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1788 Philadelphia

Antique Pens and Accessories

Antique Pens and Accessories

1893 Billhead

Antique Pens

Quill Dip Pens:  Quill pens were in use by the year 600. "Renaissance and earlier depictions of scholarly gentry or saints in their studies often show them at a bookstand on a pillar with a pen in one hand and an ink pot in the other."  (Mark Bridge, An Encyclopedia of Desks, 1988, p. 9)  We have seen English advertisements for quill pens from c. 1742 to c. 1814-26? (John Johnson Collection Exhibition 2001, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford) and 1855 (Catalog, Waterlow & Sons, London), a US illustration from 1788 (above), and a US receipt from 1811.  One of the problems with quill pens is that a good deal of skill was required to turn a quill into a good pen and to maintain it in good working order.  Zakim recently stated that "after 1820 it become possible to purchase ready-made versions [of quill pens] that were easily replaced once they wore out."  (Michael Zakim, "The Business Clerk as Social Revolutionary," n.d.)  Quill pens were still popular in the mid-19th century, and we have seen US advertisements from 1847 to 1884. (Hagley Museum and Library) 

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Quill pens, 1883 ad

Steel and Gold Dip Pens:  An 1890 study by Bore indicates that a relatively small number of handmade steel pens (nibs) were used  in the 18th century, but that the first commercially successful steel pens were made by James Perry beginning around 1819.. Steel pens were first  made by machine by John Mitchell, Joseph Gillott, and Josiah Mason around 1830. All four of these men were English. (Henry Bore, The Story of the Invention of Steel Pens, New York, Ivison, Blakeman, 1890)  Thus, the volume of steel pens produced was negligible until the 1830s, and the quill pen ruled.  Zakim recently wrote, with reference to the early 19th century, "Many contemporaries insisted that a hard quill with a clear barrel, kept well mended, remained the best tool for writing. .... Metal pen manufacturers subsequently sought to duplicate the 'soft feeling' and 'freedom of action' characteristic of a fine quill...."   

The earliest English advertisement we have seen for a steel pen dates from c. 1814-26 (John Johnson Collection). The earliest US advertisement we have found was received by a potential customer in 1847.  The latter advertised Gillott's, Windle's, and Perryian steel pens.  A gold pen won a prize at the 1851 exposition in London.  Gold pens and Perryian silver pens were advertised in the 1855 catalog of Waterlow & Sons, London.  Steel pens made by Gillott and gold pens made by Hayden were advertised by Thomas Groom & Co, Boston, in 1856.  In 1864, Henry Owen, New York, NY, advertised Gillott's steel pens. 

Esterbrook & Co. began production of steel pens in the US in 1860.  Before that, according to an 1866 statement by Esterbrook, almost all steel pens used in the US were imported, and attempts by US firms to enter the market were unsuccessful.  During 1866, steel pens were advertised by the Easterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Co., Camden, NJ.  During 1866-68, gold pens were advertised by Rubber Clothing Co, New York, NY, and Benton & Brother, Philadelphia, PA.

Use of steel and gold pens (nibs) required pen-holders, and it follows that pen-holders were available as early as the nibs.  Gold, silver, ebony, rosewood, and other pen-holders were advertised in the 1855 catalog of Waterlow & Sons, London.  In the US, gutta percha pen-holders were advertised by Geo. N. Davis & Brother, Boston, MA, in 1856 (Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue and Trade-Price List of India Rubber and Gutta Percha Goods, p. 55); also, pen-holders were advertised by the Esterbook Steel Pen Mfg. Co. in 1867 and the Rubber Clothing Co. in 1868.

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Advertisement for gold pen patented in 1869

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Leroy W. Fairchild, New York, NY, 1881 ad

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Pen Holders & Nibs, 
merican News Co., New York, 1883 ad

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Spencerian Pens, 1874 ad

MBHT_1888_Fosters_Finger_Pen__Pencil_Holder_Sci_Amer_12.18.jpg (178399 bytes)
Forster's Finger Pen & Pencil Holder
Scientific American, Dec. 18, 1888
Courtesy of the Museum of Business History & Technology

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Gold and silver steel pens, 
Zion Office Supply, 
Zion, IL, 1912

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Bayard Stainless Steel Pens, Geo. W Hughes, 
St. Paul's Pen Works, Birmingham, England.

Double_Spring_Pen_Holders_box_c._1890.jpg (39415 bytes)
Double Spring Pen Holders, Sir Josiah Mason's Steel Pen Manufactory, established 1828.


Fountain Pens: Reservoir or fountain pens were introduced in the 17th and 18th centuries, and Thomas Jefferson used a silver reservoir pen made in 1824. A number of patents for fountain pens were awarded during the course of the 19th century, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 3253, which was awarded to Nelson Bartlett in 1843.  However, Zakim reports that there were complaints "about the tendency of the new [fountain] pens to unexpectedly dry up, or to leak, or to fail to throw out the requisite quantity of ink."

