Oops, I’m doing it yet again, welp I guess this is going to be a semi-regular featured post, but still only when I’m feeling uninspired (or lazy), then I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. In honor of consumerism, let’s flashback and look at the “extensive research” conducted by Sheaffer determined that there is a market for a pen designed exclusively for women. I wrote this in the spirt of 1958, yes it could be considered sexist, but I took inspiration from advertisements of the time. Making amends for spelling and grammar issues I present the Lady Sheaffer. Click the Ping Back to read the full story.
“Results show that women generally considered pens made for them were nothing more than scaled down reproductions of men’s writing instruments while their fashion interests were centered in fabrics, costume jewelry and accessories. The results was a new line of cartridge pens named ‘The Lady Sheaffer’ developed to include all these features. The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert fountain pen debuts in April 1958, offering 19 models with patterns inspired by fine fabrics, like tweed, corduroy, paisley and tulle.”
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This year I was planning on just buying a new ink, which I did but then I stumbled across a special offer on a Sheaffer Prelude. The pen was being offered (FPD only) at the bargain price of $25. Amazon offers it at $65. I hummed and hawed for several hours. I wasn’t in the market for this pen, or any pen really, just some ink. It got the better of me.
Of course, when checking out, the seller was nice enough to remind me that for a couple dollars more I would qualify for FREE shipping. That’s right FREE shipping. There is a sucker born every day. The next thing I knew two inks, and a Kaweco short converter has joined the pen in my cart. But I got FREE shipping.
Gorilla Deep Maroon Red
The ITF technology used by Monteverde is an additive to improve ink flow – I’ll let you know how that works out. Additionally, all three inks are due based inks, they are not waterproof, and lack sheen.
I was in the market for the converted – the Benu Skull pen uses short ones and I needed a couple more dollars on the order for FREE shipping! Looking back at this ordeal, I came to realized that FREE shipping cost me nearly 4x what I would have paid for standard shipping. My wife, being the compassionate soul that she is, reminded me that I am a gullible loser. Yeah, but a happy one.
In this last discussion of my favorite vintage pen materials, I am presenting celluloid. Why do I like celluloid you ask. Unfortunately, that is a detailed answer you see. There are two kinds of celluloid; one made with cellulose nitrate and another made from cellulose acetate. I have both but I prefer the cellulose nitrate. It has a warm feel, much like ebonite, and a pleasant camphor fragrance. It’s much easier to generate vibrant colors and interesting patterns.
Parker and Sheaffer began manufacturing celluloid nitrate pens in the 1920s, even though the safer celluloid acetate had been readily available since the 1860s. The majority of celluloid pens from the 1930s were made by Dupont under the brand Pyralin.
Cellulose nitrate (Real Celluloid)
The primary ingredient of celluloid is cellulose nitrate. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. Obtained primarily from wood pulp and cotton to produce paperboard and paper. Nitrating cellulose through exposure to a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid produces highly flammable cellulose nitrate.
It was initially used as guncotton, a replacement for gunpowder. Cellulose nitrate was also used as a low-yield explosive in mining. So naturally, it should make a great medium for manufacturing pens – once it is plasticized with camphor, celluloid’s other essential component.
Spontaneous combustion is always a possibility; however, the most common failure of celluloid occurs as it ages. Exposure to the environment allows the camphor to sublimate at room temperature, reverting the celluloid to Cellulose nitrate. Another sublimation associated with exposure to excess heat affects nitrate.
Cellulose acetate (Fake Celluloid)
“Cellulose acetate is most commonly prepared by treating cellulose with acetic acid and then with acetic anhydride in the presence of a catalyst such as sulfuric acid.”
Cellulose acetate was made by dozens of companies with different brand names and formulations. According to Lambrou’s Fountain Pens of the World, there are four different cellulosic plastics used in fountain pens:
Cellulose Nitrate (real celluloid)
I ask, is cellulose acetate, etc. real celluloid? It is still being manufactured and called celluloid. Or is the determination of celluloid made because of cellulose?
