Profile: Sheaffer’s Tuckaway

(This page revised January 5, 2015)

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Tuckaway Advertisement, 1943 Magnifying glass
This advertisement from the May 1943 issue of Na­tio­nal Geographic Mag­a­zine touts the Tuckaway as a pen that’s always handy for notes to loved ones, es­pecially those in military service overseas.

Manufacturer logoPens in the Pocket — or Purse: Since the invention of the fountain pen, manufacturers have produced different models to suit the differing needs of their customers. One of the most common needs is the ability to carry a pen in a small pocket, such as that of a man’s vest, or in a lady’s purse; and the usual way to address this need was to make a reduced-length variant of a regular model. (Probably one of the best-known “vest-pocket” pens is Waterman’s Ideal No 52V, the shorter version of the No 52.) Everything changed when Sheaffer introduced the Tuckaway, a unisex pen model designed to be dropped into a man’s jacket or trousers pocket or a woman’s purse. From the 1941 Sheaffer catalog comes this description:

”Diminutive when closed, full-sized when opened, TUCKAWAY slips as handy as a lipstick into a lady’s purse. Men like to slip it into their side pocket or trousers pocket for summer or formal wear.”

Because it’s not always possible to carry such a pen with its nib upward, the Tuckaway incorporated special features to make it safe to carry with the nib upward, downward, or sideways. And the new Tuckaway lacked a feature that had by then become standard on virtually all fountain pens: a clip. When Sheaffer introduced the “TRIUMPH” point in 1942, the new nib naturally appeared on the Tuckaway, but there was still no clip. As the nation plunged deeper into World War II, the Tuckaway became a ladies’ pen, and in 1945 it gained a new feature in the form of a diminutive jewel-like clip called a clasp. The addition of the clasp brought the Tuckaway to its final form.

Sheaffer announced the Tuckaway in 1940. Tuckaway adver­tise­ments and Sheaffer catalogs from that year show the pen with an open nib and in a lever-filling version only. This first-year Tuckaway was also restricted to one color (or, more accurately, one barrel finish). The pen bore the trademark White Dot and was offered as a Masterpiece, with solid 14K cap and barrel, and as an ordinary Lifetime version, with 14K gold-filled cap and barrel. In 1941, Sheaffer added a Vacuum-Fil version, extending the model range to a total of four. The Vacuum-Fil and lever-filling versions were otherwise identical; and, as with other models, they were offered at the same prices.

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1941 Vacuum-Fil Tuckaway, capped. In this configuration,
the pen is very small, and it‘s a natural for small pockets.

The original Tuckaway design is unique in another respect; as shown above, it is the only model Sheaffer offered after the 1910s with threads at the back end for screwing the cap on to post it. This design allows a very short back end and a very long cap, so that when posted, the diminutive 418" pen is significantly longer, stretching to 5716". It becomes a practical, easy-to-handle writer’s pen.

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A Little Less Weird, Perhaps?

The original Tuckaway, although an excellent pen, was unusual enough to discourage many potential purchasers — too many, apparently; and in 1942, with the introduction of the revolutionary “TRIUMPH” point, Sheaffer redesigned the Tuckaway completely as part of the “TRIUMPH” line. The only Tuckaway trademark feature that remained was the lack of a clip. The new Crest and Crest Masterpiece “TRIUMPH” Tuckaways, with celluloid barrels, retained the gold-filled and solid gold caps of their predecessors (redesigned to fit the new pens), while the “TRIUMPH” Tuckaway Lifetime Feathertouch made its debut with a celluloid cap colored to match the barrel and decorated with the enormously broadened band that is almost synonymous with Sheaffer’s wartime production:

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1942 “TRIUMPH” Tuckaway Lifetime Feathertouch in
Gray Pearl dress, shown capped and posted

Modern Practicality Wins Out

The first “TRIUMPH”-point version lasted roughly through the Second World War before Sheaffer once again revised the pen’s design. The most obvious change is that the Tuckaway acquired its tiny clasp.

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1945 Tuckaway, showing the new clip and a slight
revision in the design of the broad cap band

There is no definitive answer to the question of why Sheaffer added a clasp to the Tuckaway, but I suspect that the change came about as a result of the war. As women entered the workforce in great numbers, the entire social dynamic began to change. Women had more freedom to participate in all sorts of social activities from which they had to a greater or lesser extent been barred, and many of those activities were best enjoyed while wearing more casual clothes. (A purse is less convenient when one is hiking around the woods and fields with a shotgun in the crook of one’s elbow than when one is strolling down Main Street to shop or on the way to a ladies’ tea.) If you can’t carry a purse, you need somewhere else to tuck your Tuckaway, and a pocket is the ideal location. In a pocket, however, it’s too easy for a pen to fall out if not secured: hence the need for a clip.

Being very short, the Tucky’s new clasp (U.S. Design Patent No D142,383) would likely have fallen victim very quickly to springing if it had been attached to the cap by any of the usual methods. Sheaffer’s solution, which the company applied to most of its other pens at the same time, was an elegant spring-loaded clip (U.S. Patent No 2,473,690).

