Tag Archives: World War II

How Do I Start Collecting Pens? Know Thy Obsession

Starting a pen collection isn’t always easy. There are soooooo many great pens out there in need of a good home. Where do you begin?

There is no right or wrong way to begin, but sometimes it helps to narrow your options.

Do you like dip pens, fountain pens, ballpoint pens or rollerball pens? Do you prefer vintage pens or modern? Do you want to write with them? If so, do you want to use them for everyday writing or do you want to perform calligraphy or Spencerian scripts? Do you just love their design and aesthetic? Are you collecting for an investment? Are you looking to make an impression during special signing ceremonies? Are you dedicated to a specific period in history and only want pens to go with what is perhaps a larger collection of that era? Do you love to tinker with things and want to learn the art of pen restoration? Do you simply love the fact that millions and millions of dollars were spent researching and designing many complicated ways to fill a fountain pen with ink?

It is not unusual at all to find yourself drawn to one or more of these questions. Over the course of this series we will begin breaking down each of these questions and discuss the pertinent issues with each of them, along with other elements of collecting pens.

TYPES OF PENS

Defining the four major types of pens is a good way to find common understanding and definitions of what you are interested in collecting. Most of this might be what many of you already know, but you would be surprised by how many people are still learning. I especially want to encourage people to learn as much as they can about this fun hobby…and obsession.

Some dip pens are made of glass, gold, silver, wood and even ivory.

This is a modern dip pen made of Murano glass. It is great for testing new inks.

Dip pens are the most basic type of pens that use water-based inks. You can still find many beautiful examples dating back as far as the 1700s when ornate metal pens began replacing feathered quills. A dip pen can be typically made of metals, glass, wood or ivory. The writing point is called a nib, which was usually made of gold, glass or steel. To write, you simply dipped the nib in ink and started scribbling. Depending on the pen, you could write about two to ten words per dip. You can find many base-level dip pens with steel nibs for around $1. Yet, some dip pens are ornately made with silver, gold, mother of pearl, ivory and other precious materials. Big flexible gold nibs from the late 1800s are prized for their ability to create works of art with the Spencerian handwriting method.

FUN FACT: The famous American Civil War historian Shelby Foote wrote the rough draft to his extensive two-volume history of the war using an authentic Civil War-era dip pen and period appropriate nibs! He said he did it to feel a closer connection with the people about whom he was writing and to slow himself down to really think about what he was writing.

Fountain pens, also known as ink pens, use gold or steel nibs like dip pens, but these pens were the first to carry an internal reservoir of water-based ink. Originally made of hard rubber, these pens first came on to the scene in the late 19th century. Fountain pens seemed to enter their glory days in the 1920s through the 1950s. Myriad mechanical systems were invented to fill a pen with ink. Pumps, levers, buttons, pneumatics, diaphragms, pistons, cartridges and converters have all been used to load a pen with ink. Another feature unique to fountain pens was the inkfeed. This is a special assembly under then nib that delivers ink to the nib while regulating its flow. Typically, fountain pens can hold 8 to 12 legal pad pages worth of ink. Some pens can hold a lot more ink and others much less.

American author Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain, was the spokesman for the Conklin Pen Company in 1903.

FUN FACT: Mark Twain was the first celebrity to be paid to endorse a pen company. The Conklin company of Toledo, Ohio, paid him to speak well of their Conklin Crescent. Twain claimed he liked their early fountain pen best because it carried its own ink reserve, and its crescent-shaped filling system prevented the pen from rolling off his desk. He left out the fact that he was the first author to ever write a novel on the marvelous new invention called the typewriter…and had no intention of going back to pens to write novels. Faster and ultimately easier to use and easier to read than a fountain pen, both writing instruments remained vital for myriad needs.

Ballpoint pens were first invented during World War II. Fountain pens use water-based inks drawn, normally, from glass inkwells. They are also gravity fed. Thus, while running around under fire in combat, it is difficult to keep your pen from making a mess and your inkwell to keep from breaking. A ballpoint pen uses a (typically) tungsten ball bearing at the base of a cartridge full of oil-based ink. The ink is more viscous and less likely to slop around and make a mess. The ball lets the pen write on most any surface. The early generation ballpoints had a lot of issues, primarily due to the ink drying too quickly inside the cartridge. Yet, once ink cartridges were perfected, these pens became infinitely cheaper and easier to mass produce than traditional fountain pens. The ink lasted much longer, dried instantly on the page and took a much longer time to dry out inside the cartridge. Soon the pens were gussied up with great designs that employed twists, clicks and caps to protect their writing points. These days, ballpoint pens rarely have caps and are more readily identified by being either twist or click pens.

FUN FACT: Parker first introduced its Jotter model click ballpoint pen in the 1950s, and it is still one of the most popularly sold ballpoint pens today!

