It was the proud boast of Mabie Todd & Co. in 1910 that a Swan pen was “a gift which will last a lifetime.”
It has certainly proved to be the case with this Ladies’ “Swan” pen. The black hard rubber is still black and there’s little wear on the rolled gold. The chased pattern is crisp and fresh and the cap fits as firmly as when it was new. At 102 years old this pen is good for another century at least.
The design on the trim is called the Snail Pattern, I believe, and it was popular for overlays on pens. This is, of course, an eyedropper filler with an over-and-under feed. The bow-shaped brooch by which the pen would be pinned to its owner’s blouse is an after-market add-on which didn’t have quite as good plating.
There are various ready reckoners that you can use to compare prices of earlier years with today. It doesn’t do to place too much trust in them. Not everything rises in price at the same rate and these tables are by necessity a compromise. Nonetheless, they can give us some guidance in comparing the cost in 1910 and today. According to one, a 1910 pound is worth £67.99 today, and a shilling then is worth £3.40 now, so you could buy our 1910 guinea pen for £71.39 today. That’s hogwash, of course. A pen of this quality and trim would cost a lot more today, but that’s partly because we no longer have the economies of scale that existed when fountain pens were the primary writing instrument.
I’m going to pin this fine pen to my blouse, attach a bunch of keys to my waist and be La Chatelaine – for tonight, at least.