Now for the bad news, both nitrate and acetate are classified as flammable substances, and subject to transportation restrictions plus storage and handling regulations. For this reason, contemporary celluloid pens are very uncommon; however, Italian companies, Montegrappa and Visconti manufacture pens from celluloid as does Onishi Seisakusho in Japan.
Early billiard balls made of cellulose nitrate were known to explode occasionally.
Cellulose nitrate-based film has spontaneously ignited and that which has not burned has in a large part decomposes to red powder.
Allegedly a prisoner explodes a deck of celluloid playing cards to facilitate his escape.
How can I tell?
The simplest way to determine if celluloid is real is to take a whiff, it is all about the fragrance. Wet the pen and rub hard creating heat. It will not smell like plastic but like camphor. Honestly, I have no idea what camphor smells like but I can tell you a celluloid pen does not smell like a petroleum product, or a solvent.
You can also test by burning shavings. Acetate will have a vinegar smell and burn yellow while nitrate will smell of camphor and burn white. Yellow vs white seems like an inconclusive test.
For those with access to a microscope, place a shaving and lace on a glass slide. Add a droplet of acetone. If celluloid, it will promptly dissolve; casein, Bakelite, and acrylic will be unaffected. This test won’t tell us if the celluloid is real or fake.
Waxes have not been shown to benefit hard rubber, while they can damage celluloid by preventing the escape of the acidic gas by-products celluloid naturally produce. The wax seals the celluloid, preventing the nitrocellulose gas from escaping, it is retained in the celluloid hastening decomposition.
In conclusion, I test by smell. I like real celluloid because it has a warm feel and it smells good. To me, the aroma is earthy with a medicinal undertone.
Good morning, yesterday. You wake up and time has slipped away. And suddenly it’s hard to find. The memories you left behind … -Paul Anka
Tomorrow (27 September) is Nation Ancestor Appreciation Day – yes there really is such a thing. To commemorate, I am highlighting the ancestry of three of my pens. Maybe I have an overactive imagination, or hopelessly sentimental, both I’m sure, but each holds a story waiting to be known. So without further delay allow me to present the ancestral story of each pen.
1928 Parker Duofold Jr. (1921-1934)
Ellwood Arthur Leupold was born in 1906 to Gustavus & Paulina (Padorf) Leupold (first-generation German immigrants) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
When Ellwood landed his first “real” job as a draftsman for the telephone company he also invested in a decent writing instrument. He bought a Parker Duofold Jr (circa 1928). This investment cost him $7, equivalent to $105 today – a significant investment for a 22-year-old.
Ellwood subsequently accepted a job clerking at the Corn Exchange National Bank; I’m sure his Duofold followed. In 1945, Ellwood (39) married Mary T. Cuta (31), the daughter of Basil and Stella Cuta of Poland. The couple set up house with his parents in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia, where they remained for the remainder of their lives. By 1950, Ellwood accepted a new position, this one with the Bureau of Water as a draftsman. Sadly, the couple did not have any children. Ellwood died in August 1985; Mary survived him by 31 years, passing in 2016 at the age of 102.
Esterbrook Dollar Pen (1934-1942)
Doris Isabelle Stirratt and her twin sister Donna, were born in 1922 to Chauncy & Theresine Stiratt of Crookston, Minnesota. As the Great Depression drew to a conclusion so did her days in high school. Doris landed a job as an assistant teacher in the Beltrami County, Minnesota school system as part of the “New Deal” National Young Administration School Project.
You can’t start your first professional job and not be prepared, around this time Doris purchased an Esterbrook “Dollar” pen.
But teaching was not her thing, in 1947, Doris accepted a position with the Beltrami County government. A couple years passed and she met a charming young doctor just starting his practice (Grant “Bob” Garlock, MD), they were married in May of 1950. The couple managed 3 children before Grant was recalled to active duty in the US Army, commissioned a Lieutenant, and deployed to Korea.
