The sheer variety of their designs alone would make British Carbon Papers’ National Security one of the most interesting British companies. Behind that variety, of course, lie the various manufacturers who made pens for them, including Langs, Valentine, Conway Stewart and Stark, Son & Hamilton.
There was a period during which National Security’s pens were audacious copies of the Parker Duofold range and this pen, which has no model number, is an example. It’s tempting to date the pen by the Duofold model it most closely resembles. Not streamlined? 3 cap rings? That’ll be 1927, then. That may be too simplistic and it could well be the case that these imitations trail well behind the originals. Be that as it may, this beautiful Lapis Lazuli pen could easily be mistaken at first glance, and the second one too, for a prestigious Lady Duofold, which doubtless was the company’s intention. Imitation may be the finest form of flattery but it also sells pens.
The build quality is superb and this tough celluloid shows little wear from its 80-odd years. Though it’s a ring-top the pen isn’t tiny, being 11.5cm capped (without the ring) and a respectable 14.9cm posted. Who made this pen? The short answer is that I don’t know. The longer answer is that Valentine were making pens for Parker during this period, and they seemed to have carte blanche to make near-copies of Parkers under their own name. It’s likely that this was extended to their work for companies requiring “own brand” pens like British Carbon Papers. It’s not certain, but the evidence points at Valentine.
The barrel imprint is suitably vague: “Highest Grade English Manufacture”. Stephen Hull has done great work in trying to clarify the relationship between the shadowy British Carbon Papers, Henry Stark, Son & Hamilton, National Security and the other manufacturers. The picture remains a little confused. One can hope that future research will make these relationships clearer but there’s no certainty. Some things just remain mysterious.
What’s happened to the NatSec lion? He has a snout like a pig! It’s quite hard trying to be a ferocious and dignified King of The Jungle when you have a nose like a grunter.