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The Pens of Madman

I’m a big fan of the AMC TV series Madmen. For those of you not familiar with the show the phrase “Madmen” is a slang term coined in the 1950s by advertisers working on Madison Avenue to refer to themselves. The series is a drama about one of New York’s most prestigious ad agencies during the 1960s. It follows the firm’s talented ad executive, Donald Draper. The series ran from July 2007 to May 17, 2017. The show won 79 awards during its run, including 16 Emmys, 5 Golden Globe, 3 Best TV Series, and 14 Writes/Directors/Producers/Screen Actors Guild awards.

Why am I blogging about a TV show that has been out of production for 5 years? Welp, the show is renowned for its attention to period detail, and that detail included a variety of era-specific pens. The 5-year anniversary of the series finale episode was last Tuesday (17 May). Lacking a show worthy of my attention I recently binged the series – again – but this time I tried (mostly failing) to pay attention to the pens used in the show.

Scott Buckwald (Prop master): Well, pencils are pencils. There’s no change in the pencils, and a lot of offices were using ballpoint pens. Fountain pens had largely disappeared. Certainly for formal use, the fountain pen was still there, but not as an everyday office tool.

I began by researching the desk pen sets used as props in the show. Research turned up a variety of topics/discussions on the FPN, on Hollywood prop auctions, on Reddit, and on Pinterest but no definitive information as to the brands. Some think the pen set seen on Don Draper’s desk is a Cross, while others say it is Sheaffer and yet another believes it is a “Hero Dual” set making it a Papermate. I have no idea what brand(s) were used.

The show needed period-specific pens appropriate for secretarial use in the 60s. The prop master found a pen collector in Texas; George Fox a pen enthusiast without equal, has amassed a collection in excess of 2,000 pens. Some of which you can see in action throughout the series.

Photo credit; My Supplyroom by George Fox

Period Specific Prop Pens:

The show uses period-specific ballpoint pens by Sheaffer, Papermate, Scripto, Bic Cristal, Parker Touché, and Jotter. Fox said the Scripto was difficult to work with since it was cheap, and the refills are nonstandard, making them difficult to find.

Here, Don Draper is seen using a Parker 51. I considered and eliminated the Parker 61, Parker 21, and Parker 45. Eliminating the “21” was easy, production ceased in 1959, and what successful advertising agent would be caught dead using a high-end school pen.

I’m really going out on the limb but I believe Bertram Cooper is seen using a Montblanc Meisterstück 642.

The pen Cooper is using has the tell-tail Montblanc black barrel with a single gold ring at the section and at the aft end. I feel it looks more like an MB Meisterstück Solitaire Doué, but that model was not marketed until 1986.

Joan’s favorite piece of jewelry is undoubtedly her pen necklace. The necklace can be interpreted to represent her humble roots in the secretarial pool, or her ambition, her desire to be financially independent.

There is no prop more identified with the show than Joan Harris/Holloway’s signature gold pen necklace. I could not find the name of the actual pen used in her wardrobe. Even the costume designer does not say, but I did learn that after the series finale … as the actress was packing her things, the pen necklace went home with her.

Author:

I'm a loser as my wife likes to tell me, I enjoy researching dead cousins and playing with fountain pens.

3 thoughts on “The Pens of Madman

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