Welcome to the Fountain Pen Mystery Theatre, where “it may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.” Enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and touch but of deduction. In this episode, our hero (Maisie Dobbs) unravels the Secret of the Jade Pen.
“The extraordinary hides behind the camouflage of the ordinary. Assume nothing” – Maurice Blanche, Maisie Dobbs
Sheaffer began production of “Flattop” pens in 1912, production continuing into the 1930s. In 1924, Sheaffer started making flat-top pens of Jade Green radite (celluloid), which they branded “Jadite.”
What a unique pen! The only reference to such a model indicates it doesn’t exist. How can this be? Why can this be? The pen is a Lifetime model with an inlaid white dot in the plastic of the cap AND another inlaid white dot in the aft end of the barrel. This cannot be.
Sheaffer added a white dot to the center of the cap in Lifetime models, in 1924. I imagine Dr. Maurice Blanche would have something witty to say about the ordinary hiding the extraordinary.
“Stay with the question. The more it troubles you, the more it has to teach you.” – Maurice Blanche, Maisie Dobbs
The imprint on the clip changed in 1922 to compliment the company logo. While the hump clip was introduced 6 years later.
The black cap crown provides an elegant appearance. This feature is usually not associated with Lifetime models. One sees this with the 3-25 and 5-30 flat-top models.
There is some discoloration at both ends of the barrel. Gases released by rubberized ink sacs discolored the Jadite from the inside out.
“Do not rush to conclusions, no matter how uncomfortable the unknowing.” – Maurice Blanche, Maisie Dobbs
What was it Maurice used to say? “Coincidence is a messenger sent by the truth.” I must remember not to rush to conclusions while appreciating the coincidence.
Early flattops have a barrel imprint that included patent dates. After 1927, the patent dates were dropped from the imprint completely.
Two narrow bands appear on the cap beginning in 1928, continuing through its final years of production in the mid-1930s.
Sheaffer imprinted serial numbers on the top and underside of their nibs. The nib imprint was changed to the five-line version in 1926.
Upon inspection, it is evident that a pin retains the filler lever. An internal Sheaffer memo indicates the pin will be replaced with a lever ring in late 1930.
“Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions…as soon as you think you have the answer, you have closed the path and may miss vital new information.” – Maurice Blanche, Maisie Dobbs
“And it occurred to her that she was so used to turning over everything in her mind, as if each thought were an intricate shell found at the beach, that she had never truly known the value of simply accepting things as they were.” Jacqueline Winspear, Elegy for Eddie
What am I to make of the name engraved in the barrel? Should it be considered in light of the clues offered by the pen?
“Maurice’s maxim: “To solve a problem, take it for a walk.” – Maisie Dobbs, Birds of A Feather
Let’s walk through the details and itemize that which has been gleamed of the pen:
- Nib serialization with 5 lines began in 1926,
- Jade Radise was released in 1924,
- The Lifetime White Dot is added in 1924,
- The 2 Banded cap was introduced in 1928,
- The Hump Clip was also introduced in 1928,
- The patent dates and format on the barrel indicate a pre-1927 imprint,
- The pin action filling lever was replaced started Q4 1930,
- And I’ve learned Carl Matthews, was born on 15 Apr 1914 and graduated Secondary school (High School) in 1933.
“Never follow a story with a question … not immediately. And remember to acknowledge the storyteller, for in some way even the messenger is affected by the story he brings.” – Maurice Blanche, Maisie Dobbs
Sheaffer clearly does not consume older stock first. I offer the straight vs hump clips as an example. The catalogs of 1928 to the mid-1930s contain flat-tops with both style clips.
The imprint on the barrel can only be older stock predating 1927. While the dual bands on the cap cannot predate 1928. The 5-line serialization of the nib indicates post-1926.
When was the pen manufactured & Why two white dots?
As we have learned, Sheaffer can and will create a pen from all sources of stock. Carl Matthews is a teenager when the barrel was manufactured. Don’t forget the white dot at the end of the barrel – unheard of. Possibly indicating the pen was reconditioned under a Lifetime warranty and offered for resale?
“The story takes up space as a knot in a piece of wood. If the knot is removed, a hole remains. We must ask ourselves, how will this hole that we have opened be filled?” – Maurice Blanche, Maisie Dobbs
The answer is more subtle. Yes, the pen was a Lifetime warranty return. A secretary’s pen with a ring top. This model had a removable black band with a white dot over the black crown seen on 3-25s.
The band was lost so a white dot was installed in the aft end of the barrel. A bit hasty as the ring on the cap top was replaced with a white dot.
By 1933, the pen was purchased and given to Carl as a present to commemorate his Secondary School (High School) graduation.
Photo Credits. All images (less the cover image) are taken from the book covers of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I encourage the reader to explore the series. Synopsis; “In 1929 London, former servant Maisie Dobbs starts her own business as a psychologist and investigator in this unique and gripping historical mystery series.”COPYRIGHT © 2021-2023 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.