A Gold-Filled Swan Leverless


Here’s a nice little box.  What can be in there?
It’s a full-sized (13.7 cm) gold filled Swan which, for once, we can date precisely to 1947 – or even more precisely to 28 February 1947.  It’s a very elegant, understated pen.  By this late date these gold filled overlay pens were being made in Britain rather than in America.
The complete inscription reads “Fredk J Hampson.  28th February 1947”.  There is no clue as to the significance of the date, whether it be a birthday, a retiral or some other major signpost along the path of life – in particular, the life of Fred J Hampson.  It’s not a particularly common name, and I found two potential candidates.  The 1901 Census for Lambeth, London includes a Frederick J Hampson, born in 1896 and the youngest of a family of eight.  It’s quite possible that this was his pen.
There was also a company by the name of Frederick J Hampson in Atlantic Street, Broadheath, Altrincham, Cheshire.  The company was dissolved a year after the date of this inscription, in 1948.  Significant?  Coincidental?  I don’t know.

This is a Leverless, which looks especially good as an overlay pen.  The turn button at the end of the barrel is nicely finished and integrated into the smooth streamlining.  The date is not insignificant in Swan’s history.  It was in that and the following year that the plans were laid and production initiated for the cigar-shaped pens that followed this type.  It would be interesting to know what they did for presentation pens in that later style.  I’ve never seen one and perhaps Swan chose to remain with the elegant lines of this Leverless and the similarly slender and elegant Swan Minor 2.
Beautiful as it is, it’s not an ornament and it has clearly been used, though carefully.  There is a pinhead dent in the top Of the cap, and there is a little loss of gold at the end of the section next to the nib which has been caused by the more caustic inks of the mid-century.  Otherwise, it is in superb condition, showing little evidence of its age.  It remains a very usable pen to this day, with a good ink capacity and a splendidly flexible fine/medium nib.




In one of the pen discussion groups (we won’t say which one) someone posted before and after pictures of a well-chewed pen.  He had made an absolutely perfect job of removing the bite marks.  Not unnaturally, several contributors asked how he had done it.  He replied that it was done by a proprietary method and he was not at liberty to divulge how it had been done.

Thankfully, this attitude is rare in our hobby.  Most people are happy to share the knowledge.  Certainly, it is probably the case that pen repair is how this person makes their living, but one repair technique will not make their fortune; it is their entire skill-set and the reputation for good work that they have developed that is their bread and butter.  Trying to corner a part of the market by being secretive is unlikely to work.

Every day, in all the pen discussion groups, you can see people sharing information freely with each other.  Quite often, that information isn’t in the public domain, but it is shared because it’s good for our hobby, brings more people in and ensures that those who are learning about pens and their repair will continue to do so.  The benefits of freely sharing knowledge vastly outweigh any tiny individual gain made by selfishly guarding a technique or knowledge.

In other news, unusually for the Highlands of Scotland we’ve had long days of unbroken sunshine.  It tempts one outside, and I and my assistant have spent the day installing trellises and preparing for the arrival of climbing roses.  Well, to be precise, I fixed up the trellises while she lay on the shed roof, watching me and napping.  All good things must end and I had to go in and get some pen work done.  I invited her to come and help – after all, she is my assistant – but she yawned and licked her paw and stayed where she was!


Upload Tonight!

I’ve uploaded some pens tonight, some rarities and some flexible pens among them.  Tonight and probably into tomorrow, I’ll be uploading some odds and ends into the “Ephemera” section.  I titled that section wrongly – it should have been “Odds and Ends” or “Bits and Pieces” as most of the things I am offering for sale there aren’t particularly ephemeral.

There is a big upgrade of my sales site underway and that’s one of several things that will be changed.


