Sheaffer´S Balance.

EVOLUTION AND CHRONOLOGY

PREAMBLE.

Sheaffer’S had revolutionized the industry in 1913 with its double-bar lever and, later, in 1921, guaranteeing its nibs to last a Lifetime, guarantee that was extended to cover the entire fountain pen early 1926. In 1924, started to manufacture colored celluloid instead of fragile hard rubber used until then by fountain pen manufacturers.

Sheaffer´S that, like all fountain pen manufacturers, had been manufacturing flat-top shape fountain pens, streamlined its pens in 1929, calling Balanced to this new streamlined version, very soon Balance, signaling the eventual end of the flat-top fountain pen era.

Made of pyroxylin celluloid, which Sheaffer called Radite, the shape quickly became the signature characteristic of Sheaffer’S pens. The design was carried through numerous variations of color and trim well into the 1940s.

One of the first Sheaffer's Balance large diameter J8TC.
One of the first Sheaffer's Balance large diameter J8TC.

Tapping pens were not an innovation because the industry had been manufacturing more or less tapered caps for decades. Similarly, neither were «balanced» fountain pens exactly a novelty; Parker based on their 1922 Duofold ads campaign as a pen «superbly balanced» and «balanced with scientific precision”. Sheaffer’S made the same in 1923, referring to his flat top Lifetime as «well balanced pen ever produced» or «balanced for easy writing«.

However, in the 1920s, the typical profile of fountain pens was tubular with flat or perhaps minimally rounded ends on their edges. The Sheaffer’S Balance with its ergonomic silhouette left them old-fashioned. All companies, before or after, finished their models according to the new streamlined trend.

1929.

Based on design patent 78,795 filled on November 21, 1928, the first radically streamlined pen  Balanced, very soon called Balance, appeared for the first time in the 1929 catalog drawn up with 1928  flat top catalog to which were added two final pages; one with Balance fountain pens and, another, with the pencil of that same line.

Sheaffer´S Balance page 1929 catalog
Sheaffer´S Balance jade green. Courtesy of Luiz Leite.
Sheaffer´S Balance jade green. Courtesy of Luiz Leite.

By smoothly tapered ends and removing material and therefore weight, from the base of the barrel and the top of the cap, shifted the center of gravity of the pen forward so it wrote, capped  or uncapped, more quickly and lighter in the hand. This feature, noticeable in writing, was very evident aesthetically and visually evident and thus was enhanced by an esteemed advertising campaign until this torpedo shape was imposed throughout the writing instrument industry.

Sheaffer´S Balance demonstrator.

Over these years, the Balance pens had no proper name, being distinguished by an alphanumeric factory symbol where the color, except black, is designated by a letter in from of the symbol number. The absence of a prefix letter indicates that the pen was black. The color jade green is designated by letter «J»; black and pearl by letter “K”. This letters was followed by one or two digits corresponding to the model; and two letters being the first letter T, corresponding first to Balance and then to Balance lever style, second, was “C” if it was modeled with clip or letter “R” if instead of clip it had ring. Later, when one-stroke-vacuum fountain pens appear, it would be designated with the letter «W», to distinguish them from the «T» lever style.

First Sheaffer´s Balance long slender taper. Outline and length.

This original streamlined Balance design, was asymmetrical in shape, having a long slender taper to the end of the barrel. The range in this catalogue is reduced to four models with the same length, two diameters,  medium  and  oversize, in variants with ring or clip and three colors,  black  and  pearl, jade and jet  black  assembling a large  humped  clip  with  a  humpback  shape  so that  it  would  not  damage  the top of  a  pocket.

Sheaffer´S Balance K85TC trimmed clip and cap band with solid gold 14 k.
Sheaffer´S Balance K85TC trimmed clip and cap band with solid gold 14 k.

1930.

