The John Bull Pen Company had premises at 77 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London. It seems impossible now to tell what was done there, though I have heard it said that the pens were assembled there, from parts made by other manufacturers. Which manufacturers remain a mystery. John Bull pens have been associated at different times with Conway Stewart and De La Rue; it’s likely that most of the major manufacturers had the contract at one time or another. Though never a major manufacturer themselves, John Bull was well known from its lively advertising, both for John Bull pens and Bulldog pens. The latter image, of a bulldog wearing a top hat and a monocle, with a pen in its mouth, has been often reproduced.
This is an early example of the company’s output, a cone-cap eyedropper filler. Cone caps require some precision in machining to work properly, and this is a very well made pen of a simple design. It’s probably pre-World War I. The smooth hard rubber has retained its original blackness. Though quite small, the nib has some flexibility, as was usually the case at that date. The barrel and section threads are excellent and the pen holds ink without leaking.
John Bull pens were very variable in quality. Some, like this one, are excellent pens, others leave something to be desired. Nevertheless, the company survived at least until the Second World War, perhaps longer. Why, when other middling quality producers fell by the wayside did this company survive? Part of the answer may lie in the name and image they chose for themselves. John Bull is the personification of England and a patriotic symbol, as is the subsidiary brand, the Bulldog pen.
Had the company maintained the high quality of this pen, they would have had good sales on the basis of customer satisfaction. Some, at least, of their later production was rather more shoddy and traded on the patriotic appeal.