Posted in Restoration

My Parker Duofold Jr

The Duofold is the pen that made the Parker Company one of the greatest pen-manufacturers of the world. Parker debuted the Duofold in 1921. Before the Duofold, nearly all pens were made of hardened black rubber but Parker developed a method to make rubber in a red-orange color which proved very popular.

The Duofold didn’t come easy to Parker, their Lucky Curve pens were selling well, but there was no pizazz. Along comes Lewis M Tebbel, Parker district sales Manager, he persuaded a machinist at the Wisconsin plant to make him a a Lucky Curve model #26 in some old stock red hard rubber. Tebbel’s pen was a hit so he ordered a couple dozen red pens, selling them all immediately. He proposed to Parker’s management that they should incorporate the “Duofold”, his name for the new pen, in the regular line, selling it for $7. This was a major investment in 1929. That $7 is equivalent to $110 now, and BTW I paid less than Ellwood in today’s dollars. His request to expand the product line was refused, not to be deterred, he contacted Kenneth Parker directly.

In 1933, Parker ended production of Duofolds at the Janesville factory, but production continued in Canada and Europe into the 1940’s. The Duofold was the pen that boosted Parker from a small pen manufacturer to one of the leading players in the pen world. When production ended, Parker sold more than ten million pens.

I purchased a 1928 Duofold Jr, from a seller outside Allentown, Pa – just north of Philadelphia. The pen is personalized with the name of the original owner, “Ellwood A Leupold.” Though a common practice, most collectors frown on personalization, I prefer it. Before I took possession of my this “treasure,” I was on Ancestry.com researching the owner. Ellwood Arthur Leupold was born in 1906 to Gustavus Leupold and Paulina Pandorf in Philadelphia. Ellwood was 22 when he purchased this Duofold, quit the investment for a young man employed by the Telephone Company as a draftsman. By the 1940’s Ellwood had changed employers, taking a position with the Corn Exchange National Bank. Both positions I think would warrant a quality pen. In 1945, Ellwood Leupold marries Mary Cuta, the couple remained residents of Philadelphia. Ellwood died in 1985, and Mary in 2016 at the tender age of 102.

The pen was in good shape, but it needed a cleaning and a new ink sac. When I took the pen apart I found significant dried ink deposits inside the barrel, on the pressure bar and the fill button. After a night of soaking, most of the ink dissolved and the residual was easily removed. The blind cap over the button and the flat top cap that held the clip on were black hard rubber and showed signs of sun/water damage. I ran some sand paper over them to remove the heavy damage and an occasional tooth mark. The flat top blind cap contained groves but the groves were caked with 93 years of grime – eww. I took a dental pick and began the process of cleaned out the groves, going around the cap 3 times. Afterwards, I applied a super light coat of Danish Oil to protect the BHR and restore a nice shine. I’m torn about using this oil because it contains a minute a mount of varnish but it does make the BHR water proof. I guess time will tell but I am using only the tiniest amount.

The section unscrewed from the barrel after I applied light heat with a hair drier. I had to use the dental tool to remove some very odd colored stuff caked inside the barrel and the remains of the ink sac. Since ink isn’t white I’m not sure what was in the barrel. Anyway, the nib and feed separated from the section with little effort. I had hoped the feed was a Lucky Curve but no. It took a lot of elbow grease to remove the stains from the underside of the nib. There does not appear to be any damage but we shall see. The channel in the feed was free of dried ink deposits but I cleaned it all the same.

Installed a new 16 ink sac, returned the nib an feed into to section and put it all back together. Inserted the pressure bar and the button. Time for the moment of truth, ink up the pen.

the “Duo” prefix was very popular at the time, being used as a marketing superlative for a wide range of products (paralleled by the ubiquity of “super” in the postwar era). “Duofold” would have suggested that the new oversize Parker was twice the pen competitors could offer – consistent with its pricing, which pushed existing market norms — while the “-fold” suffix both carried through the comparative reference (as in “twofold”) and alluded to the mass and rigidity of the Duofold’s large, manifold-style nib (“manifold” being the term for stiff nibs made for use with carbon paper, with which one could make manifold copies of a document).

David Nishimora

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