1855_Princes_Protean_Fountain_Pen_John_S_Purdy_NY_NY_pat_1855_adv_1865_OM.jpg (44078 bytes)
Fountain pen, patented 1855, advertised 1865

The first successful fountain pen was patented by Lewis E. Waterman in 1884. Fountain pen sales by the L. E. Waterman Pen Co., the Paul E. Wirt Fountain Pen Co., and others were substantial from that year on.  In 1890, Wirt advertised (below) that 350,000 of its pens were in use.

The photograph below shows a Swan No. 2 eyedropper fountain pen with a screw on safety cap, ink filling glass pipette, and box.  Mabie Todd and Co. Ltd. introduced its safety screw-on cap model in 1911. For more Swan pens, go to the Fountain Pen Emporium and Mabie Todd Swan Pens web sites.

Photograph courtesy of the Fountain Pen Emporium

1931 Billhead

Eagle_Fountain_Pen_Holders_box_top_OM.jpg (76453 bytes)
Eagle Fountain Penholders, Eagle Pencil Co., New York, NY

Antique Ink Bottles

Writing inks have been used for something like 2,500 years. Thaddeus David began producing ink in New York City in 1824. The earliest advertisement English advertisements we have found for writing ink date from c. 1742 to c. 1814-26? (John Johnson Collection); we have seen a US receipt for purchase of ink powder from 1811; the earliest US advertisement we have found dates from 1847.  Writing inks were advertised by Waterlow & Sons, London, in 1855, and Arnold's, Hoover's, Maynard & Noye's, Morrisson's, and Werkshagen's writing inks and fluids were advertised c. 1858. (Hagley)

1862_Thaddeus_Davids_Co_ink_billhead_OM.jpg (289277 bytes)
Thaddeus Davids Co., 1862 billhead
1874_Inks_Corlies_Macy__Co._NY_catalog.JPG (11979 bytes)
Corlies, Macy & Co, NY, NY, 1874 catalog


Barnes_Jet_Black_National_Ink_A_S_Barnes_Co_NY_NY.jpg (20771 bytes)
A. S. Barnes & Co, NY, NY, catalog
1896_Emry_David_Writing_Fluid_2.JPG (49980 bytes)
Emry Davis Writing Fluid, 1896 ad
1897_Pauls_Ink_billhead.jpg (42598 bytes)
Safety Bottle & Ink Co, Jersey City, NY, 1897 billhead advertising Paul's Inks & Mucilage and the Automatic Non-Spillable Safety Bottle
LePage_Signet_Peacock_Blue_Ink_Russia_Cement_Co_Gloucester_MA_x.JPG (19539 bytes)
Signet Peacock Blue Ink, Russia Cement Co., Gloucester, MA
. .

Antique Ink Wells and Stands

The earliest English advertisements we have found for ink stands date from 1783-85 and c. 1814-26? (John Johnson Collection); the earliest US advertisement is dated 1847 (Hagley).  The earliest patent we have found for an ink well is 1858.  Of course, ink pots existed long before the 18th century.

[photo] See caption below for details.
Silver inkstand used in the signing of the Declaration of Independence,
made by Philip Syng, 1752 
Courtesy of
National Park Service, Museum Management Program and Independence National Historical Park.
Pewter_Ink_Well_and_Quill_Pen.JPG (16282 bytes)
Pewter Ink Stand and Quill Pen

1851_Redgrave_Inkstand.JPG (141565 bytes)
Redgrave Inkstand, Jennens & Bettridge, London, 
Paris, 1855

Inkwell_S._Silliman__Co._Chester_CT.jpg (41136 bytes)1854_S._Silliman__Co._Chester_CT_Barrel_Traveling_Inkstand.jpg (31933 bytes)
Counting-House "Academic" 2-Well Inkstand  (left) & Barrel Traveling Inkstand (right), S. Silliman & Co., Chester, CT, advertised 1854
. The academic inkstand originally was $0.33, while the traveling inkstand was $0.20.
1854_S._Silliman__Co._Chester_CT_Barrel_Traveling_Inkstand_ad.jpg (64513 bytes)
Barrel Traveling Inkstand, S. Silliman & Co., Chester, CT, advertised 1854. Also advertised 1883. 
Silliman's, Fry's, Whitney's, and Draper's inkstands 
were advertised c. 1858

