Fountain pen sales are buoyant amongst collectors and enthusiasts today, as people like myself discover the joy of working with fountain pen and ink. Perhaps the baby boomer generation holds some nostalgia for the pens of our youth and can now slow down and strive to learn to write beautifully with a pen.
The art of penmanship is in revival.
The Romans may have devised reservoir pens but the earliest mention of a reservoir pen dates back to the 10th century when the Fatimid caliph Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah demanded a pen that would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen that held ink in a reservoir, allowing it to be held upside-down without leaking.
Bion, a french inventor from the late 17th century created a fountain pen, as did 1663 Samuel Pepys in 1663.
English inventor John Scheffer (not Sheaffer) received a patent for his popula Penographic fountain pen in 1819.
Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru created and patented on May 25, 1827, a fountain pen with a barrel made from a large swan quill.
The first commercially successful fountain pens were produced in the 1870s and 1880s.
In the 1880s the era of the mass-produced fountain pen finally began.
The first gold nibbed fountain pens were produced by companies such as De La Rue (1880) and Burge Warren and Ridgely (1882) in the UK & Shipmans (1883) Mabie Todd and Bard(1883) and Watermans (1884) in the USA.
I Restore and Collect Conway Stewart
Self-filling pens began to arrive around the turn of the century. I own a De La Rue Onoto THE PEN plunger filler, the Post Syringe filler produced by both BWR and Shand in the UK.
I have a number of Sheaffer's lever-filler, the design having been patented in 1912, and Parker's slightly later designed button-filler. These were popular pens.
After the first world war and the expired of Sheaffers patent, many pen companies produce lever filling pens. These are the styles of the vintage conway Stewarts that I've been buying as a hoby to restore. Many of the pens I collect have celluloid bodies which replaced the hard rubber of earlier model fountain pens.
After WWII, manufacturers experimented with new filling systems. Notable vintage examples I own of later filling systems to the leaver, are the Parker Duofold & Vacumatic.
I'm one of the first baby boomers, born as WWII ended at a time when fountain pens retained their dominance, and did so for another decade, because the early ballpoint pens were expensive and prone to leaks (I remember) gluggy accumulation of ink at the ball oint was common. They were messy to work with, or they dried up and gave intemitteng false starts. We weren't allwed to use them at school.
Post WWII saw the launch of innovative fountain pens such as Parker 51 Aerometric.
The 1960s and 1970s saw an increase in the quality of the ballpoint pen. I changed to a ballpoint at that time and maintained my love for a quality brand ballpoint to write with for the next fifty years. With most of the baby boomers using ballpoints many established fountain pen companies went into liquidation, moved to ballpoint manurfactue, or were bought by a few remaining fountain pen manurfacturers creating pens for a niche market.
Further Reading ....
1) The English Fountain Pen Industry 1875-1975 by Steve Hull
2) Onoto the Pen : De La Rue and Onoto Pens 1880-1960 by Steve Hull
3) Fountain Pens for the Million: The History of Conway Stewart 1905-2005 by Steve Hull
4) The Neptune Pen : A History of Burge,Warren & Ridgley by Steve Hull & Mike Bryan