In the hierarchy of Mabie Todd pens, Swan was the top and Blackbird came next. There must have been a degree of crossover though, in price at least, at the bottom of the Swan range and the top of the Blackbirds. The decision to buy a Blackbird might not just have been made on price alone, but on actual preference for the style of the pen, because there have always been some pretty nice Blackbirds. This Blackbird Self-Filling Pen, made in the years 1914 to 1925, isn’t exactly an economy model. True, the barrel bands are plated rather than solid gold as they might have been from the middle of the Swan range upwards, but it is nonetheless a prestigious pen.
These no-number Self-Filling Pens closely resemble the BB2/60. They pre-date that model, but, so far as I can see, they overlap and must have been on sale at the same time by the 1920s. They’re not quite the same; the shape of the cap differs slightly, with the Self-Filling Pen’s cap tapering more elegantly toward the barrel. This particular example was well but carefully used. Though there is some wear on the rearmost barrel band, otherwise the pen is immaculate and the black chased hard rubber is unfaded. It is a large pen, measuring 13.5cm capped and 16.4cm posted. As usual with Blackbirds of this period, the manufacturing quality of the barrel, cap, section and feed is the equal of any Swan, but a saving is made on the nib. Blackbird nibs are shorter in the shank than Swan nibs and the gold is thinner. In use, they are superb nibs, almost invariably with some degree of flexibility, but a light touch is advised because with the thinner material it is possible to bend or crack the nib.
These early Blackbirds are among the great flat-top classics. Many are, like this one, clipless but some have inserted clips. I’ve even seen a couple with riveted clips, and I suspect that these were after-market add-ons. Big, but light and well-balanced, these pens make practical and enjoyable daily writers.