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.


12 thoughts on “Empire Pens

  1. Thanks for this interesting piece. I always enjoy reading about lesser-known marques.

    Recently I bought, cheap, a Morrison Tourist with modern steel rivet – I mean nib. It required a considerable amount of work with heat to re-shape its distorted black celluloid barrel which was nicely chased and pretty. I have given it to my brother who does like odd-looking items! I suppose that thinner gold-plating (if it was gold) might be possible but I am dubious! It was I suppose a classic “depression era” product.

    1. Those who subscribe to the simplistic notion of tiers (of which I’m not one!) assign the Morrison to the second level. For the most part, they’re pretty good pens. A Tourist in good order is a fine pen, and they often have very flexible nibs. Morrison is best known for the Patriot which comes in a couple of different forms.

      It’s a 30s pen which continues on into wartime. Morrison didn’t waste a lot of time and money on the inessentials but they made pens that have lasted well.

      1. Yes, the Americans are great ones for “tiers” aren’t they?
        I have to say that the Morrison did not have the substantial feel that one gets from a Swan, Croxley, National Security or of course Macniven & Cameron, but it was nicely finished and polished up beautifully. It was unfortunate that the nib had been changed, but there it is – it was cheap!

        Regarding American pens, I must say that I like the look of the Chiltons, but they are, like Onotos, stupid money!

      2. I see a Chilton Wing Flow Cherry Red offered at £885.61 in eBay, but you can have an alligator skin one for a mere £354.72! Goodness only knows what a Chilton Clown would cost if you could find one.

      3. Ha ha – and I was basing my statement on just one or two that I had seen. I have just looked up the Clown; I know of several pens that I could have much cheaper that appeal to me much more, but it’s quite a thing isn’t it? And I do like the thread on the end of the barrel. Nice touch.

        And there is that optimist who has been offering a pair of Onoto Magnas – first at around £950 each (buy it now) and now relisted at £850!

  2. Deb –

    I knew/know of three Eclipse experts: John Roede, the author of a couple of articles re: Eclipse in Pen World magazine some years back, who is deceased; Robert Alexander, a friend and also Texan, also deceased; and my very much alive Portuguese friend, Luiz Leite. Not wanting to initiate a seance, I, therefore, forwarded your post to Luiz, who has responded with a picture of one of his Empires, and some parallels between it and the many other Eclipses (Eclipsi?) he owns: The painted parallel stripes, common to Eclipse and some sub brands; not the Klein clip but a Z clip also common not only to some Eclipse pens but also to some of it’s sub brands;
    the chased pattern of the cap and barrel , similar to the Eclipse and some BCHR sub brands pens made by them; and finally the lever filler ended with a circular shape with the engraved wreath also common to Eclipse and their sub brands.
    When I review my pictures of members of the family, like Monroe, Keene, Ever-Ready, Safety, Marxton, and Park Row, some of them look like your Empires, but so do a lot of other pens, of course. Is there something which makes you feel strongly that your pens are, in fact, made by Eclipse?


    1. To be honest, I never really considered any alternative. For a start I’m not especially familiar with American pens, but having read that Empire pens were made by Eclipse and having seen some other examples online, I went with that. The general appearance appeared to be right as did the time frame. Do you think that these pens were made by someone else?

      1. Deb –

        Where did you read that Empire was an Eclipse product? I can seem to find no mention of it anywhere on the web, therefore leaving its parentage at least murky.

        Again, it looks generic enough to have been made by anyone (National, e.g.), and the fact that it is missing any/all of the typical Eclipse identifiers causes doubt here.


  3. Deb –

    I will share with you what I just received:

    I know this person from Pen shows but I have no idea of him as an expert on Eclipse pens.
    Anyway this eBay pen is another one very, very similar to the Eclipse ones and it’s sub-brands.
    The words of the sellers are: I think that ….

    MY thoughts: the seller has several Eclipse models and several sub-brands for sale on his web site. He clearly exhibits some familiarity with their pens. Luiz, on the other hand, is the world’s pre-eminent Eclipse expert. Truly. He has many hundred Eclipse family pens and has been collecting them for a lot of years. I do NOT think that it can be definitively stated that Empire is an Eclipse sub-brand, based upon one person’s assumption, essentially since the experts, now and then, have not ever reached that same conclusion. Luiz, not BTW, owns an Empire which looks very much more like a typical Eclipse family product, but he has seen nor heard nothing that would cause him to say yes, definitely.


    1. Hi Paul,

      So the situation is that we cannot say with any degree of certainty that it is an Eclipse sub-brand. On the other hand we cannot say without doubt that it is not. Indeed, there is no indication of what it is. I can add a rider to that effect.

      My area is British pens not American ones. It surprises me that what appears to be a moderately common pen seems to remain a complete mystery. Looking at the pens, I am in no doubt that they were made in the US as they show all the characteristics of that country’s output.

  4. Deb –

    An American pen vs. an Eclipse sub-brand covers a lot of ground, as I needn’t even say. An uncertainty is, to me, more acceptable than accepting as truth something about which we have doubts. Don’t mean to draft off into the existential.

    Perhaps future research will close the gap, and make conclusions clearer. For the moment, Eclipse-like will be my final thought


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