In 1930 was presented color marine green and with it came a new design; it shortened the hump clip that would now touch but without getting the cap band and shortened and rounded barrel so the  long  barrel  taper  would be  discontinued very soon. The cap head was made more round, making Balance´s finishes less pointed.

Sheaffer´S Balance new design. 1930 ad.
Sheaffer´S Balance new design. 1930 ad.

In general we will see Sheaffer´S Balance oversized with last imprint line PAT´D – PAT. PENDING of approximately 148 mm. long; those engraved with PATENTED indistinctly with 148 mm and 138 mm and, the later PAT. D-78,795, MADE IN USA and PATENTED IN USA, trying to group them, around 138 mm.

In both cases, calibrated in cap band, the diameter of the oversized ones does not vary, being 14.5 / 15 mm., measured nowadays.

1930 change in Sheaffer´s Balance . Outline and length. Comparison.
Sheaffer´S Balance comparison
1929.06.18 USD78795 Sheaffer´S Balance design patent.
Imprints of the first Sheaffer´S Balance until the patent was granted.

In the same year, is cataloged the fountain pen combined with a mechanical pencil (combo) and the pocket-desk convertible fountain pen. A hybrid model, having a streamlined cap with a flat-ended barrel was also produced.

Sheaffer´S K5-30P combination pen and pencil black and pearl medium diameter. Its cost was $10.00.

1931.

A year later, in 1931, is offered the color grey pearl with red veins and a blue and black mottled. The clip was cut even in what we call short humped clip further away from the cap band, its top went from a half-point arc profile to ogival.

Sheaffer´S Balance rounded vs ogival clip detail.
Sheaffer´S Balance clips
Sheaffer´S Balance grey pearl with red veins large diameter (oversize) and a Petite Blue
Sheaffer´S Balance Blue. Courtesy of Luiz Leite.
Sheaffer´S Balance Blue. Courtesy of Luiz Leite.

In the summer of the same year and next to the Autograph model appears the nib with “feather touch” properties. About this new improvement we read; «with genuine native iridium giving feather touch». This nib, initially in gold monocolor entirely, was assembled as standard exclusively on this new  Autograph model with  wider  cap band and clip marked with solid  gold 14 K. contract and, upon request, in the rest of the  Lifetime fountain pens at 1$ extra.   Barely a month later we see the bicolor feather touch nib «new platinum covered channel gives Sheaffer’S Autograph Lifetime pen the feather touch».

1932.

At the beginning of 1932, the Feather Touch nib was already offered at no extra charge, not only in the Autographs but in all Lifetimes. Engraved as Sheaffer’S Lifetime, these nibs would wait until the first half of 1934 to be marked FeatherTouch.

1933.

In 1933 the nibs that were being marked as 5-30 and 3-25 became so with only 5 and 3.  

1934.

In 1934 color Gray Pearl, like existing one, but without the red veins, and Ebonized Pearl, with genuine pearl inlaid in lustrous ebony-black radite were added to the Balance palette. This last distinctive color was the protagonist of Sheaffer’S advertisements from its appearance until the arrival, in 1936, of the new stripped models.

Sheaffer´S gray pearl large diameter vacuum style A8W.
Sheaffer´S ebonized pearl large diameter lever style D8T.

This same year the clip was shortened, and the spherical ball reduces its size, leaving a short round ball humped clip. In the middle of the year, the spherical ball of the clip is flattened in its outer spherical, what we call flat ball humped clip.

From 1934 we will see the non-Lifetime nibs engraved with the inscription «Feather Touch»

Sheaffer’S began manufacturing a pump vacuum filler in their Vacuum-Fil second brand, probably to compete with the Parker Vacumatic introduced in 1933. This one-stroke-vacuum filler use a thin and long metal rod ended with a ram formed by a backing plate supporting the plunger washer create vacuum suction to pull the ink into the barrel. 

1935.

