There have been several companies which have resuscitated the names of former fountain pen manufacturers. I’m not talking about companies which took over active pen makers like Parker or Sheaffer. I mean companies which began using the names of long-defunct brands. I’ll probably miss some but there are (or were) Onoto, Conway Stewart, Mentmore, Swan and Conklin. Forgive me any omissions.
Onoto and Swan are in a category of their own, in that their original companies were not known by those names. Those are model names. I haven’t handled an example of the pens recently made under the name Swan but I’ve seen the photos and read owners’ comments. It isn’t a good pen and it traduces the name of Swan. To avoid confusion, I’m not referring to the Swan pens historically made in Japan, probably with some connection to the Mabie Todd company. I mean pens produced in the last few years, maybe still in production.
The Onoto is a different case. Though their website does refer to the pens made by De La Rue, they don’t pretend that they are a continuation of the same company. It is to their credit that they have resuscitated the wonderful Onoto plunger filling system. Of course their pens are extremely expensive, putting them beyond the range of most people, but that was true of many of the historical Onotos.
I don’t know what the legal grounds were for the producer of the recent pens to call them Mentmores. I assume the company bought rights to the name. I bought one of the pens out of curiosity some years ago. It was the worst sort of cheap Chinese rubbish, much worse than most of what is produced in China today, being made of plumbing-grade brass tubing, ill-fitting and with a bad nib. It would have been infinitely better to leave the honourable name of Mentmore alone.
The most recent version of Conway Stewart pretended, for a very long time, that it was a continuation of the historical company. Mary Whateverhernamewas who was an admin in FPN as well as an officer of the company, eventually gave in and changed that, but only as a result of constant pressure from those who cared about the reputation of the original Conway Stewart company. To this day Fountain Pen Network lacks people with experience in British pens because they were all kicked out for daring to suggest that there were problems with the Conway Stewart revival and its products. Those products were, for the most part, poorly made, judging by the number of complaints fielded about their performance. Many were in appallingly poor taste, glitzy, solid gold vulgarities. The original Conway Stewart company priced its products in the middle ground, so that there was something in its product line for everyone. The revived company was not run in the spirit of the original whose name it used. They even re-used model numbers for pens that bore little or no resemblance to the original models, causing confusion that remains today among newcomers to the fountain pen hobby.
Conklin also falsely lays claim to being a continuation of the original company, even to impriting their pens ‘Conklin est. 1898’. That to my mind is an irritating dishonesty. I bought one of their pens, a Conklin Duragraph. It’s not a bad pen, somewhat similar to my Monteverde Prima. The crescent-shaped breather hole in the nib is a reminder of the historical pen but there the resemblance ends. I don’t want to be hyper-critical about this revival. It could be said that this is the kind of pen that Conklin would be producing if it had not failed years ago. That may be so, but history tells us that the company was liquidated in 1948 and for that reason alone, I have difficulty in accepting that this worthy but unexceptional pen is a Conklin, like my Crescent filler and my Endura. Putting that lie on the top of the cap annoys me to the point where I struggle to like the pen.
I know that historical re-badging goes on in other areas. There’s a car out there with a Ford engine called a Jaguar. Back in the 80s someone shoved a bunch of German and Japanese motorcycle bits together and called it a Matchless. Have I got it wrong? Is my dislike of this practice just a prejudice?