Tag Archives: Parker 51

A Very Parker Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in Groton, Conn.

Thanksgiving hasn’t been this chaotic and stressful for everyone in America since at least World War II…possibly since the 1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic. There’s the Covid-19 pandemic, political turmoil, recession, open-rampant-growing racism, civil unrest and climate disaster for many recovering from wildfires and hurricanes.

It feels more important than ever to take a day to recognize all of the things we are grateful for in our lives. Me, I’m thankful for my fiancé, her mother and I all being healthy and well together in our new home. I’m thankful my parents, sister and her family are healthy and safe. And I’m thankful for all of my friends, whether we know each other from before ThePenMarket.com or because of it.

So many customers became friends who beautifully color my life. In Chicago, I have a Civil-War studying, vintage-camera-loving buddy with fantastic wit and a social-working, philosophizing friend who convinced me to not give up on my novel. There’s the salsa-dancing police detective who specializes in tracking down child abusers in Arizona. A Heinlein-loving pen collector in Virginia. A virologist who is working on the Covid-19 vaccine. A certain retired urologist in Connecticut. A retired sailor in Virginia Beach. A school teacher in Germany. A Waterman-loving Oklahoman. The nursing home nurse in Texas. Several great paramedics in Washington and Colorado. I have a 3-fingered brother from another mother down in Texas, as well as a wonderful roommate and travel buddy who loves cars as much as pens. I’d have never guessed I’d have as many additional new and wonderful friends from the Deep South as I do. I am a Yankee city boy, after all. And, of course, there are many, many other pen friends whom I delight in getting to know through the site. 

The newest friend I think you’ll enjoy meeting is Camy Matthay. Camy reached out to me after reading my series of stories about the pens that ended World War II. Most of those pens were Parker pens, and she is reconnecting with her late father by doing the deepest dive into Parker pens I’ve seen in years.

Frank Matthay in his passport issued 1959. Matthay was the leader of Parker exports from 1928 through 1966.

Who was her father? No. Not George or Kenneth Parker. Her father was the unassuming sounding Frank Matthay…the man responsible for making Parker a global brand!

Her story is equally captivating as her father’s. Camy came along late in Frank’s life. And, unfortunately, he died of early-onset Alzheimer’s in the mid-1970s when she was a teen. His memories were robbed of him by the disease, just as she was coming of age and really interested in getting to know her father as a person more than just Dad. Life moves quickly in one’s teens and twenties, and a little later in adulthood Camy decided to reconnect with her late father when she uncovered a treasure trove of boxes filled with his papers, passports, photos and other personal effects.

Frank, as it turns out, lived the adventure of a lifetime. Not only did he live well at a time when most of the world lived in crushing poverty, he saw the world before it lost much of its mystery. He met presidents and Nazis—generals and actual Amazonian headhunters. He helped give birth to the Parker Vacumatic, 51, 61 and 75!

Thankfully, Camy has shared her discoveries with me and is happy to share them with you, too. The following is my summary of her father’s biography with her full approval.

Frank Matthay (far left) with George Parker (white haired guy, founder of Parker Pens) circa 1929.

Frank Matthay was born May 10, 1904, in Beyenberg, Germany. Too young to fight in World War I, he was a talented student in what now would be considered a college-prep high school. Here he specialized in studying the classics, including the languages Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and his native German. Along the line, he also picked up English.

At the tender age of 19, he immigrated to the United States in 1923. He was sponsored by his uncle. Germany, at the time, was struggling desperately with the national economic collapse of post-WWI reparations and more. He moved to Chicago, where he was supposed to work in his uncle’s grocery store. However, it seems he never worked for his uncle, taking a job initially as a soda jerk and taking night classes at a YMCA. 

It is unclear when and where he mastered English, as well as Spanish, Portuguese and some Mandarin Chinese. Yet, his early training in the German school system likely made it very easy for him to learn any other language put in front of him.

Also unclear is how he joined the Parker Pen Company in January 1928, at the age of 23. His mastery of languages was what got him a job in the export department, and he was soon working closely with George and Kenneth Parker.

By all accounts, Frank was the life of any party with a natural gift of gab and always armed with a joke and amusing stories. He was tall and lean with a broad, easy smile and a glimmer of mirth in his eyes, plus he had a meticulously Teutonic attention to detail. All important traits for setting up a global distribution and sales network in Central America, South America, Europe, Asia and South Africa!

After a year with the company, Frank was sent on his first assignment to Cuba on the two-year-old airline known as PanAmerican. His career would actually parallel the rise of PanAm. He rode on every glamorous (and not-so-glamorous) float plane they had including the very early Sikorsky S-38, Consolidated Commodore and the extremely lux Sikorsky S-40 “Caribbean Clipper,” which was the first of PanAm’s famous “Clipper” airliners.

Frank took this photo of a Sikorsky 38 float plane taxiing to the dock.

