By Daniel Zazove & Ramón Campos. January, 2023.

A Duofold Penparker emsemble in its velour-lined gift box (From Tsachi Mitsenmacher collection).
Reflections by George S. Parker on Penparker in "Proxy," a publication of the Parker Sales Department.

At the beginning of 1932, in the middle of an economic depression, the Parker Pen Co. opened a year in which its sales barely reached a third of a few years earlier; and for the first time in its 40-year history will report a net loss. The market is without a pulse and the Vacumatic that would revive it is still in development.

To survive this economic situation, maintain a workforce and avoid forced layoffs, Parker developed new products and accessories with low production cost and high user value to add to its existing line of writing instruments aimed at stimulating sales and reducing Duofold stocks before the introduction of the vacuum filler.  One such product was the Penparker.

But what is Penparker, an object so far from what a Parker collector might expect? If we hadn’t seen it in a Parker gift box or ad, a collector might have no inkling that it was made by Parker Pen and, even less, how it was to be used.

The Penparker, name suggested by Kenneth Parker, is a simple and well thought-out metal device finished in black and chromium metal in Art Deco design, adapted for ready and quick conversion from an ordinary pocket type fountain pen into a desk set unit and vice versa; where a single fountain pen unit may efficiently serve for both   pocket and desk set purposes for which the cap serves the purpose of socket or receptacle usually found in fountain pen desk bases. The receptacle is eliminated, and the ordinarily detachable cap of the fountain pen is used for this purpose.

The Penparker patent was awarded to Ivan D. Tefft, the Parker patent attorney. As a professional with many years of experience in writing instrument design, not only at Parker Pen but previously with the Wahl Company where he obtained several patents, Tefft was very familiar with pen technology and spent many hours with the employees of the technical division so that he could apply for the patents and describe the inventions in great detail. He also was helpful to suggest improvements in some of the models that other employees invented.  He helped take the ideas of others and revise them so they could be manufactured cost-effectively. Because you see his name on so many patents as either  inventor,  co-inventor or as the attorney for the inventor, he participated in the discussion for many new Parker improvements and major projects.

According to George S. Parker’s own words: «To a large extent, the idea of this little desk set is due to Mr. Ivan D. Tefft. The thought of working out the plan is Mr. Kenneth Parker although every degree of cooperatiocn by every executive who has had anything to do with it has been remarkable

Ivan Tefft, on the left, dispatching with Kenneth Parker and Bruce Jeffris.

The Penparkers were marketed in three sizes to accommodate the different diameters of Duofold Senior, Junior and Lady. Due to the precision of measurements required for correct fitting and rotation of the pen, Penparkers fit streamlined Duofolds, but not earlier “flat-top” models.

The Penparker structure allowed it to hold the fountain pen in three positions; two for use, inclined and vertical and a third, folded, in situation of rest and non-use, parallel to the plane of the desk.

PenParker ads in the Saturday Evening Post during the first half of 1932.

The Penparker as a desk set was complemented by the Envelopener, another simple and brilliant idea of low cost and high utility, consisting of a vest-pocket pencil with interchangeable paper knife taper and regular cap with ring. A facsimile of the owner signature could be engraved on the Envelopener flat-blade taper, at price of seventy-five cents, making it a personal desk office aid.

A Vest pocket Parker pencil with Envelopener taper. Courtesy of Tsachi Mitsenmacher.

The cost of these designs to Parker appears to have been minimal. Parker advertised the Penparker without charge with the purchase of any Duofold in its different prices, colors, and sizes, and also gave away a free taper to attach to the pen and a 30,000-word bottle of the new Parker Quink, all in a velour tray presentation gift box. These Duofold-Penparker ensembles could including a vest-pocket Duofold pencil to match with an Envelopener taper for only $2.75 extra.

Duofold Penparker emsemble with Envelopener.

The  poor sales results of these hard times coupled with  the early arrival of the Vacuum Filler in the autumn of that year meant that Penparker was only  offered  for a few months and they are relatively scarce and are not found in many Parker collections.