Less Common British Pens: Kenrick & Jefferson

Kenrick & Jefferson pens exist, I believe, to remind me how much I don’t know. There are several K&J pens that I’ve seen photographs of but never handled. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a pen in your hand speaks volumes.

Kenrick & Jefferson, based in West Bromwich, were a large office supply company that provided everything from office furniture down to paper clips. A large part of their activity was the provision of pre-printed business forms for government, local government and business. Some of these forms had as many as twelve carbons, so it took firm pressure to leave a clear imprint on the bottom one. The pens they sold were designed with that in mind, with nibs as hard as nails. It is sometimes baldly asserted that Kenrick & Jefferson pens were made by Mabie Todd, but that’s only partly true. Some of their pens were certainly of Mabie Todd manufacture, others may have been, and some seem to have been made by other pen companies. I have a cap (but sadly that’s all) of a 1920s K&J pen that is essentially a top-of-the-range Swan, and it bears a Swan patent date on the clip. That’s one that certainly was made by Mabie Todd. Here’s another that may have been:

I would date this pen to the immediately post-World War I period, and it bears a strong resemblance to the early Swan Self-Fillers like the SF2. Mabie Todd never made a feed like this, however, and there is no reason to think the feed isn’t original to the pen.

That doesn’t exactly remove the possibility that Mabie Todd made the pen; K&J may have had their reasons for specifying such a feed, but it does raise some doubts.

This pen is very Swan-like in its general appearance. The dimensions are a little different from the nearest Swan equivalent, which would be the SM2/100. This pen is noticeably thicker. The chased pattern is different too, but it does have a Mabie Todd-type ladder feed. The odds are good that Mabie Todd made this one.

There’s a gap of many years to this next pen. Probably made in the early nineteen-fifties, this pen no longer resembles a Swan, not even the poor-quality Biro Swans that were being produced at this late date. Its general appearance and the almost complete loss of gold plating on the clip and lever looks like Wyvern’s work, but that’s only a guess. Plating loss aside, it’s still a very high quality pen.

That’s about the limit of my knowledge of these intriguing pens. I don’t know whether Kenrick & Jefferson sold a range of pens at any one time, or whether they only ever had one on offer. They were consistently well made, they were always called “The Supa Pen” and they always bore an apricot-coloured top to the cap, or a similarly-coloured ring near the top of the cap. The company, which began in 1830, was largely bought out by a competitor in 1993. They retained production of envelopes, but that too disappeared in 1999. Sadly, there’s no mention of their pens in the existing archives.


9 thoughts on “Less Common British Pens: Kenrick & Jefferson

  1. I just came across this article when searching for other news on K&J. I worked there from 1994 to 1996. One of my earliest jobs circa 1996 was pen cleaning as an apprentice (K&J honoured all requests for servicing on their pens as a lifetime g’tee. This was done FOC and return postage!

    When I left in 1996 to start up my own consultancy business the company was in financial difficulties – then it was serving the declining business form market. I still have an old K&J pen somewhere as a momento of my service at the company. I believe the 1950’s pen above is the same and as far as I can recollect made by Waterman’s for K&J. Great pics on your site I’ll look out my old pen and send you a pic if you like. Best Regards and I hope to hear from you. Jeremy Plimmer (jeremyplimmer@aol.com)

    1. That’s fascinating, Jeremy. I knew that various manufacturers made the K&J pens at different times, but I hadn’t thought of Waterman. I’d love to see a photo of your pen. I’ve always admired the quality of the various K&J pens and the company itself must have had an interesting history.

      1. I have now found the pen and will photograph it for you and send this across. I don’t know if I can do this via the WordPress platform (I blog on this platform but only add text). Let me know if I can e,mail it to you. I can share other information about K&J and the pens they sold if you think this has interest for your blog. For instance the heavier pens – Swan – I think were used to copy hand written text through several sheets of carbon paper. They were used when typewriters were not available for creating receipts, delivery notes etc in bound duplicate and triplicate account books. I remember that we often used these pens as ‘darts’ as they would stick into the wooden flooring of the office I was located in. The nibs were so strong that they worked fine however much damage they were exposed to.

      2. Hi Jeremy,
        I’d be delighted to receive anything you can tell me about the K&J business and pens, and I would work that up into an article for the blog. It’s probably easiest to send me any photos at goodwriters@btinternet.com. I’m very grateful for the time you’re taking to provide information.

  2. Hi – I have the body of a K&J pen with a number 7 nib – which is to all intents and purposes a no 7 Swan Eternal. The number 6 cap doesn’t fit and the no m8 is too big. Is yours the size I am looking for?

    1. I’m afraid not. All of those pens are long gone but they weren’t especially big. No bigger than 3, certainly. What you have is a whopping big pen for its time and quite a rare one too. Your best hope is to ask if anyone has a spare on the fountain pen discussion boards like Fountain Pen Network and Fountain Pen Geeks. You might also try some repair men; they generally have a lot of spares. I would say that such a rare part will cost a bit, though.

  3. Dear Sir,
    This company was once my family’s. If you would like to hear more please email me. Thank you.

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