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The fountain pen's design came after a thousand years of using quill pens. Early inventors observed the apparent natural ink reserve found in the hollow channel of a bird's feather and tried to produce a similar effect, with a man-made pen that would hold more ink and not require constant dipping into the ink well. However, a feather is not a pen, only a natural object modified to suit man's needs. Filling a long thin reservoir made of hard rubber with ink and sticking a metal 'nib' at the bottom was not enough to produce a smooth writing instrument.

Lewis Waterman improved the early designs adding an air hole in the nib and three grooves inside the feed. Waterman patented his first practical fountain pen in 1884, but writing instruments designed to carry their own supply of ink had existed in principle for over one hundred years before Waterman's patent. For example, the oldest known fountain pen that has survived today was designed by a Frenchmen named M. Bion and dated 1702. Peregrin Williamson, a Baltimore shoemaker, received the first American patent for a pen in 1809. John Shaeffer received a British patent in 1819 for his half quill, half metal pen that he attempted to mass manufacture. John Jacob Parker patented the first self-filling fountain pen in 1831.  However, early fountain pen models were plagued by ink spills and other failures that left them impractical and hard to sell.


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