In 1927, taking advantage of the feather-wight touch nib presenting, the Parker Pen Co. announced the achievement of 47 Major Improvements in their fountain pens, albeit citing only a few of them. This post is an attempt at an approximation of those improvements.
1889 December (Filed December 4, 1888). Patent US416944. First Parker Feed patent. Assigned to the Safford Fountain Pen Company of Janesville.
George was teaching in Valentine’s Bros Telegraphy School in Janesville, where he also sold fountain pens to the students for one of the old-time manufacturers. The idea of a fountain pen was popular with the students, but the pens were continually giving dissatisfaction. The principal trouble was that there was no provision in them for a steady flow of air up into the ink chamber as the ink flowed out. The pens alternated between no flow of ink at all when the air was trying to force its way up there or too abundant flow when it had forced its way up.
To Parker, forced to live with the students he had sold the pens to, it was a very great difficulty indeed. He saw the need for a new sort of feed-shaft, so he got a scroll saw, a file, and some other simple equipment and tinkered until he had made up a shaft that would let the air up more steadily. George put these shafts into the pens of the manufacturer he was working for solely to give satisfaction to the people he had sold.
His invention, plus a couple of variations, is principally an underfeed equipped with a removable flexible priming-finger over the nib, making the device an over/underfeed.
“Feed-plug D, as shown in Fig. 2, is the preferred form, and it consists of a piece of suitable material shaped at one end to fit the pen(nib)-holding section and tapered at the other end to give it the proper finish. and in order that it shall not be any more conspicuous than necessary. On the opposite end of this plug is a head c, by which the plug is held while it is being adjusted. This plug is about straight along its upper edge and is provided with a groove or channel d throughout its length which communicates with the reservoir b and is designed to conduct ink therefrom to the pen(nib). About midway between the ends of the plug a rib e is formed in the groove or channel d, and the pen(nib) E is held between this plug and the pen(nib)-holding section, the rear end of the pen extending back about to this rib e, so that the feed of ink in the groove or channel is directed or divided, as it were, in two courses by the rib one over the pen and the other beneath it… while a removable flexible f priming-finger f Fig. 4 over the pen forms a capillary space over the pen, which holds the thinner and more watery portion of the ink and always keeps the pen inked from above for immediate use.”
1890 March (filed September 28, 1889). Patent US423804. This improved feed continues being an underfeed equipped with a priming-finger over the nib, making the device an over/underfeed . The new feed incorporates a longitudinal orifice that extends from the headed inner end opening into the flattened side through which the ink flow to the nib.
«An orifice 9 is formed in the plug, and it extends from the headed inner end 10, opening into the flattened side 7, beyond the shoulder 8, through which the ink is conducted to the pen. The pen 4 is held between this outer end of the plug and the enlarged bore of the pen-holding section, and the shoulder 8 limits the insertion of the pen. The priming-finger 5, which is placed between the pen and the interior of the holding-section, also abuts against the shoulder 13, which constitutes the dividing-line between the small and large bore of the pen-holding section. This finger 5 is preferably pointed at its outer end where it reaches over the end of the pen, and it is split at its rear end 14 to form a passage for the ink over the pen, and this particular formation of priming-finger is to insure this course of the ink. By slight change the course of the ink may be diverted, so that a portion is fed beneath the pen; but when the parts are assembled, as shown in Fig. 1, the rear end or portion of the opening in the feed plug is exposed and in communication with the rear split end of the priming-finger so that an open capillary passage is formed for the ink to flow through. In one modification a grooved priming-finger is shown instead of a split one for carrying the ink to the pen, and in the other two communicating grooves, one being greater in diameter than the other.»
1891 June (filed November 26, 1890). Patent US455023 George S. Parker, assignor of one-half to William F. Palmer. Improved optional ink feeder that may be employed either to the upper or under face of the nib.
«The combination, with the barrel of a fountain-pen and a tubular piece, said tubular piece having a shoulder therein, of a plug inserted in said tubular piece against the shoulder therein, said plug comprising a disk having an opening or perforation, a shank having a recess adapted to communicate with the opening or perforation in the disk and a finger adapted to feed ink to the nibs of the pen, said disk being provided with a slit to receive the heel of a pen and permit said heel to project into the recess in the shank or stem.
…in Fig. 2 the plug is practically the same as above described, and the slit 4 preferably made to extend entirely across the same, the finger 3 being adapted to extend beneath the pen, instead of above, and the opening 5 being above the shank of the pen. Thus it will be seen that my improved plug may be employed to feed the ink either to the upper or under face of the pen.»
1893, December 12. (filed December 14, 1892). Patent US510439 Over-under feed.