By 1935 appear the radiused clip in two dimensions.  The short radius clip is reserved for the series intended for women. This clip will be mounted on the Lifetime line and non-Lifetime of 5.00$, while the flat ball clip will remain on the non-Lifetime economic line of 3.50$ and less until the Triumph arrival.

This year’s catalog shows us for the first time the truncated Junior model.

Sheaffer´S Junior A20 semi-streamlined in shape. It cost was $2.25.
Sheaffer´S Junior A20 semi-streamlined in shape. It cost was $2.25.

In different colors, was discreetly introduced in the market models WD First Lady Lifetime (-after Lady Sheaffer) and non-WD First Lady (-after Milady). The Deluxe Autograph line only offers it in black.

The Dry Proof desk sock was launched to the market, an invention that enables the user to lock his desk pen into the socket, air-sealing the point, in the same manner, used when placing the cap on a pocket pen.

1936.

At the beginning of 1936, one-stroke-vacuum fountains were offered in Sheaffer’S line, assigning the letter W to designate this filler method in factory symbol number. In the summer, the transparent visulated (last drop visibility ink supply and insulated to withstand temperature changes) lever-style appear for the first time.

July 25, 1936. Ad from first page of Saturday Evening Post.
July 25, 1936. Ad from first page of Saturday Evening Post.

In the second half of the year, fluted colors were offered in longitudinally laminated Radite based on the design patent Des. 99,218 filled on 19.10.1935. These Balance were available in a number of colors, including black, golden brown, gray pearl, and the most wanted Rose Glow that would be replaced years later by a more saturated and vibrant carmine.

Sheaffer striated. Patent design and pens 1935-1942.

Striated Radite models were much more stable in terms of discoloration and cracking. With this plastic «pinstripe», Sheaffer seems to have improved the stability of its Radite celluloid and these pens seem to better resist scratches, shrinkage, and discoloration as these fountain pens have come to us with celluloid in better condition than the previous ones over time.

1937.

In 1937 Sheaffer´S expanded the line and restructured the pricing. The 47T model – soon known as Crest – is presented with a metallic cap in black and golden brown with 14 k gold-filled cap and color gray pearl sterling silver capped. The 3 models only visulated lever-style at $ 13.75. These Crest had their cap threads just at the end of the section.

Sheaffer´S Crest.
Sheaffer´S Crest.
Sheaffer´S Crest ensemble $19.75 ($13.75 pen and $6.00 pencil). Lady Crest ensemble was $17.75.

The DeLuxe Autograph line trimming with solid gold 14 k. clip and wideband for facsimile signature engraving were available only in black with two men’s pen sizes selling for $ 20.00 and the ladies’ size for $ 18.00. Both with either vacuum or lever fillers. A new, lower-priced DeLuxe Autograph was cataloged, with a 14-k. gold wide cap band, but clip gold filled. The pen was the smaller man’s size and was $ 16.50.

The striated marine green color was added to Balance´s palette.

Sheaffer´S Premier marine green.
Sheaffer´S Premier marine green.

This year started a new feed with 360º circular sheets as a cylindrical capillary comb cut and the perpendicular feed extension and the bent to one side to lie adjacent to the wall of the barrel known as FLO-RITE system.

Flo-Rite (flow-write) system patent.
Flo-Rite (flow-write) system patent.

The Lifetime line for men was completed with the colors black, gray pearl, ebonized pearl, golden brown, marine green, and rose glow in two grips, a slender model at $ 8.75, and a standard or oversize diameter at $ 10.00.

The line for women called First Lady is maintained with a WD First Lady Lifetime (after Lady Sheaffer) and non-WD First Lady (after Milady) in the striated colors.

The Sheaffer’S No. 5 FeatherTouch line with non-WD at $ 5.00 range was maintained with the mentioned striated colors in lever and vacuum style.

In the most economical line specially designed for schoolwork, the Balance was offered at $ 3.50 mounting monotone nib # 3 and Junior at $ 2.75 in two versions, long and short, mounting nib and clip marked «Junior».