Rollerball pens were the last major evolution of pen designs. Many pen users found that they missed the smooth, fast-writing action of water-based ink but preferred the ballpoint style compared to fountain pens. As such, the rollerball was born. It combined the best of both worlds by having cartridges that hold water-based ink that is delivered with a very smooth, fast and efficient ballpoint.

What type of pen is your favorite?

Me? I love all pens, but my greatest passion is for fountain pens. After discovering my late grandfather’s Sheaffer Lifetime when I was 9, I was hooked. It wrote better than anything I had ever experienced. I was a particularly strange child. I clearly remember resenting my first grade teacher who made us write with pencils. Dirty, ever-shrinking and inconsistent pencils. The sloppy, ugly stains left by erased mistakes. “Only adults can use pens,” my first through third grade teachers insisted. I genuinely resented them for it, and I routinely asked special permission to use pens on homework that was especially important. Weirder still, I would try to rally my classmates in protest of pencils. Honest to God! And I resented them when they preferred pencils and being shackled with the label of irresponsible children not yet ready for something as clean, dignified and mature as pens. I actually rejoiced when Ms. Bartuce permitted those of us with especially neat handwriting to use ballpoint pens toward the end of fourth grade.

You can ask my parents. I am not making this up.

I never dared bring my precious fountain pens to school, but I was particularly devoted to my clickable Parker Jotter in junior high. When I was an exchange student in Germany during my junior year of high school, all of my classmates saved up their money to drink themselves blind in a country that served alcohol at 16. Me? I knew that most Germans still use fountain pens and that I could get real bargains on brand new fountain pens that would be way too expensive in the U.S. Instead of getting drunk every night, I insisted my host family take me to a quality stationary store where I fell in love with an elegant stub-nibbed Rotring. (I wasn’t totally square. I also fell madly in love with a beautiful blonde fraulein who liked me as much as I liked her. We just never drank to the point of vomiting in the gutter.)

Pens of World War II–Revisited

Back in October of 2013 I discussed General MacArthur’s Big Red Parker Duofold and General Eisenhower’s Parker 51s used to sign the surrender treaties at the end of World War II because I had seen one of them in Paris’ Museum of the Army. The plot thickened when the museum responded with no knowledge of the Parker 51 I saw. They did mention a French General’s Parker Duofold used to sign treaties at the end of the war. Grandson of Kenneth Parker (who personally gave Ike a set of 51s to end the war), Geoff Parker then discussed his knowledge of the famed 51s.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower holds up 2 of the pens used to sign the German surrender, ending World War II in Europe in May of 1945. One of those pens is a Parker 51, which is now on display in Paris' Musee de l'Armee.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower holds up 2 of the pens used to sign the German surrender, ending World War II in Europe in May of 1945. One of those pens is a Parker 51, which is now on display in Paris’ Musee de l’Armee.

At the end of that article, I left a challenge for other pen collectors to find the Parker 51 I failed to photograph back in Paris.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, although nobody has sent us a photo, yet, the story caught the eye of fascinated WWII historians Cheryl H. and her husband Roy R. They had been reading John Toland’s “The Last 100 Days,” when they stumbled on these “Drippy Musings.” Bless their hearts, they tore into the mystery like a pit bull on a juicy marrow-filled bone.

Below is exactly what they found, and it is pretty fascinating for history and pen buffs! Unlike Geoff who said Ike had several pens to use, Toland limits it to two…the rest is Cheryl’s message to me:

Using numbers to make this a bit easier to follow….

1. Totally no doubt about the 2 gold pens: 1 gold plated and 1 solid gold from Kenneth Parker and that indeed Ike had carried around knowing they would eventually be used….

2. At Rheims, France, on May 6-7 in a local school Eisenhower waited in his office while the other participants assembled.

3. By the time everyone got done horsing around with what were eventually 3 surrender documents it was early on May 7, 1945. (Signing was at 2:41 a.m.)

4. The signers were: Ike’s Chief of Staff Walter Bedell Smith; Russian Major General Ivan Susloparov; French Major Francois Sevez; German General Alfred Jodl, and for the Brits, Major General Bernard Montgomery.

5. AHA! Ike didn’t sign!! (He refused to be in the same room with the Germans before they surrendered.)

6. BUT! Ike’s pens did! One of Ike’s aides named Butcher brought in the 2 Parker pens and gave the solid gold one to Walter Bedell Smith and the gold-plated one to Jodl. The solid gold one was passed to the other Allies by Walter Bedell Smith…that is, to Sevez, Susloparov, and Montgomery.

7. It appears as though Ike had planned to present one of the pens to President Truman and send the other to our old friend Kenneth Parker. That was his stated intent at one point, at least.