On the success of his Cuba trip, in 1930 he was sent to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, France, Mexico and Cuba, once again. During his trip to Europe on the SS Bremen, he witnessed one of the first, if not the first, aircraft launched from a ship at sea. It was a mail plane launched from a catapult to speed the delivery of the mail the ship was carrying. In 1931, he spent 6 months “on the road” building Parker’s network in Australia and Southeast Asia!

Herbert Hoover’s motorcade drives through Port au Prince, Haiti.

An avid photographer, Frank took pictures of all of his travels. He has images of President Herbert Hoover’s 2-car motorcade in Port au Prince, Haiti. He loved exploring volcanos. On one of his trips to Peru or Ecuador he met and photographed a tribe of headhunters. He even bought a shrunken head from them for $25 (about $330 in our current money). The images look as if they could have been in National Geographic.

Frank took this photo of a tribe of headhunters in Peru or Ecuador. He bought a shrunken head from them for $25.

If you remember my stories about Kenneth Parker befriending Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in the Philippines, Frank was with them!

Fans of the Parker 51 will love knowing that Frank was the architect of the 1939 and ’40 release of the preliminary Parker 51s in South America and the Caribbean! His itinerary in 1939 was packed with extended trips south of the border. His itinerary on PanAmerican Airlines alone cost nearly $27,000 in today’s money. That doesn’t count his hotels, meals, etc. Yet, it also laid the ground work for the sale of tens of millions of Parker 51s both abroad and at home.

Here is Frank’s copy of the PanAm route map from 1931. Odds are really good that he flew every leg of that route.

Financially speaking, Frank was very well paid for his efforts. At the end of the Great Depression in 1939, he was making $5,000 a year. That is just shy of $100,000 a year in today’s money. And that doesn’t count for his luxury travel and adventures paid for by the company. According to records from Janesville that Camy found, he was making more than local doctors. Parker’s famous nib grinders of 1939 made $2,400 a year. A typist at Parker would make $1,000 a year. (Other cool details she uncovered.)

Frank’s passports are works of art, colorfully illustrated with visas to scores of nations. More impressive than the stamps of many colors are the notes from customs officials. Chilling are the notes by Nazis and Italian fascists telling him where he can and cannot go. It also seemed to him at times that the Nazis had him under surveillance. As a former German citizen who became a naturalized American, he was suspicious to them.

As it turns out, they had good reasons to suspect him. He was very anti-fascism. After the outbreak of World War II, he worked with friends and family in Belgium to funnel money to the resistance fighting Nazi-occupation.

His post-war years were just as busy, as he rebuilt Parker’s global networks from the rubble of Europe’s and much of Asia’s destruction.

Check out the stamps from China to Nazi Germany on this heavily inked page from his 1937 passport.

Unfortunately, a life of travel and corporate empire building was rough at home. His first marriage, in which he had 3 children, ended in divorce. Later in life he remarried and had three more children, including Camy. Yet, that was difficult, too. He traveled around the world so much, a very, very young Camy thought he was one of America’s first astronauts for a little while.

In 1960, Parker opened a sales office in Paris, and Frank and his family were moved there to run the office until 1962.

By the mid-1960s, Frank’s memory started to fail. Very little was known about neurological diseases such as Alzheimers back then, and doctors actually thought his medical problems stemmed from diseases he might have picked up on his travels or from eating exotic native foods, such as, apparently, a still beating snake heart in Vietnam.

Frank retired as a vice president at Parker in 1966, after 38 years of dedicated service. He continued his hobby of collecting stamps and learning Russian and Sandskrit until his Alzheimers made it impossible. He passed away in 1974.

Frank is on the far right posing with the famed Parker 51 airplane. Among his many other hobbies, Frank was a licensed pilot, though I do not know if he flew the “51.”

Honestly, there are so many more adventures in Frank’s life, but I just couldn’t fit them all into this post without simply writing a book. I am so thankful for Camy’s reaching out to me and sharing her stories and research. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about Parker’s international growth and its star salesman and leader.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season. No matter how bad this pandemic gets, remember we are going to get through it. A vaccine is on its way. And one day, this pandemic will be nothing more than a bad memory. Thank you for visiting and supporting ThePenMarket.com. We can’t do it without you, and we are so grateful for you. Stay strong and keep writing.

Vive la France! The Eisenhower Pen Mystery … Solved!

Five year ago I wrote a story about the pens used to end World War II. Two years later, some historians came to add more details to the piece. Through it all one mystery remained…

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.

While visiting the Musee de l’ Armee in Paris of 2010, I spotted a Parker 51 that once belonged to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. At the time, I presumed it was the pen he used while signing Germany’s surrender to the Allies. Several long blog posts later, we know that Eisenhower didn’t want to be in the same room with the Germans and gave his staff several Parker 51s to sign the surrender documents. These 51s were given to him directly by Kenneth Parker, and Eisenhower in turn presumably gave them to Truman, Churchill and Parker as the instruments that ended WWII. We have a picture of the pen he gave Truman that now rests in Eisenhower’s Presidential Library.

Yet…what about that Parker 51 I saw in the museum? Even the museum’s staff wrote me claiming no knowledge of the pen, and I didn’t have the presence of mind in 2010 to get a photo.

