Since its inception the Blackbird has been regarded as a school pen, though many models were not significantly less than the Swan in price and quality. It is often the Jackdaw that fills that niche better.
However, in the mid to late thirties there was a range of pens that definitely seemed to fill that role, the simple Blackbirds in bright primary colours of the 52 – – range. Some years ago I had the red (5277), green (5276), blue (5275), and black (5260/62). Built to a price that would have been affordable for some in those difficult years, they were probably not the pride of the Mabie Todd stable. The thin gold-wash on the trim wore away, and the plastic used was subject to shrinkage, something we hardly ever see in the rest of Mabie Todd’s pens. In some of these pens the lever slot gaped and in others the cap no longer fitted well.
On the other hand, the bright colours are cheerful and appealing, and the nibs were well up to the usual excellent Blackbird standard. When new they must have been very pleasing pens.
I was unaware until recently that there were matching pencils. This bright blue one matches the 5275. Though the original box is retained, showing that it was purchased on its own, there may have been pen and pencil sets. Though it remains in generally good condition the pencil appears to have been well used.
I’m rather out of touch with what children use in schools these days. Probably not mechanical pencils. My husband says that when he was in school in the 50s, most school work was done in pencil, in his case the wooden kind though some children did use mechanical pencils. It was only major essays in a special workbook that were written in ink.
Because I have an interest in them I have a few modern mechanical pencils and many vintage ones, mostly Fyne Poynts. I don’t see mechanical pencils being used generally today. Many pen sets offer a fountain pen and a ballpoint. It seems that there is no great demand for sets with mechanical pencils. Just a glance at eBay, though, will show that once they were bought in huge numbers and most of them that have come my way bear evidence of considerable use. Mechanical pencils may be somewhat specialist now but it was not always so.