8. Aide Butcher, after Jodl signed with the gold plated Parker, took the Parker away from Jodl and gave Jodl his (Butcher’s) own personal Scheaffer pen to sign the following 2 documents as a nice little souvenir for Butcher. (Gotta love a guy who sees through the historic significance of the moment…..)

9. Previous to May, there had already been an armistice signed between Italy and the Allies. Mussolini and Alan Dulles for the U.S. (His brother was Ike’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles) Sorry…appears no one knows or cares what pens were used!

10. At some date after May 7 there was another armistice signing on the eastern front between the Russians and the Germans…I think they used Bic ballpoints. [Cerf here: Ballpoints came into prominence during the war, but Bic didn’t make the first ones. So likely not Bic. Bic was founded Oct. 25, 1945.]

But this leaves the question of Generale Tassigny…his pen is photographed and he must have signed something with it…but it does not appear to be the documents at Rheims. Guess someone will have to go to Paris to figure out that little puzzle. (I will probably burn up the internet tomorrow or sometime to work on that…)

(AND search she did. She continues…)

Re: French Major Generale Tassigny. I think we have solved that one. On May 7 I believe that M.G. Tassigny was a “witness” to Major Sevez’s signing. The next day, May 8, there were another series of surrender papers signed (by now the Russians had arrived at Rheims) and M.G. Tassigny did actually sign that day. What I/we didn’t realize is that there were a number of different surrender documents, signed over a number of days, and signed by various people. The French are so (justifiably) proud of their history and their people that it seems to me that since they have M.G. Tassigny’s pen, why not use it as fully as possible? He did indeed sign an armistice/surrender document. BTW…one reason for various surrenders was that the Russians didn’t trust anyone, and few trusted the Russians!

Another little tidbit: Ike told, I think it was, Walter Bedell Smith, that of the 2 Parker pens, one would go to President Truman and one to Kenneth Parker. Bedell Smith replied,” What about Churchill?” to which Ike said, “Oh darn it. (or something like that!) I forgot about him!”  That leaves me puzzled because Ike had to have given Churchill “something;” the pen in Ike’s Abilene library is no doubt the one used on May 7 by Bedell Smith.

Me again. Just to clarify, the pen at the Eisenhower Presidential Library is the pen he gave to Truman. Geoff Parker thinks it is possible there were more than two pens, so that Churchill and Kenneth each could have gotten a token of the surrender. And that, dear friends, is what we have found so far.Always feel free to contribute, as we love to hear from other dedicated pen fans and historians!

Parker Pens of WWII–Return of the Jedi

This modified Parker Duofold from around 1930 was used by French General de Lattre de Tassigny to sign the German surrender that ended World War II. The photo was given to us by the Musee de l' Armee in Paris. The twist of the story is that this is not the pen that started the whole story in the first place. Where is that Parker 51?

This modified Parker Duofold from around 1930 was used by French General de Lattre de Tassigny to sign the German surrender that ended World War II. The photo was given to us by the Musee de l’ Armee in Paris. The twist of the story is that this is not the pen that started the whole story in the first place. Where is that Parker 51?

They say the third time’s the charm, but I’m not buying it. Today I received a photo of General de Lattre de Tassigny’s Parker fountain pen from Musee de l’ Armee in Paris. It is this lovely 1930ish Parker Duofold with an aftermarket replacement clip.

This is not the vintage pen I saw in Paris! I am certain it was a Parker 51, which the museum claims not to have. To keep from boring you on the top story space, I’ve revised the revised version of the story below with all of the new details. Enjoy!

Parker Pens Win WWII–Revised

It is hardly ground-breaking news that Gen. Douglas MacArthur signed the “Instrument of Surrender” ending World War II with Japan while using a Parker Duofold “Big Red” (among other pens) on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri. It is a fact Parker touts time and again, even making a commemorative series of modern Duofolds to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower holds up 2 of the pens used to sign the German surrender, ending World War II in Europe in May of 1945. One of those pens is a Parker 51, which is now on display in Paris' Musee de l'Armee.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower holds up 2 of the pens used to sign the German surrender, ending World War II in Europe in May of 1945. One of those pens is a Parker 51, which is now on display in Abilene, Kan., at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

In the late 1920s, the Parker Duofold was advertised as being indestructable. Surviving WWII and bringing it to an end seemed elegant proof. Yet, people of the era fussed a bit about the famous general using such and old out-of-date pen–as if years of dependable service didn’t matter.

Rarely, however, is it mentioned what pen General Dwight Eisenhower used to sign the surrender of the German army.