1938.

In 1938, on their 25th anniversary, all Sheaffer’S fountain pens appear with their own name. The colors black, ebonized pearl and striated golden brown, rose glow, gray pearl, and marine green are maintained.

The range of Sheaffer´S pens in 1938:

1938 Sheaffer´S spectrum.
Comparison between oversize Premier and Skyboy, Valiant, Sovereign and Statesman
Comparison between oversize Premier and Skyboy, Valiant, Sovereign and Statesman

The Deluxe Autograph line changes its name and is composed of an oversized Heritage, with the same size that the new Premier with solid gold 14 k. clip and wideband for facsimile signature engraving. The new Excellence Autograph Lifetime, a full length of smaller diameter and the same size as the new Statesman. The women pen is the Lady Autograph, and the lower-priced Viceroy Autograph, equal that Excellence with 14 k. gold wide cap band, but clip gold-filled, no solid. Prices were maintained.

Models Crest and Lady Crest in black and golden brown with 14 k gold-filled cap and Crest color gray pearl sterling silver capped are maintained and continue with their cap threads just at the end of the section.

The compact range of Sheaffer´S pens of this year was completed with a new model Masterpiece Autograph Lifetime overlay in solid gold 14. K at 80.0 $.

The Lifetime range is completed with an oversize Premier and a full-length Statesman at $ 10.00. The Sovereign, a slender full-length model, and the Lady Sheaffer’S was $ 7.50. Complete the catalog the not Lifetime Admiral and Milady at $ 5.00 with FeatherTouch bicolor nib. Craftsman -men size- and Miss Universe -ladies size- mounting a # 3 nib at 3.50 $ and Junior at $ 2.75 in two versions, long and short, mounting nib and clip marked «Junior» close the range.

It is offered Fineline, a new thin lead for pencil with a writing point 39% smaller than any formerly produced.

1939.

1939 didn’t see much change from the previous year. Were discontinued color rose glow, and Crest sterling capped model.

Sovereign rose glow Visulated lever style F73T and the same model in carmine Vacuum style S73W
Sovereign rose glow Visulated lever style F73T and the same model in carmine Vacuum style S73W

1940.

In 1940, Sheaffer´S introduce color carmine and Skyboy, “the airplane special” advertised as especially safe and distinct fountain pen to fly without spilling ink.

Skyboy mounts a FLO-RITE radial comb feed with perpendicular extension and the bent to one side to lie adjacent to the wall of the barrel. A system derived from patent 2,158,615 to prevent flooding establishing a continuous capillary channel from the pen nib rearwardly into the barrel to remove excess ink from the feeder fins. In this first presentation, the Skyboy mount a radius clip engraved SKYBOY before this model assemble a military clip «over the top» in 1941. There were two sizes: one Skyboy de 130 mm and 13 mm diameter in cap band at the price of $ 10.00 and another Lady Skyboy at $ 8.75 with a smaller diameter, 12.2 mm, and 122 mm. longitude.

Sheaffer´S Lady Skyboy with radius clip.
Sheaffer´S Lady Skyboy with radius clip.

The Masterpiece line expands considerably. The baseline was a 14 K. Masterpiece 80.00$ and a 14 K. Lady Masterpiece at 65.00$. New for 1940 was the Honor Pen 14 k. at 92.50$ especially developed as a recognition token for promotions, retirements, or as a reward for a period of faithful service. There were Lady and Platinum versions at 77.50$ and 200.00$, respectively.

The news 14 k. Crest Masterpiece and 14 k. Lady Crest Masterpiece Caps and all other findings of genuine 14K gold. at 60.00$ and 50.00$ respectively and a new 14 k. Tuckaway Masterpiece completed this extensive line.

The Autograph line remained with Heritage, Excellence, Lady, and Viceroy models.

New would also be a Tuckaway cap and barrel 14k. gold-filled at 12.00$. At this moment, the Tuckaway models, for burse or vest pocket, do not have a clip.

