Esterbrook, America’s Original Pen Company was established in 1858, yet in 1928 after the British Government introduced legislation to restrict the import of products from the United States, Esterbrook responded by entering into licensing arrangements with Conway Stewart for the “Relief Pen,” and John Mitchell to produce Esterbrook Pens to Birmingham, England. The John Mitchell Pen Work Factory was situated on the corner of Moland and Bagot Streets.
On 19 November 1940, the Moland Street factory was hit by an incendiary bomb, destroying half of the building. Unlike many other businesses bombed during the war, Esterbrook Hazell Pens was able to rebuild during the war. However, the British Government mandated that 50% of the building’s capacity be put to some government-related function. The government section was utilized by the Stationery Office and the Defence Department for ammunition quality assessment.
After the war, the British operations bought out John Mitchell, while the parent company acquired Hazell pens then Cushman & Denison. In 1960, The British operations of Esterbrook Pens merged with Cushman and Denison. Throughout the 1960s, Esterbrook UK did not simply rubber stamp the product lines of the US. Instead, British operations released the Valve Marker, Watercolour, Colourstick, Permanent Pen, and Notewriter under the Gem brand name.
The Esterbrook Pen Co was acquired by the Venus Pencil Co in 1967, which had a modern factory in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Production gradually transferred with production ceasing on Moland Street in 1972.
The “Conundrum” Pen
Esterbrook started marketing double jeweled J-series pens in 1948. The pen I have found is a double jeweled SJ. The J-series, double jeweled, made-in-England pens are identical in appearance to their US cousins. This pen does not have any familiar stainless steel accents. Instead, it is all gold-plated. The clip, cap-ring, and lever are missing their multiband/ring appearance. The cap-ring and clip are smooth with just the faintest trim. The lever is perfectly smooth just like the first generation of double jeweled J-series.
The cap clip is similar to both an Esterbrook Safari and Esterbrook Deluxe LK. The imprinted “Esterbrook” on the clip is worth noting. Please note the style of the “E.” Left is a Deluxe LK clip, and the right is a J-series. The Conundrum and Deluxe have the same style “E” while the J-series lettering is boxy and boring. The “Esterbrook” imprint on the Safari starts at the top like the Conundrum but in the same font as the J-series.
The Conundrum is plastic, not celluloid. It is not as soft as a US Pastel J-series pen. Compared to the SJ, the Conundrum is of equal length with the same type of black jewels, the cap is roughly 1mm longer and .5mm wider. The jewel bands are twice the width of those on the SJ.
Printed on the cap is “Relief” F which is the type of oblique nib with a Fine point nib. The “35/-” specifies the price of the pen at 35 shillings.
The Conundrum has an ink sac but I’m not inking it up. The seller claimed it was NOS but there appears to be ink on the section. Instead, I’ll dip the nib and see how well it writes. It started a bit rough but once the ink was consistently flowing the friction stopped and it wrote smoothly. Since it is a fine nib and I’ve mentioned I have issues, I found it was biting the paper. A couple times it felt as if it would put a hole in the page.
- Capped length. 122mm
- Uncapped length. 108.5mm
- Barrel diameter 11mm
- Cap diameter 12mm
- Weighs in at 14g
——————— Reference Material —————
- Hamilton Pens: The Esterbrook Pen Company