Posted in Pens, Stories

The Fountain Pen Mystery Theatre Presents

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.”

Posted in Pens, Stories

The Fountain Pen Mystery Theatre Presents, Mystery Behind the Blue Diamond

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 unravels the mystery behind a Parker “51,” as there are more so-called “first-year” pens than Parker ever made.

“It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital.” Sherlock Holmes – The Reigate Puzzle

Parker “51” Cordovan Brown

Holmes, it appears this is NOT a Parker 51 “First-Year” pen, manufactured in late 1940 through 1941. They are easily distinguished by their unique characteristics.

Practically all pens of this period are double jewels, while the Parker “51” Made in USA is imprinted on the end of the barrel near the jewel in a single line.

“First-year” clips are also rather unique. They resemble the Parker Vacumatic clips with a larger blue diamond. Also, the enamel used is of a lighter blue color, and the clip gold plate is over a brass base. They are die-struck, resulting in a negative image on the back.

The clutch inside the cap is longer and has 4 “portholes” instead of the more common 5 “portholes.”

Filler units are the aluminum Speedline filler used in the Vacumatic line. Interestingly, some of the 1942 production pens are found with aluminum Speedline fillers. Finally, the nib is completely devoid of any markings. Parker did not start marking and dating the nibs until 1943.

My dear Watson, in order to correctly identify a “first-year” pen you must employ a holistic approach to the pen and not just focus on each individual characteristic.

“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards.” Sherlock Holmes – A Study in Scarlet

The availability of component materials was not consistent during this period, Parker would use older components in newer pens and new components as they become available. Sometime in the second quarter of 1942, the imprint on the “51” was changed to a two-line format that remained until the end of the Vacumatic period in 1948.

The new imprint is relocated on the barrel under the clutch ring, and the nib is the most frequently replaced component on a pen. We cannot accept either at face value.

Conceding that later production used available inventory which included early components; however, during the war years, the brass used in the cap clip and clutch ring base was replaced by metal. War year clips and clutch rings tend to show a silver base instead of brass. Post-war production returned to a brass base.

Finally, the blue diamond on the cap clip was discontinued in mid-1947 due to a ruling by the FTC.

“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.” Sherlock Holmes – The Bascombe Valley Mystery

The clutch ring is well worn, even so, this does not aid in determining if the underlying material is used. The ring appears to show brass while in a different light it appears to be silver (metal).

Look here Watson, the clutch inside the cap is 5-holed and short, typical of the war-time pens. The “first-year” clips were plated over brass and die-struck. This left a negative print on the backside of the clip. Then there is the oversized blue diamond on the clips of “first-year” pens. The blue diamond on this clip is the standard size found on Vacumatics and later “51.”

As mentioned, the pen’s nib contains absolutely no markings. Parker did not begin using markings on the nibs until 1943, thus this nib must be earlier.

“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.” Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of Four

Elementary my dear Watson, this is most assuredly a “first-year” Parker “51,” purchased by Ray Sims of Twin Falls, Idaho.

Upon closer examination, there is a barely detectable crack in the clutch ring. One can deduce from this, that the pen was damaged.

The repair is done during the war years. At this time the original speed line filler is replaced with a plastic filler and the original cap is replaced.

It is common knowledge that the “51” imprint was relocated in 1942 to the barrel by the clutch ring. Upon closer examination, this pen is missing the Parker “51” imprint completely. This can only occur when the original “first-year” pen has the jeweled blind cap with the imprint replaced by a new blind cap which will be devoid of the imprint. The new cap is confirmed by the ever-so-slight variance in color between the jeweled blind cap and the barrel of the pen.

As you can see Watson, only by being observant of details and employing deductive reasoning can the mystery be solved. Until next time….