Posted in Pens, Stories

Original Ink Cartridge… Created by a Pencil Co.

The Waterman C/F was the pen that introduced modern plastic ink cartridges in 1953. But, did you know that ink cartridges were introduced 60 years prior. As odd as it sounds, a pencil company known primarily for its cheap novelty pens and pencils is credited for introducing prefilled ink cartridges in a variety of different colors.

The Eagle Pencil, Co. ink cartridge filling pens were patented in 1890. A hand-blown glass vial supplied pre-filled with ink and closed with a cork. To install, remove the cork and the vial is coupled over a soft white rubber nipple on the back side of the section, much like contemporary cartridges. The pen (nib holder) was sold in a box with 3 ink vials and a dozen nibs.

The next significant advance in ink cartridge design occurred during the 1920s, with the introduction of the John Hancock cartridge pen. This pen made use of ink cartridges of copper tubing. Copper is a soft pliable metal, thus the cartridge was easily subjected to bending and other malformations.

In 1936, JiF-Waterman introduced a line of pens utilizing glass ink cartridges. JiF glass cartridge pens closely resemble the 3, 3V, 32, and 92V models. Waterman glass cartridges are substantial and can be refilled and reused indefinitely. They were originally sealed with a cork stopper.

The 1950s saw the introduction of plastic as we know it, thus heralding the immensely popular cartridge filler pens. Plastic ink cartridges were not just for fountain pens, they precipitated the rise of the ball-point pen.

Cartridges of glass or metal are very rigid requiring a special seal fitting at the back of the section. This fitting was typically cork or rubber which deteriorates with time. Contemporary cartridges of plastic are flexible, and self-sealing instead of the pen. Plus modern cartridges are molded plastic; cheaper to manufacture and introduce greater tolerance levels.

If you have contemporary pens but yearn for a more vintage feel, consider the Noodler’s 308 cartridge. The cartridge is designed for use in their Ahab or Neponset models. Might have to buy a new pen to enjoy the vintage feel.

Can’t finish without a brief discussion on contemporary ink cartridges. With mass production and standardization, buying contemporary ink cartridges should be a no-brainer. Buy cartridges, insert one into your pen and start writing – right? Nope.

The first time I bought cartridges for my Hemisphere I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Some cartridges only work on one brand of pen, some work on lots of pens… and they all look alike until there is a cartridge lineup.

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

7 thoughts on “Original Ink Cartridge… Created by a Pencil Co.

  1. Cartridges are sometimes a non negotiable affair. I like to use cartridges in the Kaweko Brass Sports when I read feedback of others experiences with the converters. Leakage mainly. I keep a couple of pens intentionally converter free. The Cross being the other one. Buying second hand pens that come with no converter means grab an appropriate fitting one, keep it close afterwards and fill it with ink and syringe when empty. Great read again and the vintage theme is always fascinating. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting! I didn’t know ink cartridges used to be made of glass. They look classier than the modern plastic cartridges, but I probably won’t use them. Too much stress worrying about breaking the glass cartridges.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was most surprised. The Waterman glass cartridges are available – for a small fortune. I believe they would look really cool but I am 100% confident I will break them in short order. Thanks for the visit


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