The dates given for the manufacturing run of the Swan Safety Screw Cap vary a little, depending on who you read. Some say it was introduced in 1910 and remained in the Swan catalogue until 1918, other give the dates 1911 to 1920. Be that as it may, this pen was made during an interesting period in the company’s history. The American parent company was declining during these years, whereas the British subsidiary enjoyed great success, and in 1915 it became independent.
The Safety Screw Cap marks a considerable advance towards the modern fountain pen. It had, in fact, a modern-style screw-on cap with an inner cap. The section widened at the nib end, and closed firmly against the inner cap, giving a reliable seal which prevented leaks into the pocket. Gone, too was the hard rubber over-and-under feed of the pen’s predecessors, replaced by a ladder feed.* For a time, the Safety Screw Cap featured a gold bar over the nib, often referred to as an overfeed. That’s not its purpose, though, as it doesn’t supply ink to the nib. Rather, I think, it was a device intended to prevent drying out. Other manufacturers employed a similar solution at the time.
The Safety Screw Cap came with either a No1 or a No2 nib, and was quite a large pen, measuring around 13.2cm capped and 16.4cm posted. I say “around” because, like many other pens, there was slight variation between examples. Nibs were, at first, still made in New York, though by the end of the period of its production, the British company made its own nibs. Like its predecessors, the Safety Screw Cap came in various states of trim. The unadorned black hard rubber version is most common, but examples are seen with gold barrel bands and partial and full overlays.
There is a vest pocket or purse version, though it turns up very infrequently. Measuring 11.7cm capped and 14.7cm posted, all those that I have seen have been made in America. That’s not to say there wasn’t a British-made example, just that none has so far come my way. It makes a neat little pen, beautiful in its understated way, with its crisp wave-pattern machining.
*To be scrupulous, the Safety Screw Cap may not have been the first model to bear the ladder feed. I’ve seen several Swan 1500s with ladder feeds. These may have been retrofitted, but there does seem to be a lot of them…