Here’s a perfectly ordinary Blackbird Self-Filling pen from the teens and twenties of last century. I covered these pens before, back here: http://wp.me/p17T6K-6O. I was in some doubt as to whether or not to buy this example because of the scratches on the cap, no doubt inflicted by the unusual after-market clip. In the end I went ahead and I’m glad I did.
On the underside of the box is written, “Muriel G. Tozer, Pensionnat des Ursulines, Saventhem, Belgique.” The date, September 24th 1924 is there too, as is the price, 13 Belgian Francs. The “Belgian” part of that is important. In 1924 the French Franc was in hyper-inflation and the Blackbird would have cost at least 500 Francs!
A pensionnat is a boarding school. The Ursulines aren’t quite a teaching order but they have a teaching role, primarily for the development and fulfilment of women. I found several run by the Ursuline order in Belgium and here in Britain, and I eventually found some postcards of Saventhem.
Here it is, looking distinctly forbidding.
The refectory looks nice, though.
As does the chapel.
Here’s a group of the pupils, though by their dress it’s a decade or two before Muriel was there. (My apologies for the eye-hurting graininess of the photo – best I could do with what I had) Sadly, I was unable to find any more references to Muriel. Was she a child of a military or diplomatic family, sent to school in Belgium while her parents served abroad? Did she come from a devoutly Catholic family? Did she go on to become a Sister of the order herself, as many former pupils did?
We often talk of scratches, cracks and discolouring as being part of the history of the pen. So they are, if you accept a tenuous enough definition of history, but usually history means more of a narrative, events and places that the pen can be associated with. This pen has a history.