Mabie Todd Swan SF230


This is an SF230, one of Mabie Todd’s glorious 1920s pens. I’ve written about them several times before; there’s nothing technical or aesthetic to add.

These pens and others of similar quality are fully modern. An SF230 would be at least as useful and comfortable in the hand as any modern pen. We may feel a kinship with the first owner of this pen, using it daily in his business and leisure.

It was a very different world though. There was no smart phone, PC, laptop or tablet. For most there was neither electricity nor landline telephone. Communication was either face-to-face or written. If the local shops could not provide a required item there was no Amazon to send it. A handwritten letter to some distant supplier was the answer.

In business, though some correspondence would be typewritten, most was handwritten. Permanent records were done in ink. The Armed Forces depended upon the handwritten word. So did the law courts and government.

It appears that our SF230 was an essential instrument, without which the world of the 20s and 30s would have rapidly come to a halt. The power of the pen – any kind of pen – is much diminished today. Nearly all of its functions have been taken over by ever faster and more capable machines.

Has the pen any role in which it is essential today? Christmas cards and note-taking, writing lists and dashing off a quick note – these and similarly trivial tasks are of the last islands of pen use for most people, and a vanishingly small proportion of them will ever use a fountain pen. Is it, like the spinning wheel and the horse-drawn carriage, to be laid aside in the museums, marveled at for its primitiveness and used only by hobbyists and those who refuse to let modernity rule them?

I love my fountain pens and I use them every day. I use a mixture of old and new technology in my life and I enjoy the ongoing online conversation with like-minded friends. Wherever possible I encourage younger people to consider using a fountain pen. But I do wonder how many will use them in subsequent generations…


10 thoughts on “Mabie Todd Swan SF230

  1. Deb I may have mentioned this before, but I had the rare pleasure of having a work colleague ask me if I could provide a fountain pen, some ink and some basic tuition for his young daughter….
    Just a glimmer of hope there.
    Other than…’come the apocalypse we’ll all have to learn to use them again’ we are likely the last of the generations that will use them.
    And, my SF230 et al also get pretty much a daily work out.

  2. Deb, oops ! Also there’s that person who posted a reply saying that they still teach FP writing in German schools ….that is quite promising .

  3. Working with colleagues at university, a significant proportion of us use fountain pens. At an average meeting there will be a fairly good spread of those who take notes using laptops or tablets and those who use a notebook with biro, pencil or fountain pen. Among the students I don’t see so many in evidence. If I had time it would make an interesting study to find out what people on different courses think about handwriting, their choice of tools and whether there is any link between subject studied, which tools are chosen and why.

    1. Here’s a shocking confession: when I was in university I used ballpoints for note-taking. Shame on me! I did write essays in fountain pen – they did not have to be type-written or printed in those distant days, but I feared a fountain pen might run out during a lecture. I was a prolific note-taker.

  4. With all ‘written’ assignments needing to be word processed and handed-in electronically now there are fewer opportunities for handwriting in studies but note-taking by hand in lectures and in the libraries still seems to be the norm. While I was jotting down some information for a younger Canadian exchange student a short while ago, she commented ‘Oh wow! Is that a real quill pen you’re using? 🙂

  5. ….Deb. If the worst case scenario ended up back at the stage of real Quills and ink , I could adapt !!!
    Some seriously lovely script went down in those times .
    Also there’s quite a few ‘ how to make proper quill pens ‘ videos , although accessing YouTube post apocalypse might be a problem..🤣

    1. Unfortunately the apocalypse is not the immediate likelihood (though that may be down the road a few decades; global warming and increasing madness in politics) what is more likely is a great yawn of indifference to fountain pens and any means of applying ink to paper. We live in an age of machine communication which takes over more previously written areas every day. For example, 15 years ago my husband was a registrar, writing entries and certificates with his flexible 1920s Onoto. Soon after the entire process became a matter of computer entry. The only parts that remained written were signatures.

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