The Lifetime range is completed with the oversize Premier of 15 mm. diameter cap band, a full-length Statesman with 13 mm. diameter cap band, the Sovereign, a thin slender full-length model of 12 mm. diameter, and the Lady Sheaffer’S, all of them mounting a Lifetime bicolor nib. Complete the catalog the not Lifetime Admiral and Milady at $ 5.00 with a #5 FeatherTouch bicolor nib. Craftsman -men size- and Miss Universe -ladies size- mounting a # 3 nib at 3.50 $ and Junior at $ 2.75 in two versions, long and short, mounting nib and clip marked «Junior» close the range.

1941.

1941 marks the appearance military clip designed especially for the men in the U. S. Service.  The «over-the-top» clips design allows the pen to ride low, unseen, and without a bulge in uniform pockets. Very soon the Skyboy model will have this clip. Sheaffer´S adds to the existing catalog a new line with two pens with Lifetime duotone nib; the oversize Valiant at 10.00$ and the full-length Vigilant at 8.75$, and two pens non-Lifetime; the oversize Defender mounting a duotone FeatherTouch nib at 5.00$, and the Commandant with monotone #3 nib at 4.00$.

Sheaffer´S military models.
Sheaffer´S Skyboy with military over-the-top clip
Sheaffer´S Skyboy with military over-the-top clip

WARTIME.

The vast range of fountain pens shown in the 1941 catalog was greatly reduced and simplified during the war years. The first war assets contract came from the signal corps in September 1941. It was a kind of «educational» contract for management and employees. With this lesson learned, the company received its first major contract shortly after Pearl Harbor. The production of fuse detonators was underway in May 1942. For that purpose, what had been a former pulp mill at O Avenue and 18th Street was rebuilt and ad adapted for manufacturing facilities and war equipments. It was known as Plant # 2 or «War Plant.» Sheaffer’s only could work weekends for manufacturing pens. Under War Production Board (WPB) quotes Sheaffer´S were forced for time spent on these efforts to the war activities and discontinued use of aluminum and brass to reduce its catalog to only a few models with Triumph nibs.

In 1942, after a developed four-year period, Sheaffer´S introduces the newest Triumph nib and models adapted to its “sheath point”. Light cap with 3/8″ wide metal band banishes top-heaviness in the hand and air-seals fully with only a slight turn. Sheaffer kept the previous striped celluloid colors in the new line. These models are distinguished by their distinct sharp ended shape.

During 1942 the ads show open nib fountain pens from stocks as much as the new «Triumph».

There are no catalogs from these years, but from the analysis of the ads published we can infer that during wartime Triumph Sheaffer line was, at least, two Masterpiece 14k gold-trimmed at 35.00$ and 125.00$, Crest Triumph and Crest Triumph Tuckaway at $15.00 and $13.75 respectively, and Triumph and Triumph Tuckaway both at $12.50.

Sheaffer´S Triumph and Triumph Tuckaway.

In 1943 Sheaffer´S ads show only “Triumph” pens. After exhausting previous stock, the rationing is imposed on its dealers. To explain rationing policies to its distributors and highlight the need for their dedication to producing war material, the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company produced a wartime movie titled «Right to the Point».

Sometime in 1944 or early 1945 Sheaffer’S begins to mount a firmer and more elastic innerspring clip.

1945.

In March 1945, Sheaffer´S introduce a completely new line of pens and pencils and modify the Lifetime guarantee policy that is again limited, as in the first half of the 1920s, to the nib of its fountain pens. These pens are identified as having a plastic spiral finger grip on the lower portion of the barrel and innerspring clip. The Balance II; Sheaffer´S distinguished this line with the Roman numeral II as an appendix.

The Tuckaway begin to be mounted with clasp, its particular clip.