A Tale of Two Clips
Tuckawway cap, showing the clipBalance cap, showing the military clipCollectors who are unfamiliar with the requirements for a “military” clip, as specified by the United States military immediately before and during the Second World War, sometimes assume that the Tuckaway’s clasp (shown above, at left) complies with the regulations because it is short enough that it cannot be seen when the pen is clipped into a uniform pocket and the pocket flap buttoned over it. But this is only one of the criteria; the other is that the clip must be mounted high enough on the cap that the pen causes no unsightly upward bulge under the buttoned-down flap. The Tuckaway’s clasp does not meet this criterion because it is mounted too low on the side of the cap. Sheaffer’s true military clip, used on the last of the Balance models, is shown to the right above. This clip, longer than a standard clip, is mounted on the back of the cap and wraps over the top. This unique design allows the pen to ride lower in the pocket than any competing model, making Sheaffer’s the “most military” of all the military clips.

Offering Choice to the Consumer

Sheaffer restyled the postwar Tuckaway as a series of models paralleling the company’s new line of full-sized models; but there were still no non-Lifetime Tuckaways. (Even after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission prohibited the offering of a warranty if a fee was charged unless the fee was decribed in type the same same size as, and in close proximity to, the warranty statement itself, the Tuckaway still bore the White Dot.)

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A typical 1946-1947 Tucky. This pen is a Sovereign II. Note the
White Dot. The very narrow “wire” cap band appeared across
the Sheaffer line right after World War II.

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Open-nib Tuckaways did not disappear. This is a Statesman.

This change in design was accompanied by a change in advertising direction; gone was the “For Men or Women” approach, and in its place was a gender-oriented approach in which “he” will appreciate the strong masculine lines of the larger pens while “she” prefers the dainty femininity of the Tuckaway. Here are three of those daintily feminine Carmine Tuckaway models. These pens are 412" long:

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Three Tuckaways from the immediate postwar years.
From top to bottom: Sentinel, Valiant, and Statesman.

The three pens above illustrate the three locations Sheaffer used for the White Dot on Tuckaways of the immediate postwar era. The Sentinel’s White Dot is at the end of the barrel, on the blind cap; the Valiant’s White Dot is on the side of the cap, above the clip; and the Statesman’s White Dot is at the top end of the cap. By 1949, designers had figured out how to apply a White Dot to a metal cap, and in that year all Tuckaways had their White Dots on the side of the cap, above the clip.

The Touchdown

In 1949, Sheaffer introduced the Touchdown filling system, replacing the aging Vacuum-Fil plunger system. The new filler appeared across the model line, including the Tuckaway. The Touchdown filler added a little to the pen’s length, and the Tuckaway ended its career with a capped length of 42132". Here are two Touchdown Tuckaways:

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1949 Touchdown Tuckaways: The Sentinel and the Statesman

Colorful Tuckies

The Tuckaway of the early 1940s wore the colors that were then available; these were black and the four striated colors that remained after 1939. Of these colors, Golden Brown and Gray Pearl were not offered on the Sentinel; the Autograph came in Black only, and the Crest DeLuxe came in Black and Golden Brown only. Around the end of World War II, polystyrene plastics replaced celluloid. This technological advance coincided with (or perhaps caused) a change in fashion, and solid colors replaced the striated hues. These solid colors lasted until the advent of the Snorkel in 1952, when the entire Sheaffer product line was given a makeover — but the Tuckaway did not survive that long. It disappeared from Sheaffer’s catalog in 1950, with the introduction of the Touchdown TM (Thin Model). Thus, the Tucky sang its swan song wearing “fat Touchdown” dress, in 1949.


The Colors of the Tuckaway
Color Name

Gold and Gold Filled 14K Gold and Gold Filled (in 1940 and 1941,
the only color available)
Black Black
Golden Brown Golden Brown
Grey Pearl Grey Pearl
Marine Green Marine Green
Carmine Carmine
Persian Blue Persian Blue
Evergreen Green Evergreen Green
Burgundy Burgundy
Burnt Umber Brown Burnt Umber Brown

The striated color illustrations in the table are from photographs of actual pens; solid colors are computer generated. All have been verified against actual examples. (3D highlighting was added with a computer.) Thanks to Daniel Kirchheimer for providing model-specific color information.

Notes:
  1. By the 1940s, vests were far less fashionable than they had been 20 years earlier. Sheaffer’s advertising took this trend into consideration, targeting the side pocket of a man’s jacket and also the front side pockets of his trousers.

  2. The FTC’s original 1945 ruling forbade “unconditional” warranties altogether if there was a fee. L. E. Waterman and Parker challenged the ruling, but Waterman withdrew its petition in 1946. Parker fought on, and the resulting 1948 court judgment softened the ruling as described here. (The prohibition remained on the use of the word “unconditional.”)


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