I, myself, would not have known had it not been for a trip to Paris several years ago and a flurry of messages today. I love military history and could not pass up the chance to see “L’ Invalides” where Napoleon rests in his giant sarcophagus. Part of the grounds holds Musee de l’ Armee (a.k.a. The Museum of the Army). It was phenomenal. The swords and armor, the WWI tanks, the early rifles and muskets of the 1600s and a large display about the French Resistance and WWII.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signed a peace agreement with the Japanese using a Parker Duofold "Big Red" similar to this one in August 1945.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signed a peace agreement with the Japanese using a Parker Duofold “Big Red” similar to this one in August 1945. I don’t believe MacArthur’s Duofold was streamlined, though.

My eyes, long accostumed to spotting vintage pens in cluttered antique stores, instantly picked out a pen among a somewhat cluttered case full of war documents. It was the ugliest Parker 51 I had ever seen. It was olive drab, and the gold cap was tarnished almost beyond recognition. That led me to ask, what was an American fountain pen doing in the French army museum. The answer: It is the pen Gen. Dwight Eisenhower used to sign the documents of the German surrender. Or so I thought…

Several weeks before writing this post I contacted the Musee de l’Armee to send me a photo of the famous Parker 51 and any information they had about it. I did not hear from them until after the original draft of this story posted.

“We didn’t have any pen once owned by General Eisenhower,” wrote a museum employee. “The only one we have in our collection is the pen of General de Lattre de Tassigny used to sign the surrender of Germany in 1945.”

Without the presence of mind in 2010 to photograph the historic pen, I was only left with my memory, which was certain it was a Parker 51 belonging to the future president. If I had only known then that I was going to create a blog in 3 1/2 years.

Later today help came in form of one of the ultimate authorities about Parker pens: Geoff Parker, the grandson of the famous Parker CEO who gave Ike the very Parker 51s used to sign the armistice with Germany!

“The actual story behind that photo is a bit more complicated,” Parker wrote. “My grandfather, Kenneth Parker, and Eisenhower happened to meet in the Philippines in 1937 and became good friends. The two stayed in contact for many years. KP provided Parker 51s to Eisenhower as the end of the war approached. The Eisenhower Presidential Museum/Library in Kansas displays the 51 used in that ceremony which Eisenhower presented to President Truman. There were probably more than one, in order to represent each of the Allies.”

As if getting the rest of the story from Mr. Parker wasn’t already enough to blow this lifetime collector’s mind, he very kindly sent me a photo he took of the actual Parker 51 on display at the Eisenhower Library that ended World War II.

Geoff Parker took this photo of the actual Parker 51 his grandfather gave to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower that was used to sign the armistice with Germany ending World War II in Europe. It is preserved in Abilene, Kan., at the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

Geoff Parker took this photo of the actual Parker 51 his grandfather gave to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower that was used to sign the armistice with Germany ending World War II in Europe. It is preserved in Abilene, Kan., at the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

This modified Parker Duofold from around 1930 was used by French General de Lattre de Tassigny to sign the German surrender that ended World War II. The photo was given to us by the Musee de l' Armee in Paris. The twist of the story is that this is not the pen that started the whole story in the first place. Where is that Parker 51?

This modified Parker Duofold from around 1930 was used by French General de Lattre de Tassigny to sign the German surrender that ended World War II. The photo was given to us by the Musee de l’ Armee in Paris. The twist of the story is that this is not the pen that started the whole story in the first place. Where is that Parker 51?

The plot thickens: It is now October 17, and I have received a photo of the pen used by France’s Gen. de Lattre de Tassigny. It is a unique Parker Duofold circa 1930 with a glittering red candy finish and black flecks. Those Parkers are rare. Rarer still is the fact this one is missing its original Parker clip and has an after-market steel clip wedged over the broken clip and top of the pen. We actually have an original fully intact version of this pen for sale at ThePenMarket.com.

Now do you think the story is over? Of course not. This is not the pen I saw in Paris at the Musee de l’ Armee! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I saw a Parker 51 in a case. I am more certain once again it is a pen marked as Gen. Eisenhower’s. Geoff Parker said Ike likely used several Parker 51’s to sign the surrender and gave them to each allied nation. So perhaps that is the pen he gave France. But, why doesn’t the museum have it cataloged?

Unless I beat you to Paris, pen fans, you have a mission: Find and photograph that pen! Please submit it so that we can share it with everyone on this blog and put this story to bed. It might be like finding a needle in a haystack, but here is where I remember seeing it if it helps your quest to find it. The pen was in a waist high glass case, in a room dedicated to World War II on the main floor. It was a room that I recall having two entrances–one on each side of the room but on the same wall. This case was on the right side of the room if you stood facing the case and the exit. When I was there, the WWII exhibit looked as if it hadn’t been moved, changed or altered since the 1950s. I suspect it is still there waiting for one of us. Good luck on your quest.