Doris had artistic talent, to supplement a Lieutenant’s pay, Doris agreed to illustrate a science textbook for Professor Alfred M. Elliott, of the University of Michigan. Zoology was published in 1952, crediting Doris Stirratt Garlock for her wonderful drawings and unbound patience with him.
Of the many drawings in the textbook, this one caught my fancy as it included a slide rule. I’m sure everyone knows what a slide rule is.
After Grant’s return in 1953, their 4th child is born and Grant accepts a position at State Hospital for the Insane in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. This apparently did not go over well with Doris and Grant remained in Beltrami. He announced his intent to take the position in Fergus Falls the following year but this also did not happen (happy wife, happy life). In the summer of 1969, two of the Garlock children join or took over the medical and surgical practice their father was associated with in Beltrami.
Doris is elected Beltrami County Treasurer in 1965, a position she holds until her retirement in 1977. This is where things get odd. At her retirement, the local newspaper quotes Doris as saying her husband “Bob” died in 1976 yet he clearly did not. He was living in California.
It appears Bob moved to Ojai, California in 1969, hence the reason their children entered his practice? After her retirement, no more Minnesota winters for Doris, she joins her husband in California, living first in Napa County before heading south to Ventura. Her husband dies in December 2009, and Doris survived him by 6.5 years.
Sheaffer Snorkle (1952-1959)
Iris Imo Simmons was born in 1904 to Erwan & Rosa (Banner) Simmons of Le Roy, Illinois. Unfortunately, she never got to know her mother, as her mom died several months after her birth. Subsequently, the family moved to Missouri, thus beginning her Odyssey. Imo, as she preferred to be known, attended school in both Livingston & Linn counties. Imo, her sisters Bebe and Edith left Parson Creek, Missouri by 1930 for Le Roy, Illinois where Bebe and Imo taught in the school system while Edith finished high school. Imo completed 2 years of college by 1940. She remained in Le Roy until the early 1950s, moving to Bloomington where she enrolled at the Illinois State University, graduating in 1956, having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education.
Bursting with pride, deserving a reward for all the hard work or maybe it was a gift. Either way, Imo became the owner of a Sheaffer Snorkle fountain pen.
She remained in Bloomington until the early 1970s whence she retired to Memphis, Tennessee. Thus, reuniting Imo with her sisters, Bebe and Edith.
After her sisters passed, Imo moved to a nursing home in Wheeling, Missouri in 1992. A year later during the Christmas holiday, she passed. At the age of 89, Imo had outlived all her siblings (4 sisters and 1 brother). She was laid to rest in Meadville, Linn County Missouri.
I recently wrote a post pertaining to Lifetime Guarantees associated with pens and the legal issue those guarantees wrought. Prior to the FTC legal troubles, Sheaffer found themselves engaged in a battle with a Kansas City-based drug chain called Katz. I highly recommend reading “Look What the Katz Drug In” by Daniel Kirchheimer on the topic and the mysterious and cryptic numbering sequence associated with Shaeffer’s Lifetime nibs.
Katz Back Story
Founded in 1914, by the brothers Ike and Mike Katz, they opened two drug stores in Kansas City, Missouri. Katz’s claim to fame was their “cut [rate] prices.” At the start of World War I (for the US), Katz Drug Stores became famous when they were permitted to remain open for business past 6 pm despite the wartime curfews on nonessential businesses. Committed to having the lowest prices, they ate a new 10% tax on cigarettes instead of passing the cost to customers, thus their slogan “Katz pays the tax!” As time goes by, the company is bought and sold, eventually becoming part of CVS.
Tit for Tat
Skipping the legalese, Sheaffer refused to sell their pens to Katz because Katz would not honor Sheaffer’s fixed retail price (sounds a lot like Apple don’t you think?). Behind the scenes, Katz acquires quantities of Sheaffer Lifetime Fountain Pens and begins selling them at what they term “cut price.” Sheaffer responds by serializing the Lifetime nibs. Originally stamping a serial number on the top of the nib, then later stamping the underside with the same number. Katz simply removed the serial number from the nibs, claiming the serial number violates the Sherman Antitrust act. Sheaffer filed suit on 20 December 1930, claiming their Lifetime pens had been altered, mutilated, and damaged. Katz responded that any alteration, damage, or mutilation was done in response to the unlawful practice of Sheaffer for the sole purpose of identifying the dealers and resellers from whom Katz had acquired the pens.