This over-under feed patent consists of a feed-bar with slits cut in the same plane from each end to near its center and a slot cut from its underside upward through the central part of the bar and the adjoining parts of the two lower prongs at right angles to said end slits and intersecting them, forming an ink duct in the upper half of the feed bar and an air inlet in its lower half and, two front prongs made narrower than the body of the bar.
The patent text does not explain the function of the rear prong «g» deflected at an angle towards the inner wall of the barrel, but we could consider it a precursor of the Curved Tubular Feed that would be the origin of the Lucky Curve feed.
In 1894 this patent was used as a non-monetary contribution to the Century and Victory fountain pens business, based in Whitewater (Wisconsin), where George Safford Parker and William Fink Palmer entry as shareholders and suppliers.
Parker under-over, double, feed fountain pens are uncataloged. However, some specimens rarely have been found, such as the one reproduced at the bottom.
1894 January (filed November 1, 1893). Patent US512319. Upper feed. Curved Tubular Feed, first name of Lucky Curve feed.
This patent is cited as first antecedent in the definitive patent Lucky Curve April 25, 1911. US990288. «This peculiar little piece of crooked and curiously shaped piece of rubber is one of the features which has helped to make the reputation of the Parker Pen so great. The perfection with which it feeds ink to the pen, and absolutely prevents the ink from getting over the edge of the nozzle or into the cap, when carried in the pocket.»
The feed granted in this patent was called initially «Curved Tubular Feed». Parker, in their file «Lucky Curve» trademark 37,670, claims its «christening» on January 1, 1896, although it is true that it is not until December 1896 when we will see the words «Lucky Curve» in ads.
1896 Parker introduces underfeed. Iinitially mounted in models #18 and #2X, was produced concurrently with overfeed in other models. Later, in these last models, both options would be offered if desired.
Years later George S. Parker remembered thus the transition to underfeed fountain pens.
«Years ago, when I started in the fountain pen business, practically the entire demand at that time outside of one make was for what is known as an «overfeed» pen…
Nobody could have predicted the fountain pen business in the years to come, would have reached the wonderful proportions it has today nor could anybody have successfully prophesied the particular type of pen that would find favor with the public.
It was afterwards discovered that the public preferred a pen with an “underfeed”, and the firm -Waterman- who put the first underfeed pen on the market reaped as a reward a large degree of success for the fortunate circumstances in hitting upon in the early history of fountain pen.»
1898 June 28 (Filed July 26, 1897). Patent US606231. Improved feed design. Underfeed. This patent is cited as antecedent in the definitive patent Lucky Curve April 25, 1911. US990288.
Three decades later , George S. Parker remembered the underfeed market so:
«There came a time, for instance, when the public clearly wanted the feed-shaft on the underside of the pen, instead of on the upper side, –where it always had been. Someone had put out a pen with the feed-shaft underneath, and it took.
There was a good deal of discussion among the pen makers as to whether the under-feed pens really were better; -and I suppose it is still a debatable question. But that was not the point. The public had shown it wanted the under-feed pens and was satisfied with their service.
More than one manufacturer went out of business on the issue; and although we were not first to adopt the under-feed plan, the fact that we were quick to adopt it, once the demand had appeared, clearly sent us forward, when we might have gone back.
We have had that sort of experience again and again. But if we had always waited for new demands to be demonstrated by someone else before we did anything about them, we should have missed the best advances we have made.»
1897 Parker new style holder and cap. First slip-fit type of outer cap. This was a major improvement because previously the caps fined only onto the ‘section’.
Parker mounted this new style in No’s. 20 and 24. This new cap slipped over the barrel and fined snugly. One of the problems of hard rubber was caps on fountain pens will in time wear loose. It must be remedied heating the end of the cap over a lamp, or gas jet, just enough so it will be slightly. To solve this problem Parker presented a new style with tapered nozzle and barrel end, slip-fit type of outer cap.
This was a major improvement because previously the caps fined only onto the «section». His new cap slipped over the barrel and fined snugly because of the joint at the junction of the nozzle and barrel is perfectly smooth, and both ends of the barrel are graduated, so that the cap is always tight, no matter how much it may become worn.
Parker pens would continue being manufactured in both, older and new, styles.
1899 April 4 (filed March 7, 1898). US622256 Spring lock. Jointless pen. Spring Lock instead of old-fashioned screw. In late 1897 Parker was already producing the Jointless Lucky Curve.
The Parker Jointless were easily distinguishable at the base of the barrel as they have added a zero as first figure over the equivalent models with joint old style.
