Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel
July 23, 2015 14 Comments
When the ballpoint began to gain ever-increasing market share, the fountain pen industry responded by making pens that were cleaner and easier to fill. Parker made their famous 61 which filled by capillary action and Sheaffer’s response was the Snorkel. Undoubtedly the most technically complex pen ever made, the Snorkel extended a filling tube beyond the tip of the nib, thereby enabling the pen to be filled with no need for subsequent wiping.
It is said that it was placed to compete against the very popular Parker 51 and outsold it. Whether or not that is correct, the Snorkel sold in huge numbers judging by how many appear for sale today, some 55 years after it went out of production. It was similar in appearance to the “Thin Model Touchdown” and was issued in no less than 13 models. This is the Statesman, identified by its white dot and Palladium Silver wraparound nib.
It is a fine example of the innovation which Americans have loved in their fountain pens. Evidently, it filled a need sufficiently well to keep the ball point at bay for several years. Is it a good fountain pen or is it an example of clever technology for its own sake? There are a lot of bits and pieces inside that barrel to make the pen draw ink and to make the snorkel extend and withdraw. The result is that it holds a small quantity of ink when compared with other fountain pens, e.g. the Snorkel holds 0.64 ml against the Balance 350 Lady at 1.42 ml. This doesn’t matter so much when it is fitted with a fine nib but these pens offered the full range of nibs including broad and stub. One would imagine that these returned to the ink bottle pretty frequently.
My one is a fine. It appears more like a fine/medium to me but perhaps I’m too used to pens from the Orient. It will be interesting to see how long a fill of ink lasts. It’s a beautiful pen made with the attention to detail for which Sheaffer was famous. This version has a broad cap band and no writing on the clip. The nib, especially, is a work of art with its beautiful cursive writing.
I think, for me, this is an example of the thinking that imagined that in the future our cars would fly, we would be served by robots and we would ingest a full meal in a pill. And, of course, we would write with a Snorkel. I am disappointed about the lack of flying cars and robots but at least we have this amazing pen, clearly invented by a mad scientist!