Sales Site

The Perry Duragold


Now that, I dare say, is as plain a pen as you could wish to see.  No inessentials, no furbelows and fol-de-rols there!  It has a simple straight lever and a pressed metal clip because these things are essential and not from any wish to show off!  Perhaps the only concession to appearance is the thin coating of gold but that’s it.  Thus far and no further.  The nib is a plated one.
Why am I writing about this clearly inexpensive and visually dull pen?  Well, for a start, it’s a pen you probably haven’t seen before as these are far from common.  Beyond that it’s a Perry’s Duragold, and thereby hangs a tale.
Without the work of James Perry we wouldn’t have any of the dip pens or even fountain pens that are so familiar.  A teacher, Perry was frustrated by the amount of time wasted in re-pointing students’ quills.  This was around 1819 and though steel nibs did exist they were not popular because they were so rigid.  Perry developed a way of slitting the nib to encourage ink flow and allow flexibility.  He later developed a nib with the central hole  at the top of the slit. That was really the basis of everything that followed in the pen industry.  By the 1830s, Perry’s nibs were being mass produced and supplied to schools and industry.  By the mid-1870s Perry’s was the largest manufacturer of steel nibs in the world.
In 1918, Edmund, the second son of James Perry, set up his own factory in London, producing a variety of office supplies and other items including even a motor car.  It was this company, ES Perry, that eventually produced the famous Osmiroid fountain pen.  I suspect, though I can’t say with certainty, that they also produced the Duragold.
If you think that the similarity of sounds between Duragold and Duofold can hardly be an accident, you’re probably right!  I have no doubt that the name was intended to cash in on the popularity of the more expensive American pen.  I believe that the Duragold was produced at several different prices; I used to have a Duragold with a gold nib and a single cap ring.  The present example is a sturdy, well-made pen and despite the plated nib being of the cheap, folded tip kind, it writes very well.  I confess to a fondness for it in its unpretentious utility.  I might hang onto it for a while.

An Exceptional Blackbird

I love a pen with a good story and very often the story attaches to a personalisation so I’m certainly not one of those who dislikes engraved names and initials on old pens.
Under other circumstances this would be a very ordinary Blackbird.  However, it was owned by L W Hyde who was a medical doctor practising at different times in South Africa and South America.  The pen is discoloured to dark brown, perhaps by the subtropical sun.  It seems likely that Dr Hyde had no issue, as his effects ended up in a box in a friend’s attic.  Recently, the friend’s grandson found the box and among other treasures of a bygone era was this Blackbird in a handmade oak box.
Having our knowledge of the item enhanced in this way elevates the pen from being yet another anonymous example of that model to a valued link with the past.  We don’t know all that much about the long-deceased doctor but his practice in these far-off places makes him, and hence the pen, quite exceptional.  It’s impossible to feel the same way about Dr Hyde’s pen as one would feel about a pen that turned up with no provenance attached.
For a moment I thought he might be the eponymous hero of RL Stevenson’s “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” but of course he’s Doctor not Mr Hyde and he would have had to be very long-lived to be that entirely fictional character.
I would have liked to have had some assistance from my assistant with this article but she was otherwise occupied: sleeping.  She was out carousing until 4:30 AM.  Would that I had her social life!

Mabie Todd Swan Minor SM1/58


I have a list of Mabie Todd information which includes the various colour patterns that they used pre- and post-war.  Unfortunately, there are gaps and number 58 which is what this pen is, is one of those gaps so I will have to title it myself.  It looks like sage, bronze and black to me, so that’s what it’s called.
These colourful Swan Minors never cease to surprise me.  There is always another one coming along that I haven’t seen before.  This one is subtler than, say, the Italian marble pattern.  If there is something occurring in nature that it resembles, I can’t think what it might be, though I suppose there might be all sorts of patterns to copy from geology.
People seem to have prized these pens as many of them, like this one, are in excellent condition.  Though it has clearly been used, as I had to flush ink out of the section, it is unmarked and has obviously been handled with care.  Not many pens of this age that have been used show so few signs of it.
As is so often the case with Swan Minors, it is a charm to write with.  The number one nib is smooth and has considerable flexibility allowing for pleasing line variation.


Edit to add:  Eric Wilson tells me it is called “Marine Bronze”.

Empire Pens

I don’t usually go in for lesser-known American pens but this pair caught my eye.
The fountain pen industry has had a long affair with the name “Empire”.  Parker, Sheaffer, Conway Stewart and DuPont have all used it at one time or another and there are modern examples too, like the Piper and the Conklin.  Perhaps the concept of empire reflects their corporate ambitions.  Be that as it may, this particular Empire is a sub brand of Eclipse.  I don’t think it was around very long but some handsome flat tops were made.

The orange, oversized pen has a Sengbusch nib, probably a replacement for the original.  These nibs were made by the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Now there’s a name to conjure with!

The black pen with the red top may be black hard rubber but I think it’s more likely that it’s celluloid.  It has a beautifully crisp engined chased pattern.
Both of these pens are in superb condition and appear to have been used little if at all.  It’s unusual to see pens that some would call “third tier” in such pristine condition.  Though they may not be the equal of the Parkers and Sheaffers of the day, they are not all that far behind and they are extremely attractive and useful pens.

Edit To Add:  Doubt has been cast on the idea that Empire is an Eclipse product.  No indication has been offered as to what else they might be.