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A Fascinating History of Some Important Fountain Pen Companies

Jun 12, 2008
What to do many of the companies listed below have in common? One thing is that the companies have existed for a long time -- in many cases over 100 years. Another is that the fountain pens they created (and still do create) had a lasting beauty and quality about them. As a "vintage fountain pen" they are highly sought after by collectors. And because of their innovations they have made lasting contributions to the fountain pen industry.

W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company -- Sheaffer is one of the better known names in pens. The company was founded in 1912, but the story of the Sheaffer pen starts five years earlier, in 1907.

At this point in the history of the fountain pen, the way you got ink into the pen was to take an eye dropper and load it a drop at a time into the ink reservoir. Everyone, including Walter Sheaffer, felt like this was an extremely messy way to do it. He started looking at other possibilities and knew there must be a better way to fill a fountain pen.

Sheaffer conducted many experiments and finally discovered that by using a small pump lever he could design a better way to refill a fountain pen. In 1908 the U.S. Patent Office granted Sheaffer a patent on his invention. Now it was possible to use ink directly from the bottle and refill a fountain pen without the issues associated with the older method.

Pelikan -- In 1871 Gunther Wagner bought an ink and paint factory that had been established in 1838. The Pelikan pen company is able to trace its history back over 170 years. Wagner used his family crest to inspire the name and logo for the Pelikan pen company.

The Pelikan pen company invented a new, highly reliable fountain pen refilling system. It used a small piston and they called it a "differential plunger". With this new invention they manufactured their first fountain pen in the year 1929. Top quality workmanship and nibs that are written in by hand after shaping and polishing are hallmarks of their operation.

Parker -- The Parker pen company is another business that has a history tracing back over 100 years. Much like the Sheaffer pen company, the Parker pen company was started in response to a complaint. George Parker was a teacher who taught students how to use the telegraph. His students complained that their fountain pens would sometimes provide too much ink flow, and sometimes no flow at all. Parker was already selling pens for another company on the side to earn extra money so he decided to start making his own.

Parker was able to improve the flow of the ink, solving his students problems, and for the next 30 years worked on fountain pen designs. He also designed a lever type filling system.

Montblanc -- Since 1908, the German pen company Montbanc has been manufacturing some of the world's best known pens. Their name can also be found on luxury lines of jewelry, eyewear and fragrances. Some people feel that Montblanc has become too marketing oriented and that the quality of their fountain pens has suffered as a result. Many collectors feel like the quality has dropped, however their vintage fountain pens are generally still prized by collectors.

The Montblanc company believes that there are counterfeit Montblanc pens being sold on the internet, and they will not allow their official dealers to sell this way. Critics of the company maintain that it is just a way that they can artificially inflate the retail price of their fountain pens.

Waterman -- In 1884 a man by the name of Louis Waterman received a patent on an unusual system for delivering ink to the nib of the pen. This patent was for a feed that channeled the ink down the back side where it would flow onto the paper. Fountain pens made by the Waterman company are considered by many to be some of the finest fountain pens manufactured. The business was begun in the USA, but now the manufacturing is done in Paris, France.

Many people claim they write almost perfectly every time they are used. Because of this reliability the Waterman name is one of the most familiar and easily recognized names in the fountain pen manufacturing business. The company was a small scale operation until sales expanded after World War I.

Omas -- Some of the highest quality fountain pens made today are those that come from the Omas factory. Each of their pens are hand made and it can require 100 days for one fountain pen to be completed. They pay attention to the finest details and their fountain pens are considered some of the finest luxury pens made. Omas was founded in Italy in 1925. Their high standards were set at the establishment of the company and each stage of the pen making is done by hand. Their nibs are extremely flexible and produce a high quality calligraphy.

Different vintage fountain pen collectors prefer one brand over the other, but one thing for sure, many of these companies will still be around for the next 100 years. They have a long, proud tradition of fountain pen manufacturing, and they all have interesting stories surrounding the pens they created.
About the Author
Sara Bondia has wide ranging interests and loves checking out information on vintage fountain pens, and purchasing and selling on eBay. For more information on acquiring vintage fountain pens and for some amazing deals on fountain pens, visit her Vintage Fountain Pens website.
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