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.


6 thoughts on “Mabie Todd Swan Safety Pen

  1. If i’m not mistaken, we call the shape of these special nib hole “keyhole”. They are scarce and beautiful. You have here quite a nice example Deb!

  2. That is a great nib Deb and a lovely little pen…..that imprint is one of several found on these Safety pens and that particular one is the patent for a “ladder” feed belonging to August Eberstein.
    Eberstein went on to be one of the founders of Mont Blanc and this patent was used by a number of pen manufacturers of that period.

  3. that nib is is a cracker – don’t think I’ve seen the same pattern of breather holes, although a few makers used the heart shape which is also attractive – have to say I couldn’t part with this pen if it were mine.

    Without writing an essay, since your a busy girl, what in particular makes you suggest the date you have mentioned?

    That black really is black – I hear there is a cream that can help to restore the ‘blackness’ where the original colour has oxidised and gone a yucky brownish. Have you heard of this?

    1. I happen to know, from my own research, that the Safety Screw Cap was introduced in 1911 and this pen appears to be a precursor.

      Personally, I’m not in favour of re-blacking. It rarely works out well and in any case it seems unethical to me. Possibly the product that you have heard of is this:,_9_%26_10.html. It’s a paint or stain which covers up the discolouration. However, the examples I have seen are pretty obvious. It is said to be reversible but it’s very hard to get rid of all traces of it particularly on chased pens. I’m not aware of any product available at present that does a good job. The alternative is a abrading the surface until you reach a black layer. Of course you may lose any patterning or imprints in the process and it will be only a matter of time until it fades again.

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