Sheaffer´S Tuckaway post-war: Triumph Lifetime nib, clasp and spiral finger grip.
Sheaffer´S Tuckaway post-war: Triumph Lifetime nib, clasp and spiral finger grip.
Sheaffer´S Valiant II.
Sheaffer´S Triumph clips.
Sheaffer´S first version of inner-spring clip.
Second inner- spring clip. There is evidence that this clip was developed by Sheaffer's as early as 1943/44.
Second inner- spring clip. There is evidence that this clip was developed by Sheaffer's as early as 1943/44.

The Triumph nib that until now had been adjusted to the feed spun-on-assembly by pressure and sealing is now threaded to it.

Thanks to a letter dated October 1, 1945, from Sheaffer to all their dealer with a Repair Parts Price List for pens manufactured after March 1, 1945, we can know the post-war catalog:

Sheaffer´S Masterpiece 14k. auctioned by Dreweatts Donnington Priory in 2014 ( © Dreweatts )

         NAME                       FACTORY SIMBOL             STYLE              PRICE             NIB

Masterpiece II                      9339T                               Lever              100.00       Triumph      

Crest Masterpiece II           399W                                Vac.                   50.00    

Autograph II                         94W Autog.                      Vac.                   20.00

Autograph II                         94T Autog.                       Lever                20.00

Autograph Tuckaway II      94WM Auto                     Vac.                  20.00

Crest Deluxe II                     39W                                  Vac.                  17.50

Crest Deluxe II                     39T                                   Lever                17.50

Crest Tuckaway Deluxe     39WM                              Vac.                  17.50

Crest II                                  37W                                 Vac.                  15.00

Crest II                                 37T                                   Lever                15.00

Sentinel Deluxe II              39W-X                              Vac.                   15.00

Sentinel Deluxe II              39T-X                               Lever                 15.00

Sentinel II                           37W-X                             Vac.                    12.50

Sentinel II                           37T-X                               Lever                 12.50

Sentinel Tuckaway II        37WM-X                         Vac.                    12.50

Valiant II                             94W                                 Vac.                   12.50

Valiant II                             94T                                  Lever                 12.50

Valiant Tuckaway II          94WM                             Vac.                   12.50

Statesman II                      92W                                 Vac.                  10.00

Statesman II                      92T                                  Lever                10.00

Tuckaway II                       92WM                             Vac.                   10.00

Sovereign II                       79W                                 Vac.                     8.75

Sovereign II                       79T                                  Lever                   8.75

Lady Sheaffer II                79WM                              Vac.                    8.75

Admiral II                           59W                                 Vac.                    5.00

Admiral II                           59T                                  Lever                  5.00

Milady II                             59WM                             Vac.                    5.00

Milady II                             59TM                              Lever                  5.00

Craftsman II                      33W                                Vac.                     3.50       33

Craftsman II                      33T                                 Lever                  3.50

Diana II                              33WM                             Vac.                    3.50

Diana II                              33TM                              Lever                  3.50

Cadet II                              23W                                Vac.                    2.75         23

Cadet II                              23T                                 Lever                  2.75

Minerva II                          23WM                            Vac.                    2.75

Minerva II                          23TM                             Lever                  2.75

  

On September 1, 1947, Sheaffer´s removed the Lifetime guarantee that had been covering their nibs since 1921 and stopped stamping LIFETIME on it.

INJECTION MOLDED PLASTIC ARRIVE.

In January 1948, Sheaffer´S adopts Forticel Radite II plastic injection molding and introduces Burnt-Umber Brown and Persian Blue colors.

In March, begin to assemble the White Dot on metal caps. Star the incorporation of a high polished chased stainless-steel cap on the Sentinel.

In mid-December, Sheaffer´S start manufacturing fountain pens with the Touchdown  vacuum system.

In February 1949, Sheaffer´S introduces the Touchdown system to dealers. On July 18, is published the first Touchdown´s ad in Life magazine. In September, Sheaffer’S publishes the Touchdown catalog.

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