Mabie Todd Swan 400


I’m not sure of the date of the Swan 400 but I would guess that it is one of the later eyedropper-filler pens as it has the wonderful ladder feed. Around 100 years old, then. This one is as black and shiny as the day it was made but there are some surface scratches which are hard to explain. At first I thought it might be that an accommodation clip had been fitted, as these often scratch the surface but as the scratches go round the cap that doesn’t work. Perhaps it was stored in a drawer with something sharp.
Anyway, this is the pen as it came to me. I haven’t even cleaned the nib. The only thing I did was to put some ink in it and write-test it. It’s a fine with quite a bit of flex. This is quite a long pen at 14.2 cm capped. It has a professional personalisation, “JM Wilson”. Who could that be? Current JM Wilsons include a lawyer, an author, a racehorse trainer, an artist and a tattooist but it’s unlikely to be any of them. The JM Wilson who owned this pen must be pushing up the daisies. I found one candidate, Canon James Maurice Wilson, 1836 to 1931, librarian of Worcester Cathedral, who was also a mathematician, astronomer, historian, theologian, educational reformer, and philanthropist. Now that’s the kind of guy I hope owned this pen!
The Swan 400 has just about everything going for it. Okay, it’s not a self filler but on the other hand it holds much more ink than any self filler does. It has the ladder feed and a great nib. Being made of black hard rubber it weighs practically nothing and will have just enough heft to be noticeable when it’s full of ink. The grip is excellent and the balance is perfect – what more could any pen give?
I’ve had one or two of these pens before but they are not common. Perhaps this is because they were introduced towards the end of the life of the eyedropper pen, as sac fillers came in. Anyway, it’s a wonderful pen. Grab one if you see one.


9 thoughts on “Mabie Todd Swan 400

  1. I, too, find the mystery of the prior owner far too enticing to ignore. Who was he/she? What was his occupation/profession? Did he use this pen to complete an important examination – a doctoral thesis, perhaps? A written proposal of marriage to his lady love? The possibilities are endless and the drama each provides priceless. For all any of us know, it may very well have penned an important historical document. I love these pens – each tells a story we will never know the details of…the tears, the elation, the laughter…lives entwined with lives…ball gowns and top hats..and elongated cigarette holders, of course. Those were, indeed, the days…and if the inscription is in an elegant script, so much the better. Wrap it up, please. I’ll take a dozen…
    Stuart (the dreamer across the pond)

    1. My degree is in history – Renaissance and Reformation to be specific, but I have come to enjoy the history of the first half of the 20th century. Pens with personalisations are good because, not infrequently, you can actually identify the previous owner of the pen. That’s a wonderful thing!

  2. there’s no doubt about it, these flex nibs create such beautiful writing – that lovely cursive thick and thin. I think Deb should put a good price on this one – I sense there’ll be one or two people who’d love to own this pen:)
    As Stuart says, these personalized examples are so evocative of the emotion of people’s lives – pens like this really make history come alive.
    Thanks for sharing Deb.

    1. Hey, Paul…Sshhhhhhh….mum’s the word here. Whatever you do, don’t let Deb know you’re interested in it. That’ll keep the price down where we want it. We don’t want her to get any ideas, do we??? My strategy is to keep reeeeealll quiet about it and not breathe a word…
      Stuart (being sly across the pond)

      1. Actually, my pricing policy doesn’t depend on rarity or desirability. I apply a fixed increment to cover my time and parts. That means that if I get the pen cheap, the customer gains that benefit too. That’s why, in the main, my pens are cheaper than anyone else’s.

    2. That’s what gives the hobby its romance.

      Flexible nibs are very popular and in fact the demand is greater than the supply can ever be. For myself, I like both flexible and firm nibs. They each have their enjoyable character.

  3. sorry Stuart – I have a sneaky feeling we’re a tad late in trying to be discreet – it’s ootudor’s fault for coming and raising the spectre of cost – how vulgar:):)
    In fact eyedroppers aren’t really my bag – although I have a few……….. I prefer pens from the ’30’s and ’40’s – but certainly appreciate the simplicity and rarity of earlier examples.
    However, sorry if I’ve ruined it all for you:)

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