Accusations, Depositions, Perjury
The legal wrangling spanned three years, attributable primarily to Sheaffer’s strategy of legal attrition against a smaller adversary. This is where Kirchheimer’s research becomes invaluable and for which I will rely heavily – why Sheaffer felt it needed to serialize the nibs used on its Lifetime pens.
At no time did Katz deny they were polishing off the serial numbers. They were clear, they engaged in removing the serial number to protect their suppliers from Sheaffer. Unable to identify the suppliers selling to Katz, Sheaffer takes the battle to the consumer, refusing to honor the pen Lifetime guarantee if the serial number is missing from the nib.
During a deposition in 1933, Craig Sheaffer explained the purpose of the serial number is not as Katz claims but instead is principally to limit their liability based on the Lifetime guarantee. He claimed that the Lifetime guarantee at times applied to only the nib while at other times to the entire pen and that the serial number system was the only practicable method of recording the type of guarantee under which the Lifetime Pen was sold.
Evidence to the contrary, Sheaffer had changed the guarantee from applying to the nib only to the entire pen well before the introduction of serial numbers. Maybe the serial number WAS the solution for an internal company problem. Craig Sheaffer stated the nib serialization was to ascertain the level of warranty, so why track pens’ distribution from their factory? The answer is obvious, it appears he conjured up a story to justify their actions. In short, he perjured himself.
How do we know Sheaffer was tracking the pens by their serial number, they published a list of serial numbers associated with pens reported stolen from shops. Declaring “these pens are contraband and if offered for sale by anyone other than the original purchasers should be seized and those offering them should be apprehended. If the serial numbers have been buffed off, the nibs are damaged beyond repair and have lost their Lifetime service, guarantee, and value.”
The Rest of the Story
In 1933, Sheaffer’s price-fixing is deemed illegal and Katz wins an injunction preventing Sheaffer from prosecuting its case against Katz for selling the mutilated pens. Ultimately, they agreed to let bygones be bygones and Sheaffer made Katz Drug a dealer. But not of their top-of-the-line brands, only for the penmaker’s secondary line of pens.
As pen collectors, we still do not know the logic or the use of the Lifetime serial numbers as it relates to dating pens. That secret remains buried in the company archives.
In the mid-1920s, the major US pen manufacturers began offering competitive and comprehensive warrantees on their top-line models. The warranties or guarantees are reflected in model names such as Lifetime (Sheaffer), Endura (Conklin), and Eternal (Mabie Todd). While some manufacturers created special symbols denoting their guarantees like Sheaffer’s White Dot, Parker’s Blue Diamond, and Wahl-Eversharp’s Gold Seal.
Walter Sheaffer was known to personally inspect every pen and place a small white dot on each that passed his quality inspection. In 1924, Sheaffer launched its Lifetime Warranty, symbolized by the white dot guaranteeing quality. The Lifetime Pen, launched in 1920, retailed at three times the price of competitor pens, yet Lifetime guarantee repairs were 4% of sales.
By the early 1940s, Sheaffer, Parker, and Waterman were suffering the effects of their lifetime guarantee. Having found that honoring the lifetime guarantee without a mitigating service charge was eating away at their profits, thus they began repair service fees. Naturally, their customers filed complaints with the government.
Federal Trade Commission
It is commonly believed that in the later 1940s the FTC outlawed “lifetime guarantees” – this it did not do.
The FTC’s 1945 ruling forbade “unconditional” warranties if there is an associated fee (shipping, insurance, etc). Waterman and Parker challenged the ruling, with Waterman withdrawing its challenge a year later. Parker didn’t win nor did they lose. In 1948, the courts agreed to allow such warranties but only if the fee was conspicuously detailed in writing within the warranty statement itself – so much for the “fine print.”
