Don Powell, who lives w-a-a-a-a-y over yonder in Oregon told me about this interesting pen that he had. I say “had” because he has very kindly given it to me. ‘Twas a very pleasant surprise when it arrived in the post yesterday.
It’s the English-made black chased hard rubber Starling pen. The first thing I noticed about it was that the proportions – barrel length to cap – look a little unusual. Second thing was how beautifully flush with the cap those slender cap rings are. It looks very neat. The third thing was the very sculpted section. It’s clearly not one of those made-by-the-thousands cheap pens that mostly appear as advertising for non-fountain pen companies. No, this is a very well made pen. I can find nothing about it online or in any of my reference books. My guess – and I emphasise that it is only a guess – is that the Starling was made by one of the many small companies that didn’t make it, not even to the extent of having their name noted somewhere.
Without going into too much detail, it has been suggested Elsewhere that this pen was part of the Mabie Todd range. It was assigned to that maker, it seems, purely because Starling is a bird name. So, for that matter are Eagle and Pelikan but those pens were not made by Mabie Todd any more than this one was. Mabie Todd’s name is imprinted on all of the pens that form part of their range. Those pens that they did make in Britain, the Swans, Blackbirds and Jackdaws have an unmistakable resemblance to each other. The Starling bears no resemblance to those pens and, in fact, doesn’t look much like any other English pen of the period that I can think of.
It might have been called “The Starling” in emulation of Mabie Todd’s naming policy, in an attempt to cash in on that manufacturer’s popularity, though the fact that no effort was made to make the Starling look like one of those pens argues against this theory. Equally likely is that this is another example of the association of pens with birds, which comes naturally after hundreds of years of writing with bird feathers. Not starling ones, so far as I am aware, but the association is strong and was picked up by many manufacturers both in words and symbols. The flight feathers of the arrow clips of Stephens, Croxley and Parker come to mind.
So this very attractive Starling (it writes well too) remains a mystery. Unless, of course, you’re going to come along and tell me you have another and you know all about its manufacture!