The Standard British Pen

In my last post, about the Ingersoll pen, I mentioned how British-looking it was. Most British pens are pretty instantly recognisable as such, from the beginning of the thirties right up to the fifties, though of course many took new forms in the post-war period. By the latter end of the twenties a Standard British Pen was developing, and thereafter we see it among the output of most manufacturers.

It’s straight-sided or only slightly tapered. Lever and button fillers both conform to the pattern. The clip is a washer type and it’s retained by a black hard rubber clip screw. Sections are also BHR and more often than not they will be either slightly stepped or concave. There will be either a ladder feed or some version of the spoon feed, always made from BHR. Almost all the common pens of the period conform to this pattern. Think of, for example, the Conway Stewart 286 or 475, a Stephens Leverfill or a Mentmore Autoflow. Though the filling system was different, even the De La Rue Onoto of the period had the same profile. In the fifties, Mentmore, Summit and Stephens were still producing pens like this, though they had more modern-looking models and some others, like Conway Stewart, had transformed their range except for the odd anachronism like the 388.

Why, when pen manufacturers elsewhere were enjoying success with more adventurous shapes of pen did the British trade remain so loyal to this pen type? The answer must be, simply that that was what the market demanded. The traditional shape sold. There were exceptions, of course, pens with visualated areas, and the odd rebellious baguette-shaped pen like the short-lived Croxley example. Then there was the biggest exception of all, the exception that proved the rule golden: Mabie Todd. They never produced a Standard British Pen, though they came close with some of their early Leverless pens. Not quite, though. Those pens had a washer clip of sorts, but it was manufactured as a unit with the clip. For the most part, Swan used inserted clips of one kind or another, and from the thirties on their pens were distinctly streamlined.

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