FTC stated that pen manufacturers could offer long-term guarantees if they did not say they were “unconditional” when a service (shipping, insurance, etc) fee applied. If the guarantee included a service charge, the charge had to be more prominently displayed in advertising.
Cross offered a lifetime guarantee then and still does today. Sheaffer has returned to offering lifetime guarantees, though not on all pens and, were offered, with qualifications.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED JUNE 30 1945
(pg 41) C. UNFAIR PRACTICES OTHER THAN MISREPRESENTATION OF DRUGS, DEVICES, AND COSMETICS
Fountain pen manufacturers.–W. A Sheaffer Pen Co., Fort Madison, Iowa (4337); The Parker Pen Co., Janesville, Wis. (4338); Eversharp, Inc., Chicago (4590), and L.E. Waterman Co., New York (4617), were ordered to cease making unqualified representations that their fountain pens are unconditionally guaranteed for the life of the user or for any other designated period, when a service charge, usually 35 cents, is made for repairs or adjustments. The respondents were ordered to discontinue using such terms as “Lifetime,” “Guaranteed for Life,” “Life Contract Guarantee,” “Guaranteed Forever,” or “Guaranteed for a Century” to describe or refer to their pens, and representing that the pens are unconditionally guaranteed for any designated period of time, unless the respondents, without expense to the user, make repairs or replacement of parts which may be necessitated during the designated period by any cause other than willful damage or abuse. The orders did not prohibit the respondents from (pg 42) representing truthfully that the service on their pens (as distinguished from the pens themselves) is guaranteed for life or other designated period, even though a charge is imposed in connection With such servicing, providing the terms of the guarantee, including the amount of the charge, are clearly and conspicuously disclosed in immediate conjunction with such representations.
Just in case you don’t know, welp I have a thing for black pens and a thing for flattop pens. Cigar or torpedo shape pens just don’t do it for me. Sheaffer introduced Lifetime pens in 1920. A couple years later came flattop pens but only in jade green. Eventually, black! Now they have my attention.
In 1924, Sheaffer introduced a flattop pen made of celluloid but the only color is Jade Green. They called this celluloid Jadite (makes sense). About the same time, they added the signature white dot to the center of Lifetime pen caps. By 1925, Sheaffer expanded the use of celluloid to include Jet Black, Coral Red, and Cherry Red and rebranded the Jadite to Radite.
The imprint on the clip changed in 1922 to compliment the company logo and it was mounted slightly lower on the cap. The clip is straight, ending in a round ball. Another clip design mounted even lower on the cap and with a slight bend or hump was introduced in late 1928. The ball at the end of the clip is flattened. This design did not replace the prior straight clip, both designs coexisted.
In 1926, Sheaffer began imprinting serial numbers on the dorsal and ventral sides of their nibs. This was to stop dealers (Katz Drug) from selling their pens below the retail price.
Early Flattops have a barrel imprint that includes patent dates. The patent date format went through a couple changes (this format is the latter). After 1927, the text style changed slightly and the patent dates were removed.
This original Lifetime pen sported a solid spear feed. The feed changed to a comb style sometime prior to 1926. In 1938, Sheaffer changed the feeds on the flattops giving them a more refined comb shape.
Is a black Lifetime Radite Flattop lever filled, manufactured in 1926 or 1927. It has a couple minor tooth marks, scratches, and the cap doesn’t screw on as tightly as I’d prefer but otherwise, it is nice for a 95-year-old pen. The section is ebonite, there was some discoloration attributable to sun/water damage. The discoloration was minor and removed quickly with a Sunshine cloth.
“Extensive research” was conducted by Sheaffer to determine if there was a market for a pen designed exclusively for women.
Results show that women generally considered pens made for them to be nothing more than scaled down reproductions of men’s writing instruments while their fashion interests were centered in fabrics, costume jewelry and accessories. The results was a new line of cartridge pens named ‘The Lady Sheaffer’ developed to include all these features. The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert fountain pen debuts in April 1958, offering 19 models with patterns inspired by fine fabrics, like tweed, corduroy, paisley and tulle.
