May 31, 2012 2 Comments
Stephens had a comparatively short but very productive period as a seller of gold-nibbed fountain pens. Beginning in 1935 with their stud fillers, this period in their much longer history was pretty well over by 1955. Though details of their later history when they were involved with Jif-Waterman are confusing, the earlier chronology of the company is, in general terms, quite well known.
For instance, this beautiful Leverfil No 76 was introduced in the autumn of 1941, a period when Stephens used some very lovely patterns of celluloid that seem to have been unique to them.
Though at seven shillings and sixpence it was their second cheapest pen it is well made with admirable attention to detail, such as the nib that was made specially for this pen.
What remains a puzzle, to me at least, is the variety of clips that Stephens used over a short period, apparently without much consistency. There’s this clip with “Stephens” stamped into it, a similar ball-ended clip in either gold or chrome plating without the lettering, and sometimes an arrow clip appears.
The greater mystery that has yet to be resolved is the extent to which Stephens own employees were active in the production of these pens. It is possible, though unlikely, that they were entirely made under contract by some other company, with Langs being the most obvious choice. The early stud fillers were made to a Langs patent and bore a striking resemblance to that company’s other output. The component parts of these wartime lever fillers also resemble other Langs pens. It may well be that parts were manufactured by Langs and the final assembly was carried out by Stephens. Stephen Hull mention (in Stephen Hull: The English Fountain Pen Industry 1875 – 1975) that when their head office was bombed in December 1940, work continued at their main factory at Highbury. Prior to that, customer repairs seem to have been done at the head office, so it is fair to assume that the main factory may have been devoted to assembly if not complete manufacture of the pens.
My thanks to Stephen Hull for the factual information quoted above. The speculation is my own.