Our old pens are a part of history and some of them have a history of their own.
This Swan 1500 is around a century old, maybe older. It was the high-tech, cutting edge writing instrument of its day, a very efficient eyedropper filler that could be relied upon to write when it was needed, and do it properly.
In the first twenty or so years that this pen was around technology was moving on. Sac-filling pens of one kind or another came along and more efficient feeds were developed. There wasn’t much anyone could do about this pen’s filling system, but some technician decided to upgrade the feed from the over-and-under type it came with to a simple spoon feed like those used by Waterman. I say simple, but these new feeds were more robust and gave more consistent ink delivery than the old type.
Swan’s first new feeds were of this spoon type before they went on to the ladder feed they were to use until the end of the company, but I don’t think this is a Swan feed. That old-time repairer from 80 or 90 years ago took whatever he had to hand and made it fit.
That gave the pen a new lease of life and it continued in use for a long time. We can tell that by the level of wear on the pen barrel made by the constant infinitesimal abrasion of the pen’s owner’s fingers in use.
It’s quite likely that the owner didn’t change his or her pen for several decades. Lever-fillers might be nice but this old 1500 needed refilled less often than they did and it wrote just as well.
Nowadays because they are no longer the primary writing instrument, the way we value our pens is different from how they were seen when they were an essential everyday tool of work like a hammer or a screwdriver. Now we tend to appreciate pens for their beauty, their ingenuity or the flexibility of their nibs. Then, a pen just needed to be ready to the hand and do the job it was designed for.
That’s not to say that people didn’t value ingenuity and beauty in pens decades ago; clearly they did, hence all the wild and wonderful methods that the 20s and subsequent decades saw in getting ink into pens. All those dazzling overlays show that buyers made aesthetic as well as practical judgments when making a purchase but once all the attractions have been evaluated and the pen had been bought it became a wokaday tool.