The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI is a periwinkle colored enamel over metal, with a gold basketweave that gives the pen a textured finish. The pattern was officially called “Paisley,” and fitted with a stainless steel Triumph wrap around nib. Unfortunately, the periwinkle enamel was prone to flaking off.
When I got my pen it was dirty and there was a big “stain” on the cap. I planned on cleaning it up but it got lost in the shuffle and my enthusiasm for it faded. After evaluating the direction my pen collection was headed I decide to sell off some pens and this one wasn’t making the grade, but it needed to be cleaned. I set about cleaning it and what a difference that made. The color became so vivid, I had a change of heart.
With the change of heart came a renewed interest in removing the “stain” on the pen cap. Assuming it was oil based, I washed the cap with Dawn dish soap which made the cap really shine but did not remove the stain. Next, I used the nylon circular brushes and the dental picks. This made some progress. Then I got the bright idea to let the cap soak over night in water. That morning I went over the stain again with the brush and removed the periwinkle enamel. F@&# me.
It gets better, I’m not done. Since the Dawn soap did such a great job on the cap I used it on the barrel. A metal object covered in soap can be slippery when wet. It didn’t drop far but it landed nib first. F@&#, F@&#, F@&#. The damage isn’t too bad, but the nib is a Triumph circular nib and well ya need a special tool to remove it. OMG I was ready to scream. Doing the best I could with a 1.3 mm dapping punch tool, I managed to remove the majority of the damage.
As this is a cartridge only pen, I dipped the nib in some ink and gave it a go. Damn it looks good and I am impressed with how well it writes. Definitely keeping this pen. The question is can I save it from myself?
I was reading a blog the other day by Deb Gibson (of Goodwriterspens) where she was musing about pens that she thought were the primary influencers impacting the direction fountain pen appearance has taken over the years. I was considering a posting about the history of fountain pens and felt her blog was far more interesting and considered “reblogging” it. In her humble opinion, the following are the biggest influencers:
I’m not going to go into great depth summarizing her thoughts, she does such a great job. I invite you all to read her blog; however, I would venture the Conklin Crescent should be on the list, replacing the Sheaffer Balance. But more on this later.
The Sheaffer Balanced, I’ll be honest I don’t know much about this pen, I honestly don’t like it, though Walt Disney was a big fan. It’s claim to fame is the torpedo shape and there are plenty of contemporary pens with the same shape.
I absolutely agree with her choice of the Duofold, clearly a landmark design and development. Many a contemporary pen is designed with the Duofold in mind. The Parker 51, I can see that as well. It’s influence is less pervasive because it came into being when the ballpoint pens were coming of age, but I feel the design impacted the appearance of all “clicker” ball point pens.
Missing from the list is the Conklin Crescent, why you may ask? I am getting a little off topic by adding this pen based on it’s self filling mechanism which impacted it’s appearance.
The Conklin Crescent is renowned for two firsts 1) first mass-produced self-filling pen and 2) the first mass-produced pen to use a flexible rubber ink sac. The crescent filling system employs an arch-shaped crescent attached to a rigid metal pressure bar, with the crescent portion protruding from the pen through a slot and the pressure bar inside the barrel. Which in turn compressed the internal rubber sac, creating a vacuum to force ink into the pen.
The crescent filling system is the basis for the Sheaffer introduction of the lever filling system in 1912, and the subsequent Parker button filler system. Clearly the pressure bar, and ink sac self filling system introduced by the crescent filling system became the primary direction of fountain pens for the next 60 years. In order to accomplish this, pen manufactures had to incorporate self fill levers, which petruded from a slot cut into the barrel – like the Crescent fill. Or they introduced a button under a blind cap which depressed a pressure bar. I know it is a stretch but it’s just my opinion which is the reason for the post.
So I ask, what are your thoughts? Do you agree, disagree, what pens do you think made a significant impact to fountain pen appearance over the years?