During the years when it was an outstanding success, Conway Stewart was known for lever-filling pens. They did experiment with other filling systems such as the piston filler and, quite late in the company’s history, the Speedy Phil, a “one-click” filling system similar to Sheaffer’s Touchdown. These were not a great success. Perhaps they didn’t work very well, or perhaps the market just wasn’t there for that type of pen from Conway Stewart.
Around 1930, though, they introduced a novel and efficient button-filling system. It was quite different from the button-fillers made by their competitors. The pressure bar assembly screws into the end of the barrel and remains fixed there. This makes sac replacement very simple and the filling method works very well in daily use. Several of the Duro range were button fillers, as were some of the 226s and the 485.
The 485 isn’t very common. Superficially similar to the Universal 479, it was in production from 1933 to 1940, but it is generally believed that not very many were made. Though it came in some attractive colours like toffee swirl and the various colours of the hatched pattern, it was clearly intended, like the Scribe or 475 to be a low-cost, practical, workaday pen.
My example is in black celluloid with minimal trim, deep-cut chasing and flat top. The barrel bears the patent number 297194, which I assume relates to the filling system. The thin gold plating is well worn on the clip, but otherwise the pen is in pristine condition. Conway Stewart’s black celluloid of this date seems to be exceptionally hard-wearing.
The nib is extra fine, quite an uncommon point-size in Conway Stewarts. The combination of the parsimonious trim and the fine point suggests to me that this might have been the type of pen bought by companies to supply to their clerks. With its highly efficient filling system (this pen holds a lot of ink) and the fine point, the pen would have filled many pages of columns of figures between fills.
In general, button fillers were very popular, and it surprises me that Conway Stewart did not continue with their excellent version. Perhaps it made more economic sense to concentrate production on lever fillers. Be that as it may, after the 485 went out of production, no more button fillers were made.
Beautiful though the more opulent Conway Stewarts are, there’s something very satisfying about these practical, minimalist pens, with the lines of the barrel and cap unbroken by lever or cap rings.