About Fountain Pens

About Fountain Pens

Fountain pens have been in existence for a long time. In fact, skilled writers have used them for over 100 years. Archaeologists have discovered early fountain, or reservoir, pens that date back to the 10th century. However, it was during the 1800s that a large number of inventors began patenting their fountain pen designs.

To work properly, early fountain pens needed three basic elements, which included an iridium tipped gold point, free-flowing ink and sturdy rubber. During the 1870s, Duncan MacKinnon introduced stylographic pens. They were popular because they featured a hollow, cylindrical tip along with a wire that worked as a valve.

In the 1880s, the first mass-produced fountain pens arrived on store shelves. Early American manufacturers included Waterman, Sheaffer and Parker.

Fountain Pen Features

Fountain pens include a storage container for the ink, which is located inside the pen's body. To produce markings, the ink runs into a point at the bottom of the writing implement while a device manages the ink flow into its tip. With the added ink-regulating mechanism, the writing substance is unlikely to leak since it will not flow out of the storage container too fast.

Each fountain pen's tip features gold coating as the material can withstand the corrosiveness of ink. In addition, collectors will notice a split near the writing implement's tip. This advancement controls the flow of ink onto a writer's paper.

Since the fountain pen's tip is sharp, writers will scratch into a piece of paper when they use the device. The scratch will then fill with ink. If a writer allows the fountain pen to stay in one area, then the ink will begin to blot and make a small pool. Use caution with a fountain pen because it can tear a piece of paper when too much pressure is used.

Collectors will find that fountain pens are available in nine standard nib sizes along with three unique tips that include italic, oblique and straight. Often, early pen owners engraved their initials on the clip. In addition, it took them approximately four months to break in a new pen's nib. During the nib forming process, the tip would adapt to the owner's writing technique.

Collectors may locate a variety of interchangeable tips and will use them to print different widths. In fact, when writers practice calligraphy, they will require a large variety of fountain pen tips.

Waterman Pens

In 1884, Lewis Waterman requested a patent for the first user-friendly fountain pen. Before Waterman's design, pens did include their own ink supply, but the earlier pens were problematic since they often leaked. In fact, the oldest known fountain pen still in existence is a writing utensil invented by M. Bion in 1702.


When today's collectors begin searching for vintage Waterman pens, they will appreciate adding the Patrician to their fountain pen display. The writing implement features a blue and gold pattern along with the traditional Waterman logo embossed on the tip of the pen's cap. Fortunate collectors may come across models displayed in their original box. Furthermore, the pen is just over five inches long with gold fill added to the lever edges and on the band.


The Waterman Company released several styles under the Ideal model. For instance, collectors can locate the Slim and Canada editions. The company also introduced Ideal styles such as Junior, Red Ripple and Flex Taperite.

Sheaffer Pens

Walter A. Sheaffer acquired his first patent for a fountain pen in 1908, but the inventor did not begin marketing the pens on a large scale until 1913 or 1914. Today, when collectors begin searching for vintage Sheaffer pens, they are likely to come across writing implements with barrel inscriptions featuring the "Self-Filling" logo in an oval design along with the patent dates of 1908 and December 12, 1912.

Sheaffer's patented design includes a simple lever to fill the writing implement. Prior to his lever invention, fountain pens were filled with an eyedropper and stable hands. Writers also found early fountain pens to be unreliable and expensive. As a result, Sheaffer introduced a fountain pen with a lifetime guarantee.

With its lever ink filling construction, Sheaffer's fountain pens became the industry standard until the 1940s. Multiple pen manufacturers adopted the lever design, so the company decided to invent a new product, which was the aniline based writing pen. Today, collectors will find numerous vintage Sheaffer pens on the market.

Sheaffer Snorkel

The Snorkel fountain pen is from the 1950s, and its name comes from the fill design. When supplying the pen with ink, collectors can avoid using a tissue paper to clean up spills as the pen features the Touchdown system. With the ink refilling system, owners will place the tip in a container of ink and pull up on the writing utensil's plunger.

Lady Sheaffer

During the 1970s, the company introduced the Lady Sheaffer fountain pen. The writing implement features a brushed silver finish with an attractive diamond pattern that the company enhanced with gold plating. It has a pocket clip, and the pen's construction occurred in the United States. Collectors will recognize the edition when they see the baby blue grip.


If collectors come across a Triumph pen produced by Sheaffer, then they will have a valuable addition to their fountain pen display. The writing implement is black with a two-tone gold nib. The device features vacuum filling for its ink supply. Furthermore, the size is just over 5 inches with a gold band in the center.


George Safford Parker received his first fountain pen patent in 1889, and in 1894, the inventor created a pen called the Lucky Curve, which included an ink refill system involving a tube. The advanced tube design prevented leaks caused by refilling the ink.

Early Parker Pens

Another early Parker pen is the Gold Filigree Lucky Curve Pen. The company began marketing the writing device in 1900. During this time, Parker began traveling overseas to recruit international partnerships to sell his pens. Therefore, international collectors also recognize the brand.

In 1905, Parker released the large Black Giant model, and in 1906, he introduced the Emblem pen. Later, in 1907, he debuted the Snake Pen. During World War I, soldiers found the Trench pen to be helpful as the device used ink pellets. In fact, soldiers merely had to activate the pellets with water to use the writing implement. The U.S. Department of War commissioned Parker to produce his Trench pens for the military, and as a result, the pen innovator reported that his sales were more than $1 million.

Parker Duofold

Collectors will locate vintage Duofold pens on today's market since the original device came with a 25-year guarantee. He introduced the design in 1921, and it soon gained the nickname Big Red. With the Duofold's release during the Roaring Twenties, the fountain pen's eye-catching style and ultra-size defined the era perfectly. Later, in 1926 and 1927, the pen became available in numerous colors including black, lapis blue, jade green, mandarin yellow and pearl. The pen's construction includes permanite, which is a plastic material.

Fountain pens give collectors variety in their pen display. Furthermore, a diverse fountain pen assortment allows collectors to write in classic styles as they're using traditional methods.