The Mabie Todd Swan Safety Screw Cap Eyedropper Filler

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…


10 thoughts on “The Mabie Todd Swan Safety Screw Cap Eyedropper Filler

  1. I bought a vest pocket of this pen from you on Ebay and a prized possession it is too. Do you know of anyone who can put a sack in a De La Rue Everyman ?
    Thanking you .

    1. Hi Chris,
      I remember that pen. I’m not familiar with the De La Rue Everyman, but I’m assuming it’s a lever filler and as a De La Rue it should be pretty straightforward. I don’t remember where you live. I may know of a repairer not far from you.

      1. Many thanks for such a quick reply ! Amazing. I live in France but send to UK , easier to deal with language if there are any problems. Yes , the pen is a lever fill , seems in good condition save for the sack.
        Cheers , Chris
        p s I assume your health is good now ?

  2. Hi Deb,
    I just bought a short (vest pocket?) Mabie Todd “Swan” Pen Safety Screw Cap eyedropper on ebay. It measures about 10,7 cm capped and 13,5 cm posted. 🙂
    Unfortunately, the gold bar over the nib is bent upwards :(. The pen is a good writer, but I’d still like to try to fix the gold bar, especially as it’s easy to get caught in it. I tried to pull out the nib and feed but they are stuck. I already tried gently heating the section with a hairdryer as well as three short turns in the ultrasonic cleaner (however, everything seems super clean). Is there anything else I can do?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Hanna, these nibs and feeds have to be carefully tapped out from the rear. If you don’t have a knock-out block or if you’re not really confident repairing pens it would be better to send the pen to a professional. It’s not a big repair and shouldn’t be very expensive. They are lovely pens and the one with the bar above the nib is about the best of the Safety Screw Caps.

      1. Hi Deb,
        Thank you for your quick reply. Yes, I think it’s time for a knock-out block.
        I’ll try tapping out the Swan nib and if that doesn’t work it’ll have to go to a professional. I won’t risk anything. 🙂
        Have a lovely evening and thanks again,

  3. I actually have a swan no 2 safety eyedropper with the body made in England and the nib NY. It came with original box, instructions, and even original eyedropper, so I wonder if it was made with the mishmash of parts originally?

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