These two little pens could hardly be more dissimilar but they have a surprising amount in common. Both are products of the Hungry Thirties, both are button fillers and both are made of celluloid that has discoloured over time. And though they were made on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both are Modernes. The onyx one is a Parker Moderne and the cream and black pen is the Mentmore Moderne.
Parker, I think, used the name first, in 1932. Mentmore followed on two years later. Did Mentmore just steal the name Parker had used? Or did modernity seem like the way out of the troubles of the times, made a little classier and more effective by sticking an “e” on the end and making it French? I don’t know. I only ask the questions, I don’t have the answers.
Despite the unemployment and the poverty, there was still a need for pens. School students still had to write, as did those clerical workers still in jobs. These pens were built to a price, but quality wasn’t allowed to slip. The pens are smaller and they have comparatively small nibs but they are stylish and very well made. The Parker has a quality edge over the Mentmore, as you might expect, but the Mentmore’s a good pen too. In a way, the Mentmore’s the more interesting pen as you see very few of these and hardly any in the cream and black livery.
My thanks to Eric Wilson, who made a wonderful job of replacing the Mentmore’s cap rings and found a better nib for it than the one it had.