I’ve written about the Starling before – the mystery pen of the Mabie Todd range. It has been a few years since Don Powell gave me one with two cap rings. I no longer have that pen and I can’t say for certain which nib it had but I suspect that it was a Warranted one.
Rob Parsons has kindly told me about one that has appeared in Australia. It’s very similar to the other but has no cap rings. It has a Warranted nib, whether original or a replacement. My own opinion of these pens is that they are probably intended to be cheaper than the Blackbird but they are still high quality, well made pens.
So how do they fit into the Mabie Todd range – or are they intended to fit into the range at all? The barrel imprint would seem to me to indicate that they are just usual Mabie Todd products. Stephen Hull describes the Starling as an ‘own-brand pen’. I don’t know what that means but I see no indication that the Starling was made for sale by another company. There is no other name apart from Mabie Todd to suggest that it is an advertising pen.
The most obvious thing about the Starling is its rarity. Though I haven’t been especially looking for them I have a constant search for Mabie Todd pens and this is only the fourth or fifth I’ve seen in the last decade. Only one, the pen that came from Don Powell, had a box. I had high hopes that the box might help to place the Starling but it didn’t, not a bit!
So is the Starling just another Mabie Todd range like Swan, Blackbird or the American Swallow? If not, on whose behalf was it made, and in what circumstances? Were Starlings issued with Warranted 14ct gold nibs? Enquiring minds wish to know! Thanks to Rob and credit to Stephen Hull’s The Swan Pen.
4 thoughts on “The Starling Pen”
Another splendid Mabie Todd backwater I think. I have long been puzzled by the production of the Big Blackbird. It is baffling to me that MT would make a huge pen with a huge nib, for a subsidiary brand!
I agree. It’s a bit unusual, in an otherwise modest range,
I asked Steve about Starlings when I proof read the Swan book as I thought they might have an MT&Co connection. He thought then that they were made (probably not by MT&Co) for other firms to sell as their own brand (like a Kenbar or a Jenner) as he (and I) had only seen pens with warranted nibs and a plain Starling imprint. I showed him this post at the London Pen Show earlier today and clearly Starling is another MT&Co sub-brand. I will have to look out my Starling to see if is similar to the one in this post but from memory it is more like the one in your post nearly 10 years ago. It is possible I suppose that that somebody else made Starlings as well, for instance like Boots used Langs, DLR and Burnham over the years, or perhaps MT&Co only made them for the Australian market and there is no connection? Probably we shall never know but it will be fun trying to find out.
Another insomniac. Thank you for your thoughts on the matter, Simon. The Starling seems destined to remain a puzzle.