1934 Swan Advert


Here’s a 1934 advert. I have, literally, hundreds of these adverts and I should post examples more often. As well as the rather tasty fountain pens, there are examples of the nibs available at the time. Earlier, many more nib types were on offer. If I ever come across that earlier list of nibs in the chaos that I call my archive, which can only happen when I’m looking for something else, I’ll be sure to post it.

As well as the delightful pens and the nibs, take note of the mouthwatering prices. I know that what appear to be trivial prices today were a lot of money back then, but allow me to dream…

Nibs are also referred to as “points”, a term that has virtually vanished from current usage except for a few anachronistic authors who sit down to write wearing tailcoats, high collars and top hats.


Waterman 575 Crusader


Here’s a nice English Waterman 575 Crusader. These pens were brought out in 1948 and they are often described as Taperites, but they aren’t. Those Crusaders with open nibs are technically not Taperites, though there are Crusaders with enclosed nibs that are Taperites. I’m sure this wasn’t done with any intent to confuse. They come in a couple of styles, the most obvious difference being in the section. Later ones have more traditional sections than this pen.
At 13 cm it’s an average size, average weight pen for its time. The aluminium cap is divided into five sections by incised lines, and the sections are gold anodised. The clip is the standard art deco design that Waterman used on its pens at that time. The cap closes against a gold plated clutch ring. The barrel is made from a hard burgundy plastic. The section is black and the pen has a 14 carat gold nib. In all, the design goes together well and the effect is pleasing.
Despite an effort to appear modern, this is an entirely traditional pen, with a normal lever filling system and feed. In use, it’s well-balanced and a very pleasant pen to write with, with some flexibility. Both the anodising and the plating have survived better than most of this manufacturer’s pens of this time.
So that’s the Crusader. I have the impression that it was at the lower end of Waterman’s range at the time, but like the Taperites these pens have survived well and are not uncommon. Their worst fault is a tendency for the clutch to loosen but that can be easily put right.

Mabie Todd Swan Safety Pen


I’m a restorer and seller, not a collector, so I don’t really get deeply into the arcana of identity and dates of pens. I’m quite happy if I can put a name on it and I can date it within the decade. So I’ll accept what’s written on the side of the pen which is “Swan Safety Pen” which appears to have been an uncommon precursor of the Swan Safety Screw Cap. I would guess that this places it at 1911 or shortly before.

This stubby little pen is 11.1 cm capped but it’s a reasonable length posted, at 14.1 cm. When it came to me it had a non-original plated nib. I replaced that with a rather nice number three Swan nib with a complex breather hole formed a of circle and diamond. It’s a beautiful nib and it has some flexibility. The cap of the pen is inscribed “screw cap tightly” with an arrow pointing in the appropriate direction so you won’t get lost. The black hard rubber is as black as the day it came out of the factory and the machine patterning is sharp enough to cut you.
I’ve seen one or two of these little pens before. They are, in my experience, always in this near-pristine condition. It’s just about the best black hard rubber that I’ve seen. What were they? Probably purse pens, or perhaps they were intended to slip into a waistcoat pocket (that’s a vest, to Left Puddlians). I think it’s an indication of Mabie Todd’s confidence in their screw cap, which they believed would not dump an eyedropper-full of ink into a pocket or handbag.
It’s a gorgeous little pen and moderately rare – this is probably only the third that I’ve handled in the last 10 years.

Swan 3230


Here’s a rather nice Swan 3230. Most of these grey pens aren’t very nice, as many of them are discoloured to yellow. I’m not sure what it is that causes this particular discolouration, but it happened often enough that Mabie Todd stopped producing this colour and used the number 30 to indicate a pale blue instead. Grey must have been popular in the immediately post-war years, because several of the manufacturers, like Parker, Wyvern and Mentmore, had grey pens on offer. All suffered discolouration and were, sooner or later, withdrawn. Much later, in the nineteen sixties, Conway Stewart introduced grey pens to their less expensive range. Whatever else was wrong with those pens – and there was quite a list – they didn’t suffer from the yellow discolouration. I suppose this must have been because a new plastic must have been developed in the interim which did not discolour.
One other noticeable thing about this pen is the brass threads on the barrel. They look really stylish and indicate that this pen was one of the first run of the new design in 1948 or 1949. They, too, were withdrawn and replaced with plastic threads. There is no written evidence of why this was done but I assume it was because the brass threads can cause undue wear to the plastic threads inside the cap. The other possibility is that it was too expensive.

Finally, this pen has an exceptionally nice nib. It’s a stubbish left-foot oblique, and for me it’s a real pleasure to write with.

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To find a good vintage fountain pen, you could Snorkel across the Swan-nee River, that is, if you were a good Water-man. Or… you could simply visit my website!

Monte Rosa


I’m writing about this pen to show the depth of my ignorance. I’ve had a few Monte Rosas before but they were of the open-nibbed type with a wavy edged cap ring. I haven’t been able to find anything about this specific pen but it resembles the hooded nibbed ones with a metal cap which were made in the sixties. I guess that would be when these ones were made, too.
Though they were cheaper, Monte Rosa pens retained the high quality of the Mont Blancs. This one measures 13 cm capped and the cap ring is engraved “Monte Rosa” and “Germany”. It has a blue ink-view area and it is my guess that the hooded nib is gold plated. This is a medium and it appears not to have been used. I bought it along with another, a fine, in black.
There it is, then, that’s all I can tell you about it. Perhaps you can educate me?
On another subject if you have one of these Swan pockets and you want to use it, be sure that it is rust-free inside. If it’s not, it can scratch a pen horribly. I’ve heard about this from correspondents and I’ve seen one or two myself where sellers have sent pens inside one of these pockets. Some wire wool attached to a bit of dowel should do the trick.


School is and has always been a cruel, class-divided place. Nowadays you are judged by your clothes and trainers but back in the day your pen told all about you.

If your parents were well-to-do, you probably had a Conway Stewart. If they were merely comfortably off you would have a Blackbird or possibly a flashy Burnham. If your parents were just getting by, with nothing much to spare, your pen would be a Platignum. If, however, they were in direst poverty and you lived on water and bread and dripping, you would have a Tallon but you would hide it as best you could.
Platignums tended to fail quite often but Tallons were misery in plastic. It was quite unusual for a Tallon to lay anything other than a blot on paper. A very, very good one might write somewhat acceptably for a day or two; none lasted as long as a week.

I might be exaggerating a little there but they were pretty foul pens. I have one here that I bought in one of my moments of extreme madness. It’s a button filler with imitation gold trim and a plated steel nib. As well as all the other faults Tallons were not durable. This one has a broken tine, rendering it useless.
Here it is in all its splendour. I didn’t bother cleaning it up but I will hang onto it as a suitable nib may come my way one day and then I can have the only working Tallon in this universe or any other.