A Late Blackbird

Strangely, though the last of the Swans were execrable pens, the late Blackbirds were nowhere near as bad.


This pen comes in the twist-filler or lever filler forms. Though there has been a decline in quality from earlier pens , it is still, to my mind, a quite admirable writing instrument which has survived the passage of the years in good shape.


The only real failing is the appearance of tiny spots of corrosion coming through the thin plating on the clip. Otherwise it’s pretty good. The patterned plastic is attractive, it hasn’t discoloured or distorted, the filling system works faultlessly and the pen has a good nib. Another sign of cost saving is the clip, which is now held by a stud at the top of the cap instead of the earlier clip which was directly inserted into the plastic of the cap. This can hardly be regarded as a very bad failing as Waterman, among others, used this style of clip for many years.


Different sources give slightly different dates for this pen. Some say 1950 – 55, others 1954 – 58. It’s only speculation on my part but I’d be inclined to go with the later dates. My thinking goes like this: this pen bears little resemblance to anything that had gone before in either the Blackbird or Swan lines. Mabie Todd was taken over and became Biro Swan in 1952. It would seem to me likely that such an extensively redesigned pen as this came from the new company. The 1954 – 58 dates would have this pen in production until fountain pen manufacturing ceased. As I know of no later Blackbird, that seems reasonable to me. However, if you know know better…


One of my tests of quality in a pen is how well it has survived. I ran some water through the section/nib assembly to clear out any old ink, popped in a new sac and the pen was ready to write. That’s not much to do to a fifty-odd-year-old pen, I’d say. I’d be perfectly happy with this pen as a daily user, both in terms of writing quality and aesthetics. It’s still a good looking pen.


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