A couple months ago I stumbled across an amazing find, a Geo W Heath fountain pen. Yup hard to believe isn’t it! For those not in the know George and Alfred Heath started their chasing and gold, silver novelty business in New York City in 1892. George is renown for the quality of his silver and gold metal work. His silver and gold overlays, trim bands, levers and nibs are found on the pens of Waterman, Parker, Conklin, and others. The George W. Heath company produced the overlays for Parker from 1900 until 1915. The silver overlays are frequently marked with Heath’s hallmark which is an H in a square box.
The brothers added fountain pens to their “Chasing” and “Gold & silver novelties” business in 1902. George and Alfred divided their company yet essentially continued offering the same business with George and the pen manufacturing business moving to Newark in May of 1912. Alfred died in 1929, his brother apparently preceded him in death. Without heirs to run the business, the George W Heath company was shuttered by 1931, the estate of Alfred and George Heath sold off the Newark building in 1935.
This means the pen is the oldest in my collection, it being 90+ years old. The pen is small, only 3 and 7/8” long capped with an anchor on the end of the cap to attach a lanyard. On the barrel is the phrase “Blue Bird Ring.” In addition to the overlays, the company made silver novelties. In the 1920’s, Stein & Ellbogen of Chicago used the trade name “Bluebird Diamond” to market their bridal line of rings. Could this pen be a company pen of Stein & Ellbogen? Cant you just imagine a sales person helping some nervous young man picking out the perfect engagement ring and this pen writing up the sales receipt.
The pen arrived needing a new ink sac, doing what I always do I ran the section under hot water to loosen it’s grip on the barrel. Well OMG, the barrel instantly turned olive green. There was some discoloration of the water in the sink which I assumed was old ink, or was it? The pen is made of black hard rubber (BHR) and prone to sun damage. Apparently, there is a treatment used by some which involves applying an ink which I assume is intended to stain the oxidized areas; however, it is prone to washing off. I assume that is that or a similar treatment has been used. The cap does have a slight oily feel to it but I’m not going to run it under water.
I took the pen apart for cleaning, but it turned out the nib and feed needed the most care. Normally the nib cleans right up with a Sunshine cloth, not this time, I scrubbed it, polished it, soaked it but the stains and ink build up remained. Finally, I made use of a wax carving tool to scrap off the stains and clean out the ink channel on the feed. Now clean and shining like new I reinstalled the lever and J-bar, measured for a new #16 ink sac and attached it to the section, reinserted the nib and feed.
Giving the shellac a day to dry, the section is inserted in the barrel. The moment of truth! I inked up the pen and tried writing with it – the nib is damaged, it doesn’t work. I discolored the barrel to replace the sac but the nib is damaged – isn’t that ironic, don’t you think? The nib is a generic no-name nib with “Warranted 14k” stamped on it. The word warranted was a marketing term to give people confidence that the nib really was 14K gold. Yup that’s right, the nib is 58.5% gold. There are businesses which provide nib repair services, some of whom I have done business with.
Back to the discoloration problem. I posted my predicament to forums on the Fountain Pen Network and Fountain Pen Geeks. Members provided a variety of suggestions ranging from a chemical bath that removes the oxidation layer to “live with it.” I decided on somewhere in between, I’ll just apply a very light coat of mineral oil in the hope it will protect and darken the barrel. Doesn’t appear to have improved things much but at least the barrel has a sheen to it like the cap.