In his constant search for improvement, Parker tackled the common problem of ink-stained fingers, eliminating the joint between the barrel and the section, whether it was this union by thread or by friction of both elements. A particularly delicate area since it is from there that we take the fountain pen while writing.
“The Pen with no joint to leak; no threads to break. The pen with the Lucky Curve. The success of the pen age. You cannot soil your fingers with a Parker Jointless.”
«Sour Look, soiled fingers and spotted clothes identify the man who did not use a Geo. S. Parker fountain pen.”
1899 October 24 (filed June 30, 1899). Patent US635700 Jointless Improvement with section aligned by pin in barrel.
These patent pens use a short feeder, attaining practically the same results as were secured with the long curved feeder.
«A fountain-pen comprising a barrel a having a transverse pin C’ in its bore, a nozzle fitting in the end of the barrel, a pen and feeder mounted in the nozzle, and an extension b’ formed upon the inner end of the nozzle, said extension being divided by a longitudinal cut forming two resilient, arms or jaws.»
1900 January 30 (filed June 30, 1899). Patent US642151 Improvement on the Jointless; simpler in construction than the old and requiring less labor in the making, but still being equally efficient.
The tongue on the plug fulfills the capillary function of the Lucky Curve feed. This pen has a straight and short feed with a slot cut from its underside.
1900. Pens totally, barrel and cap, gold covered pens introduced.
«No. 30, price $10.00, (shown on the left), one of the most beautiful pens ever made. It is indeed a pen of such rare beauty that a Queen might well feel proud to own. Barrel and cap covered with pure 18k gold of rare and rich design. Makes a present that would be treasured for a lifetime.»
1900 July 17 (filed April 9, 1900). Patent US653818 Anti-break cap.
The inside of the cap is made in such a way that all the strain that ordinarily exists at the open end of the cap is transformed from the end to the body of the cap. It does not need a mechanic to see at a glance that a cap so constructed is immeasurably stronger than the old-style taper inside cap heretofore used. This cap marks an epoch in fountain pen cap making, for this cap is more than five times as strong as the ordinary pen cap and is warranted for one year not to break or split by ordinary usage.
A unique improvement. Looks like an ordinary cap, but the construction is extra-ordinary. The center of the cap on the inside is heavily reinforced where it comes into contact with the barrel. This cap is warranted against cracking or splitting for one year. It is not only more than five times as strong as any other cap but it is exceedingly symmetrical and pleasing to the eye.
1901. Threated end. Parker incorporate this option for fingers in jointless pens. The Parker pens could be made with a smooth or threaded end where fingers grap.
1902: Bell-shaped Lucky Curve Feed, which is the greatest improvement ever incorporated in a fountain pen, according with Parker: Mounted in all Parker Lucky Curve Under-feed fountain pens.
A sponge will hold a vast amount of liquid. It does it because there is such a wonderful amount of surface for the liquid to adhere to, thus permitting to became operative the law of the adhesion of liquids to solids. For this reasoning was evolved an improvement in the Parker Lucky Curve feed which we call the Bell-Shaped Lucky Curve on account of the peculiar bell shape of the feed finger which is made to correspond to the widening of the nib.
The feeder is so fitted to the nib that there is a uniform space between the nib and the feed the entire length of the feed finger, presenting a vast amount of adhesive surface for the retention of the ink. It makes possible that using of all the ink in the reservoir as the Bell-Shaped Feed takes care of the surplus ink forced out of the ink channel and holds it in the space between the feed finger and the nib. It co-operates with the curved end of the Lucky Curve in absolutely prohibiting ink from leaking into the cap when the pen is carried in the pocket.
1902 A Parker vest pocket pen, called the Bulldog Special, was introduced in USA.
1904 May 03 (filed November 30, 1903). Patent US758930 Presser-Bar self-filler. The first mechanically filled Parker was patented. Patent precursor of the «Click Filler» filling system. It is possible that never have been marketed. There is one in the Parker Pen Co. archives.
1905 January 3 (filed May 9, 1904). Patent US778997. The Spear Head Feed, although as of September 1, 1903, Parker started to mounted «Spear Head» feed, albeit with a single shoulder.
Notches in Parker’s feed start down. Thus ink drains back into the barrel when the pen is not in use. This patent is also cited in the definitive patent Lucky Curve 1911 April 25. US990288 Improvement Christmas Tree feed . «Lucky Curve » Feed with new patent «Spear Head ink retainer » (Christmas Tree) overflow ink preventer the ink from dropping off the point of pen when the ink is low in the fountain. You should know more about this great improvement, which has proven to be a great success. “begin at the rear and gradually deepen toward the tip of the feeder and end in TWO abrupt shoulders b b. The deep recesses back of the shoulders form the supplementary ink-cups, which are adapted to collect surplus ink near the point of the pen and prevent it from dropping off.” provides for the overflow of ink that is sometimes forced out of the feed channel by the warmth of the hand, this is done by the Spear Head shape of the feeder underneath the pen. A valuable patented improvement which provides two little recesses in which is held by capillary attraction the overplus of ink without which under some conditions might drop from the pen.
