Company Back Story
Mabie Todd is one of the longest-lived manufacturers of writing instruments. Tracing its roots via gold nib and pencil manufacture to the 1840s. The company proper was established in 1860 in New York City. Swan pens were introduced in 1887, with UK production beginning in 1905.
Mabie Todd became a wholly-owned British company in 1915, with US manufacturing continuing until the late 1930s. Mabie Todd and the Swan were successful, known internationally as “the pen of the British Empire.” Although the company initially prospered in the postwar period, production ceased before the end of the ’50s.
The Swan Leverless model featured a unique filling system, patented in 1932. It appears the pen is a piston filler or has a blind cap at the aft end of the barrel. Nope. Rotating the end cap one-half of a turn causes a metal bar to sweep the interior of the barrel. In doing so it compresses the ink sac. Rotate the cap back into position and allows the ink sac to expand again, filling with ink. A breather hole in the barrel facilitates air ventilation into the pen’s body as the ink sac is depressed.
Mabie Todd Swan Leverless sweep bar. The screw extends through the end of the barrel and the cap attaches to it.
Interestingly, the ink sac needs to completely fill the inside of the barrel. The use of an undersized sac will negate the sweeping action and the sac will not fill with ink.
Replace the sac
The section fits into the barrel via a friction fit. What makes the sac replacement of the leverless system unique is the need to remove the nib and feed from the section. Reinstall the section and set (fulling expand) the sac within the barrel by inserting a chopstick or similar item via the hole in the section. Only then are the nib and feed installed.
I believe this pen to be an early version as it has a flat top and a Swan ‘medallion’ set into the cap. The pen is most likely ebonite, as determined by the smell – of old tires
My Swan appears to be a model L470/60, though there are no numbers on the pen. The pen is finished in black with a gold cap clip and gold cap ring. The barrel imprints are clear and sharp. This model and trademark logo date the pen to around 1934.
The nib is a Swan 3 while the feed has “Swan M2” stamped on it, and “Swan” stamped on the section. There are no other markings on the pen.
The top of the cap has the gold swan ‘medallion’ embedded in the blind cap and the Swan symbol stamped on the clip.
I did not notice any brassing on the clip or the cap ring.
I inked up the pen and gave it a go. The nib has a lot of flexibility but it is a fine nib (not a fave). The ink unfortunately, writes very wet. Combined with a flexible nib and cheap paper – the result it is not an impressive. I cannot blame the pen.
The ink is Scribo Grigio
- Capped length. 127mm
- Uncapped length. 116mm
- Barrel diameter 11mm
- Cap diameter 13mm
- Weighs in at 17g
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