actually gifted with hooded nibs — at least looked the part.
Arguably the best, and most successful, of the myriad “51” copies was Waterman’s Taperite. Introduced in 1945, the Taperite features a small nib that can be called hooded only by virtue of the fact that more of it is concealed in the streamlined section than is exposed. In fact, the semi-exposed nib became a selling feature. It drew on Waterman’s now-legendary prowess with nibs; and despite its very small size, the nib in a Taperite could perform as well as a much larger open nib — even to the extent of offering a surprising degree of flexibility. Waterman advertising also made the point that the Taperite, unlike its competition, had a real nib that you could see so that you wouldn’t have trouble orienting it on the paper.
Unlike many lesser companies, Waterman went all the way with the cap, too, designing a slip cap with a clutch that, although not identical to the clutch on a Parker “51”, worked in much the same way. Unfortunately for latter-day collectors, the spring metal Waterman used has proven not to retain its spring, and the clutches of Taperites found “in the wild” frequently need retensioning.
Waterman introduced the Taperite in two versions for men. Both are about 5" long; the Stateleigh, shown above, features a gold-filled cap with a Stars and Stripes band motif with lateral grooves, resembling a stacked-coin band, crowned by a star (left), and the Citation (below) has a plastic cap bearing an extremely broad band of the type that Sheaffer had introduced three years earlier on its conical-nibbed “TRIUMPH” models.
Introduced in the brave new era of high-tech plastics (acrylic from Parker and Waterman, and polystyrene from Eversharp), the celluloid Taperite was more conservative. Unfortunately, some Taperites suffer from the tendency of celluloid to crystallize and crumble; when this happens to a Taperite, the problem area is the back end of the barrel, where the material is thickest. Also, although it is doubtful that Waterman actually intended the Taperite to be unrepairable, it is true that many of these pens are so tightly assembled that they are virtually impossible to disassemble for sac replacement. Knocking the nib and feed out of the gripping section is also very risky; if the section has shrunk, as celluloid parts can do, it will split rather than release the internal parts.
There was also a ladies’ version, the diminutive Lady Garland, whose cap is gold filled like that of the Stateleigh but features a more feminine feathery band imprint instead of the Stateleigh’s masculine Stars and Stripes design. Like many ladies’ pens, the Lady Garland is much shorter than the men’s versions, at 4". It is also smaller in diameter and has a somewhat shortened clip more in keeping with its smaller size.
In 1947, Waterman introduced the Crusader, with a cap of lustrous anodized aluminum (which Waterman dubbed Lumalloy). The Crusader was priced at only $5.00 and offered all the quality Taperite features — including a hand-ground 14K nib, a major selling point and one with which other first-tier makers found it difficult to complete.
In the latter half of 1948, Waterman augmented the Taperite line with the plastic-capped Medalist and Dauntless, which have wide and narrow cap bands, respectively. (The Medalist had previously been an open-nib pen with a corrugated surface reminiscent of the Hundred Year Pen.) The $5.00 Crusader received a face lift, a new cap treatment in the form of gold anodizing with five narrow bands cut through the surface to expose the silver color of the underlying material. This change made room for the new Corinth, with a silvery metal cap that Waterman described as platinum-like Astralite. (Like the Lustraloy cap of the competing Parker “51”, the Astralite cap of the Taperite is stainless steel, but Waterman gave it a lined treatment with an elegant diagonal-line “band.”)
These new pens were joined by Lady Taperites of standard size and shape except for their slightly shorter length and sharply abbreviated clips. The Lady Garland continued in production, with its clip shortened to the same length as that of the new Lady Taperites. The men’s and ladies’ Crusaders shown here are the new version. This design is very attractive, but — like most other aluminum caps — it scratches easily and occasionally corrodes.
Here are men’s and ladies’ Crusaders from about 1949.
As did most pen manufacturers, Waterman had plants other than those in its U.S. home. Many of Waterman’s pens came from the company’s factory in St. Lambert, Quebec, Ontario, in Canada. Among those Canadian pens were Taperites — and St. Laurent produced some variants of the Taperite that didn’t appear on the U.S. market. One such is this 1950s model. Its cap has a matte finish with multiple bright bands, like that of the contemporary Crusader, but it is Astralite (stainless steel) instead of the Crusader’s cheaper and lighter aluminum. And this Taperite also has threads where most models used a clutched slip cap:
For buyers who might not want the glitter of a metal cap — or who could not afford it — Waterman introduced in the latter 1940s two plastic-capped models, called the Medalist and the Dauntless, that differed only in the width of their bands. The Medalist, with the wider of the two bands, is illustrated here:
Waterman had historically produced open-nib pens, and the introduction of the Taperite did not signal an end to that history. The company continued to produce open-nib pens, and all of the Taperite models except the Lady Garland were offered with the purchaser’s choice of nib styles. Here is a later-model open-nib Crusader for comparison with the Taperite version shown earlier in this article. Except for the nibs and sections, the two models are identical.
As did most manufacturers, Waterman rang a few changes on the Taperite. Shown above is the Medalist, with a plastic cap instead of the metal that most Taperites wore. There were also 1940s Taperites with clear barrel ends like those on the contemporaneous Hundred Year and Emblem Pens. Perhaps the most distinctive departure from the standard run came from Canada, in the form of a high-line Taperite with a barrel-end tassie and a squeeze filler instead of Waterman’s trusty decades-old lever.
The following table shows the colors Waterman chose for the Taperite. In general, these colors are surprisingly dark; hues are similar to those of other companies’ pens, but the Waterman colors are much deeper in shade. (They appear much lighter in advertisements than they really are.)
|The Colors of the Taperite|
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. My thanks to Kenneth Moyle for reporting the existence of the squeeze-filling Taperite variant.