1905 April 11, (filed November 19, 1904). Patent US787152 Invisible press-button filler. Patent granted to John T. Davison. Davison had nothing to do with Parker Pen and this patent was later purchased by George Parker. I don’t know when and in what circumstances Parker acquired this patent.
1906 September. Emblem pen. The emblem is on solid (not plated) gold band. Makes a fine present for some secret order man. Prices $12.00 each for K. of P., of C., I. O. O. F., Elks, Blue Lodie Chapter, Shrine, Knight Temple ( last two $12.50 ) and others.
1907 Bookkepper’s Special. Here ls something designed especial for bookkeepers. It is a double fountain pen, one end for black Ink and the other for red. The Ink reservoir for the red ink Is mottled red, which indicates at a glance the color of Ink In that barrel. The other encl of the fountain is black, which also Indicates the color of Ink therein. Every bookkeeper who has seen and tried this Is simply delighted with it. The fountain can be disjointed, If desired, thus making two complete fountains, In which event they could be carried in the pocket In the ordinary way.
1908 Red Giant «The Daddy of them all». In February 1908, Parker announced to its dealers that they were preparing to place on the market «The Red Giant». The pen is made entirely of a cardinal red hard rubber, fitted with a No. 12 pen, and the price would be $10.00.
1912 June 4 (filed July 31, 1909). Patent US1028382 The Jack Knife Safety cap. A double inner cap with enlarged knurled head -«turban»- a new form of safety cap appeared. It was used in the Jack Knife Safety pen to obviate any risk of leakage. The Jack-Knife pens of the 1910’s were among the most beautiful and efficient writing instruments of the day. They were offered in black-chased hard rubber and with precious metal decoration. They were excellent writers and were advertised as well-made, sturdy and reliable tools. In design the later models were the obvious precursors of the flagship of the twenties – the Duofold.
1911 April 25 (filed June 16, 1910). US990288. Patented an improved Lucky Curve feed Christmas Tree. We see three shoulders in 1905 catalog. On 25th April 1911 the ‘Lucky Curve’ device was improved -a cut in the end which came in contact with the barrel enabled the ink to drain back more freely into the sac.
1914. Transparent barrel Bakelite. 1914 was a great year for new products from Parker, so at the beginning of the year, Parker introduces the PARKER BAKELITE Pen, a wonderful pen which the barrel looks like clear amber and through which may be seen the ink, and the wonderful workings of capillary attraction as harnessed by the Lucky Curve feed.
Parker developed three colors in the Bakelite; a shade of green, and two shades in red and pink. A peculiarity about these models is that the Parker translucent demonstrators do not have «BAKELITE» engraved on the barrel and, from the specimens found, it seems to be clear that it have been manufactured in celluloid and not in Bakelite.
1916. Parker #45 with colored cap crown stone. One of the most beautiful pens made; gold filled bands hold pearl in place. Cap 18K. gold filled in beautiful floral design, now with colored cao crown stone.
1916 September 05 (filed May 24, 1916). Patent US1197224 Washer clip. Adjustable and low setting in the pocket. A new type of washer or tassie on the cap was patented. This was actually developed by William Moore, an employee at the Janesville plant. He voluntarily made over his patent to the Company but George Parker insisted on paying him a royalty for the seventeen years that the patent still had to run. This new device enabled the clip to be located at the extreme end of the cap. Parker pens from that date sat deeply and securely in the pocket with only a fraction of the cap protruding. This, again, was perceived as a valuable customer benefit in days when the clip was located halfway up the cap, so that the pen rode inconveniently high in the pocket.
The Ivorine line. Casein. Parker pioneer of colored fountain pens. Initially the IVORINES were furnished in the following colors: coral (light or dark), blue, purple, orange, scarlet and white.
1916. Parker Ink Tablets. Probably one of the best strokes this company ever made was being right on the job with an article for which there was universal need. Naturally every man in the service has many friends at home who are exceedingly anxious to hear from him, so that the soldier’s leisure time, if he complies with half of the requests made upon him, must be devoted to writing letters to the members of the family or friends, Consequently a fountain pen is something that forms a part of practically every soldier’s kit. With this knowing, Parker lost no time in making arrangements for the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of these little Ink Tablets before any other manufacturer had awakened to the situation. Very soon, Parker had received orders for vast quantities of these tablets from all over the country.
