Though I mostly write about British pens, imports can be interesting too. German pens, for instance, fluctuated greatly in popularity. Their quality was admired but there were periods when it would have been seen as unpatriotic to use a German pen. I’ve had an inexpensive glass-nibbed piston filler German pen that had the maker’s name roughly scratched out, doubtless for this reason.
Throughout most of the period when pens were the main writing tool, there was no market here for French or Italian pens. They turn up, but are not at all common. In the fifties and sixties, as demand for fountain pens plummeted, cheap, poor quality fountain pens from Italy flooded the market.
American pens were popular. Parker, Waterman and to a slightly lesser extent, Sheaffer all had a big presence. Pens like the Duofold and the Waterman 52 sold in huge numbers. Wahl Eversharps sold quite well too, and Conklins were much appreciated in the crescent-filler days. Thereafter, Conklins were pretty thin on the ground in Britain. Perhaps there was no importing agency later, or maybe the pens were no longer sufficiently different from the home-grown brands, but it’s always interesting when one does turn up.
This is an Endura Symetrik, made from 1931 until the company was taken over in 1938, and it’s therefore among the last of the high-quality Conklins. Both well designed and well made, the Symetrik is unexceptional at first glance but has subtle features that are unique. The patented clip is spring-loaded and the short lever is attractive. The Endura nib differs from the Toledo in my old crescent-filler in that it is no super-flex, but it’s not a nail either. There’s a little line variation there, just enough to make it pleasurable to use.
This example is basically sound but it has had a hard life. Though the cap rings and the lever are holding up well, the plating on the clip is showing signs of wear. When I got it, the pen was incredibly dirty, as if it had been dipped in something sticky and left to gather dust. It looked like it had been dropped nib-first on a concrete floor, and straightening the nib was a challenge. There are nibbles, particularly on the end of the barrel, but actually all over. I think it had ended its early life as a kid’s pen, poor thing!