Geo. N. Davis & Brother, Boston, MA, advertised circular rubber inkstands in 1856.  (Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue and Trade-Price List of India Rubber and Gutta Percha Goods, p. 55)
1861_1864_Barometric_Inkstand_OM.JPG (24241 bytes)
Barometric Ink Stand, patented 1861-67 
by Thomas Hudson, advertised 1878-81, still marketed in 1911. In 1905, it was manufactured by Cutter Tower Co., Boston, MA, which said at the time that the inkstand had been sold continuously since 1861.
1879_Ink_Stand.jpg (28465 bytes)
H.L Judd Manufacturing Co., Brooklyn, NY, and Wallingford, CT, patented 1879, advertised 1883-1916
Double_Snail_Ink_Stand.JPG (16652 bytes)
Advertised 1878-1916
Ink_Stand_with_Calendar.JPG (30824 bytes) IRVINGS_PARADOX_INK_STAND.JPG (12244 bytes)
Irving's Paradox Ink Stand
Davis Automatic Ink Stand, Emry Davis, 
NY, NY, patented 1889, advertised 1891

1896_Davis_Automatic_Ink_Stand_ad.JPG (29269 bytes)
Davis Automatic Inkstand, Emry Davis, NY, NY, 1896 ad. 
 Similar ink stands were advertised from 1894 to 1911

1897_Hayne_Suspended_Inkwell__Universal_Specialty_Co_NYC_OM.jpg (55672 bytes)
Hayne Suspended Inkwell, Universal Specialty Co., New York, NY, 1897
1892_Century_Ink-Stand_OM.jpg (139776 bytes)
Century Inkstand, 1892 ad

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Zodiac Ink Stand, Tiffany Studios, NY, NY, 
c. 1900-1910


Antique Pen Racks

Pen racks were advertised by Waterlow & Sons, London, in 1855.  In the late 1860s, Wm. Staehlen, New York, NY, advertised "French Pen Racks."
Several of the ink stands pictured above also have pen racks.

1868_J_M_Keep_pen_rack.jpg (16859 bytes)
J. M. Keep, patented 1868,
advertised 1881
Pen_rack.jpg (37345 bytes) Pen_Rack_folding.jpg (57306 bytes)
Folding pen rack

Pen_rack_x.jpg (34047 bytes)

Pen_Rack_No._1b.JPG (164838 bytes)

1886_Diamond_K_Pen_Rack.JPG (19436 bytes)
K. Diamond pen rack, patented 1886.
This pen rack and variations were
advertised at least as late as 1940


1900_Adair_Pen_Rack_OM.JPG (28597 bytes)
Adair pen rack and paper weight, patented 1900
Advertised 1910-40


Other Pen Accessories

Ink Erasers

Pen Extractors

Pen Wipes and Cleaners

The Hagley Museum and Library has advertisements for ink erasers with metal blades dating to 1847, c. 1858, and 1878.
1885_Excelsior_Ink__Lead_Eraser_with_Pencil_Sharpener_John_S_Hulin_New_York_NY_1.jpg (24122 bytes)
1885_Excelsior_Ink__Lead_Eraser_with_Pencil_Sharpener_John_S_Hulin_New_York_NY_2.jpg (10326 bytes)
Excelsior Ink and Lead Eraser with Pencil Sharpener,  John S. Hulin, New York, NY, patented 1885.

1887_Kerner_Eraser_Kerner_Pen_Co_NYC_from_Office_09.87.jpg (127115 bytes)
Kerner Eraser, The Kerner Pen Co., NY, NY, patented 1887, 1887 ad.

Geo. N. Davis & Brother, Boston, MA, advertised rubber stationers' gums in 1856.  (Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue and Trade-Price List of India Rubber and Gutta Percha Goods, p. 53)

A_W_Fabers_Ink_Eraser_advertised_1881.jpg (27275 bytes)
A. W. Faber's Improved Ink Eraser and Paper Cleaner,
New York, NY, 1881 ad

1905_Erasers_OM.jpg (86184 bytes)
1905 ad

Pen Extractors were used to remove steel pen points from penholders.

Anchor_Letter_Weight_And_Pen_Extractor_Pertwells_Patent_J.W.__Co._Ltd_London_1.jpg (24544 bytes)

Anchor Letter Weight and Pen Extractor,
Pertwee's Patent, J.W. & Co., London, England.

Image coming
Southern Business, Jan.-Feb. 1900, p. 22.
Tenax Pen Extractor
"Keeps fingers clean and penholders unbroken. ....[I]t takes hold easily of any sort of pen and REMOVES IT, no matter how badly rusted or corroded it may be."

Image coming
ACMcClurg p. 156
Esterbrook's Pen Extractor, 1902 ad

It in important to clean the nibs of dip pens after they are used, and a wide variety of  pen wipes were patented and sold for this purpose.

In the late 1860s, J. M. Crane, Newark, NJ, advertised Crane's Excelsior Pen and Knife Cleaner.  This was a small pair of pincers (or large tweezers) that grabbed and cleaned the nib of a pen between two moist sponges.