1916. Safety-Sealed concept. Parker means by «Safety-Sealed» no holes cut in the wall of the barrel, and no openings, levers, or rings where ink can get out to ruin clothes or linen.
«No holes in the wall of a Parker, preventing any escape of ink to soil hands, spoil clothes or ruin dainty dresses or purses. Can be carried flat, upside down -any position-it cannot leak- it’s SAFETY-SEALED.»
1918. Parker Trench. A eyedropper -non-self-filler- with compartment for carries ink tablets so its owner can make ink by merely dissolving a tablet or two. The Trench style was an ordinary Jack Knife Safety model eyedropper filler that was fitted with a blind cap to hold the ink tablets. The blind cap was like but slightly longer than a Parker button filler.
«At the end of the fountain pen on the opposite end of the barrel from the pen point, is a little attachment in the way of a cap. This looks like part of the holder. Take hold of it and unscrew it, however. and it will be found to be filled with ink tablets. Take out two or three of these tablets, unscrew the nozzle, drop them in, fill the barrel full of water, the tablets will soon dissolve a nd low and behold the water has turned into ink.»
1921. The Duofold. Years late George S. Parker remembered the Duofold launching like so:
«It came first from one of our district managers and was at first completely rejected. It came from him again and was again rejected – so unresponsive is it possible to be to even the best ideas. But because he was a good salesman and had a clear vision and a consequent firm conviction, he raised the question again; he did not write this time, he came into headquarters with the idea.
I shall not soon forget the interview here in my office, in which we decided for the pen. It was in the spring of 1921 —that trying year! and the district manager was proposing a pen that was to sell for more than twice what the ordinary fountain pen had been sold for.
The argument about its being a bad time was obvious. And he was ready for it.
“Look at the cars going up and down this hill,’ he said. And we looked awhile, out on the drive running up by the Rock County courthouse. “They’re not the cheapest cars, many of them, you see,” he said, “and many of them are new. People have been buying these expensive cars this year. For all we hear about hard times. they have had the money. Do you think they could not afford to pay, that they would not be glad to pay, $7 for a fountain pen that they could be proud to own and use?”
The whole Duofold business hung in the balance for a moment. And then we decided to try out the idea. «
1921. Over-size ink capacity.
1921. Leak-proof inner Duo-Sleeve cap, that fits with micrometric precision when the cap is screwed on tight, thus forming an ink-tight seal with the nozzle. Not even air -much less ink- can escape when the cap is kept tightly screwed on. Try this yourself in a glass of water. Empty a Parker Duofold, screww the cap on tightly, then press the button. Not a bubble will appear, proving your pen is leak-proof.
1921. Free Swinging Balance.
1921. 25 years guaranteed point.
1923 Gold girdle ring cap. «The crowning touch to its beauty» or «The last loving touch». Parker included a strong Gold Girdle that reinforces the cap.
1926 July 13 (Filed May 4, 1925). Patent Des. 70575 Parker Titan pencil design.
Some months later, George S. Parker remembered thus the decision to manufacture the Titan pencil, the Big Brother:
«A branch manager came to me some months ago, much as the one I have already told of had come, with the idea of a super pencil -if I may use the expression. A pencil to correspond to the oversize pen. If people were willing to pay for a pen, they could take a pride in, he said, why would they not do as much for a pencil?
It would have been easy, as I say, to turn our backs on the idea, especially in view of the attention the pens were requiring. And that was what we were inclined for a little while to do. But we put out a few of the pencils. We tested along in various ways, as we had with the pen. And one of our biggest sellers now is that pencil.»
1927 May 24 (filed August 19, 1926). Patent US1629987. Ball holder rotary 360º for a desk pen. Ball-and-socket action, an exclusive idea enables you to lay the pen on the base within the holder, or tilt it in any direction that is the handiest. This could not do it with any other fountain pen desk set of the time.
1927 June 18 (first ad). Two pens in one. Blind cap interchangeable with a taper. You can now have a Parker desk set without buying another pen. Ad Saturday Evening Post.
1927 Pressureless writing with feather-wight touch improvement no. 47. The easy-writing, instant flowing Duofold point that no style writing can distort.
SOME EXTERNAL SOURCES:
- Parker patens from https://patents.google.com/ and Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office.
- Tsachi Mitsenmacher pens collection.
- Luiz Leite pens collection.
- 1896-1906 Parker Side Talks, and Parkergrams, the Parker´s dealer magazines.
- 1.000 Parker ads. Pre-Duofold.