Parker Pen Co. and Boris Artzybasheff's hands.


By Daniel Zazove & Ramón Campos.

The simplest and most direct way to publicize a product is to display it graphically. The fountain pen manufacturing industry soon discovered that the hand as advertising motive was a way to sensitize the public because it involves the usage of the object, the desire for imitation by palpating the advertised object, as well as brand and product disclosure. When the hand represented is of a famous or admired person, the subtle invitation to acquire the product is increased by the desire to be able to do something in the likeness of a celebrity or admired person.

Paris Treaty. Parker 1899 ad.
Paris Treaty. Parker 1899 ad.
Paris Treaty. Parker 1899 ad.

Parker led fountain pen advertising during the first half of the 20th century by utilizing the image of George Parker, illustrations of the pens, and the virtues of the Lucky Curve, as well as the use of admired celebrities from the world of culture, business, or the film industry. More subtly, Parker also related his fountain pens to the hands of popular and admired people linked to political or military successes.



In the late 1920s when Duofolds were in full splendor, Parker used human hands to illustrate the virtues of the feather touch nibs and the practicality of their desk set pens. We will also see Parker pens related to celebrities such as Conan Doyle -who, in gratitude to his Duofold broad nib, had offered to Parker an ad over his name for free- or Puccini. But perhaps it is Santa Claus, drawn by Norman Rockwell, the first illustrious character we see writing with a Parker pen.

Santa Claus by Norman Rockwell. Courtesy of Daniel Zazove.
1930 Parkergrams cinema star covers.

During 1930 and 1931, they published covers of Parkergrams -the magazine addressed to its dealers and commercial forces -, under the motto «Courtesy writes its intimate letters by hand» with Duofolds in the delicate hands of famous cinema stars such Joan Crawford -also published in Photoplay Magazine-, Lupe Vélez, Bessie Love, Mary Brian, or Anita Page.

In 1936 Parker Vacumatic advertising featured a celebrity series with pictures of authors such as Clair Laughlin, Dale Carnegie, Dorothy Dix, Ruth Bryan, and Kenneth Roberts.

The reach of Parker advertising, during many decades among the 100 companies most widespread, was immense. However, it’s not just its reach that made the Parker pen take root in the popular mind. It was the style of his copy as much as the diffusion of the technical characteristics of the product itself.

Artzybasheff 1943 Time covers.

In 1942 when the Parker 51, «A Pen From Another Planet«, made its debut, Parker resumed using the human hand to advertise its pens. These initial ads were drawn by publicists and did not have the desired personality or quality of drawing, because in 1944 monthly ads began to be published with incredible hands plenty of personalities drawn by Boris Artzybasheff, creator of a dreamlike magical world and one of the most sought-after illustrators in the world, and who a year earlier had already become known with the covers of Joseph Stalin, Osami Nagano, and Admiral Karl Doenitz published in the Time Magazine. During the next 20 years Artzybasheff would sign more than 100 covers in the aforementioned magazines. 

These Parker «51» ads were 11 drawings published, starting in February, monthly in The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. These first anonymous hands of Artzybasheff have presented both writings, and simply, showing them as an invitation to take them. The hands were presented on a background scene, also drawn. All these drawings bear the artist’s signature on the magazine pages where they are published.

The Parker advertising campaigns was a combination of the reason why or inductive copying and emotional copying. In this sense, for the appeal to the intellect, they present reasons as logical arguments. To appeal to the senses, emotion, fantasy, sensuality. The Artzybasheff hands woke up the desire, and still do today, to cradle a «51» in our hand. The strength of its idea and the power of expression awakened desire and carried conviction.

Everything seems to indicate that Artzybasheff created the hand and left the Parker 51 pen to be sketched the illustration by photographic procedure incorporated the fountain pen sketched. The publicists by photographic procedure incorporated the fountain pen to the hand retouching the drawing to make it a unit. This set would be later and the resulting image, already in the printing workshops of the magazine, would be photographed with filters for separation of color and made the silks with Ben-Day dots that would allow the elaboration of the necessary plates.

On many occasions Parker publicists composed ads using and repeating the same hand illustration previously published.

The Saturday Evening Post’s ads printing process.

The same Artzybasheff drawings are used for different ads.
In this original, courtesy of Daniel Zazove, we can see how Santa's hand published in 1948, was cut at the wrist to be used in 1951 in a new ad.

In 1945, and with the same monthly periodicity, Parker published advertisements with the previous hands of Artzybasheff. On this occasion, isolated, on white background, without the background with which they were drawn by the artist. These ads do not bear the author’s signature.

The first half of 1946 would be spent in the same way publishing hands cut out of the original advertisement. From September, the original and signed drawings of Artzybasheff return, providing them with greater communication capacity, even, if possible, with the series «In the hand of…»  attributing the Parker «51” to famous professionals. From this period are the hands of the painter Thomas Hart Benton, tenor Lauritz Melchior, and actor Alfred Lunt.

1947 would continue with other original hands as philosopher Lin Yutang, violinist and composer Albert Spalding, concert pianist Artur Rubinstein, painter Norman Rockwell who 20 years ago had already illustrated different Parker  Duofold ads and the book  Duofold  Stories that shone as a popular display in the windows of Parker dealers.

No less popular will be the hand of the soprano Lily Pons who, thanks to collage technique, we will see reproduced in ads with different pens Parker «51» over time.

Parker "51" ads from 1947, 1948, and 1951. The hand of the soprano Lily Pons, in which different pens has been adapted by collage.

1948 continued with the series featuring advertisements with the hand of writer Ernest Hemingway and other characters, including Santa Claus.

From 1949, the hands used in ads had been published previously; thanks to collage technique and photo retouching, to Artzybasheff hands already published previously were added actuals Parker «51” aerometric.

In 1951 was published the last hand drawn by Artzybasheff for the Parker Pen Co., that of Betty McDonald author specializing in humorous autobiographical stories. This ad would see the last Artzybasheff artwork related to a «51» pen.