1890_Eureka_Pen_Cleaner_with_Inkstand_A._Demarest__Son_NY_NY_OM.jpg (150117 bytes)
Eureka Pen Cleaner with Inkstand, 1890 ad "The chemical properties of the granular preparation [inside] are such as to clean the pen, even if the ink on the pen is dry."

Pig_Pen_Wipe.jpg (27040 bytes)
Advertised 1896

Pounce Pot or Sander Pen-knife

Blotting Paper

The Hagley Museum and Library has  1847 and c. 1858 ads for writing sand and a c. 1850-60 ad for black sand and sand boxes.
Sander_1_OM.jpg (17507 bytes)
The Hagley Museum and Library has an 1847 ad for Rodger's pen-knives and a c. 1858 ad for Rodgers and Sons pen-knives. Blotting paper is mentioned in U.S. Patent No. 10,933 (1854). (The preceding patent is not for blotting paper.)

 We have seen an 1869 record for purchase of blotting paper.

Rocker Blotter

In 1857, U.S. Patent No. 17,477 was awarded to Reuben G. Allerton for the following rocking blotter:
1857_Blotter_R.G._Allerton_Pat_No._17477_June_9.jpg (70127 bytes) 
In 1865, U.S. Patent No. 51,337 was awarded to Charles C Moore for another rocking blotter:
1865_Blotter_C_C_Moore_Pat_No_51337_Dec_5.jpg (152531 bytes)  
The Hagley Museum and Library has an 1878 ad for Moore's cushioned rocker blotters. 

1880_Excelsior_Blotter_1883_ad.jpg (210922 bytes)
Excelsior Blotter, patented 1880, advertised 1883
. .


Positions and Posture

Eastman_Business_College_Positions_in_Writing_1877_or_after_OM.jpg (310156 bytes)
Eastman Business College, late 1870s
1909_Business_Educator_penmanship_OM.jpg (86337 bytes)
Source:   Business Educator, 1909.

Penmanship Aids

The second half of the 19th century saw the marketing of many devices to assist people to learn and maintain proper finger and hand positioning when writing with a pen.
1862_Eastmans_Penmans_Assistant_Eastman_Business_College_Catalogue_Jim_Drummond.jpg (368508 bytes)
Eastman's Penman's Assistant, patented 1861, advertised 1862.
From the 1862 catalog of the Eastman Business College.
Courtesy of Jim Drummond
1903_Handwriting_Developer_OM.jpg (340808 bytes)
Handwriting  Developer, 
American Handwriting Development Co., Hartford CT, 1902-03 ad

Prevention of Writer's Cramp

The National Pen Guide, illustrated below, was designed to prevent students from holding their pens incorrectly.  One stenographer recommended its use to prevent people like himself who wrote for hours on end from developing writer's cramp, a painful condition of the hand. (National Stenographer, Dec. 1894, pp. 289-90)
1893_National_Pen_Guide_from_NatSten_12.94.jpg (48506 bytes) 1893_National_Pen_Guide_in_use_from_NatSten_12.94.jpg (64098 bytes)
National Pen Guide, patented 1893, 1894 ad.
1899 Faust's Myograph BK.03.99.jpg (65569 bytes)
C A Faust's Myograph, 1899 ad

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Research Notes:
Charles Slack, Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear, Thomas Handcock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest Industrial Secret of the Nineteenth Century, 2002, states that in the 18th century Joseph Priestly wrote that rubber was used for rubbing out black lead pencil marks (p. 30); in the early 1800s, the rubbing out pencil marks remained the only use for rubber (p. 56); around 1825, in the UK Thomas Handcock began selling high quality erasers made from refined rubber (p. 60).
English advertisement for black lead pencils, slate pencils, letter writers c. 1814-26? (John Johnson Collection)
US Patent No. 1625
and No. 1823 awarded to Thomas Woodward 1840 for a pencil case (mechanical pencil) and No. 2874 in 1842 for a pen case (to hold steel nib).
Advertisement for India rubber. Dated received 1847. (Earlier in John Johnson Collection)
Papeterie Marion exhibited at 1851 Crystal Palace.
Advertisement for pen holders c. 1858.
Advertisement for sealing wax, c. 1850-60.
Record of purchases of pen holders, steel erasers 1869
Advertisement for mucilage, 1870
Advertisement for pen knives, rubber erasers, pencil cases (mechanical pencils) 1878
Advertisement for rubber ink erasers 1884
J. M. Batchelder, inkstand, US patent no. 20,028, April 27, 1858.
Thomas S. Hudson, pen cleaner and holder, US patent 20,065, April 27, 1858.
D. W. Wright, combination paper weight and pen holder, US patent 66,547, July 1 [7?], 1867

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