Loyal reader Pascal L. found the Parker 51 in the Musee de l’Armee in Paris that I discussed in my earlier blog posts.

Enter my new favorite Frenchman: Pascal L. Pascal read my post, visited the museum and found the pen I saw in the museum’s collection dedicated to the French Resistance! He sent me photos!

The Parker 51 is green (Technically, it is the teal model but it looks green to me and my memory from 8 years ago.) and gold. It is displayed with an autographed photo of Ike that is dedicated: “For the companions of the Liberation.”

The plot thickens!

Look closely at the pen. Pascal was quick to point out that it is an aerometric-filler. Clearly, this pen could not have been at the signing in 1945. This style of Parker 51 wasn’t released until 1949.

Pascal reached out to the museum again and finally solved the mystery! It is really important to note that the pen was in the section dedicated to the French Resistance. This is what Pascal wrote me: “On March 6, 1972, Mrs. [Mamie] Eisenhower asked General Robert L. Schulz, General Eisenhower’s personal assistant from 1947 to 1969 to send the Parker 51 to Chancelier  Claude Hettier de Boislambert. (This man is the creator of the Museum of the Order of Liberation.) The fountain pen has been placed in the collection.”

Thus, the pen was actually given away 3 years after President Eisenhower’s death. The pen doesn’t have the pointed tail of a 1972 Parker 51 and looks as if it could have once been in Ike’s possession, as he was known to have been replete with Parker 51 fountain pens for various giveaways and special presentations.

I want to give a very special merci beaucoup to Pascal L. for all of his very hard work in finally bringing this story to a close with a mystery solved.

Here is a closer look at the Eisenhower Parker 51.

Controversy in Chicago Part III: Let’s Help the Rookies

Now that veteran vendors and rookie pen collectors are breaking the ice, let’s lend some veteran assistance to the rookies navigating their first pen shows.

1421 Waterman PhileasYour first pen show is bound to be an overwhelming affair. There will be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of vintage and modern pens. You will find rarities you never dreamed of seeing in the flesh, and you will probably want to spend 10 times the amount of money you intended to spend. Plus, there are all of the custom services, which might take months to get performed through the U.S. mail but you can have satisfactorily completed in a single morning or afternoon at a pen show. And then there are the spare parts, inkwells, papers and cases!

To help you safely navigate your first pen shows, here is some advice that ought to help you breakdown the experience and keep it positive.

PRE-GAME STRATEGY
Set a budget and a goal for the show. Need some repairs done? Want a nib ground to perfection? Looking for certain pens? Organize all that you hope to achieve.

1324 Waterman 100 Year PenYour best bet is to put together a list of all the things you’re looking for and hope to do. This way you can take some time to marvel at the splendor of the distractions before you check in on your list to focus on your goals.

Loyal reader Justin P. recommends contacting your favorite eBay and other online vendors to see if they will be at the show. If they are, let them know you can’t wait to see them there and give them a heads up to your list of pens or merchandise that you want. Many will gladly set it aside for you so that you can have first dibs. Plus, it always helps to put names to faces by meeting in person.

Many shows are offering more and more seminars about repairs and the histories of the brands. Check out the show schedule online or in your show pamphlet to see what special events you don’t want to miss. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to help you remember it is time to head over to the seminar. Time passes remarkably quickly, and it is easy to get sidetracked.

If the show offers a weekend pass, you might want to get it. To make the most of the show, it helps to attend all of the days it is open. Day one is your best opportunity to pick up a really rare pen before somebody else snatches it. If it is a 4-day show, days 2 and 4 are quieter days, which are better for meeting new people and asking more questions about the pens and the hobby. Day 3/Saturday will be the busiest day. During trading hours, few vendors will likely want to talk for long because this is their best opportunity to sell the most and pay for their expenses.

Glass Topped CaseYet, some of the best times are after the formal trading closes for the day. You’ll often find clusters of vendors and collectors hanging out, talking or getting a drink. Strike up a conversation with them and get to know who they are, what their pen passions are and let them get to know you. Pen People, regardless of their experience with the hobby, are usually very friendly and chatty. People can usually be found talking pens in the lobby of the venue well into the wee hours of the morning.

SERVICES:
As I don’t do any nib grinding or Mont Blanc piston repair work, I love coming to the shows to take advantage of these services. The trick to navigating these services is to be there the minute the doors to the show open in the morning. If you are one of the first on the repair-person’s list, you can guarantee your pens get done that day.

Be sure to clearly explain to the repair folks what you want done and ask for an estimate first, so you know their prices and aren’t hit with sticker shock. Most repairs are fairly affordable, but it is always best to know what to expect. Vendors won’t mind fixing 2 or 3 pens for you at the show, but don’t expect for them to fix an entire shoebox full of pens at the show. They might ask to take that many pens home with them to work on later.

L15S Lamy Calligraphy NibsAt most shows you can expect to find full-time repair specialists such as Mike and Linda Kennedy of Indy-Pen-Dance, Ron Zorn, Richard Binder and “Mike It Work.” All four of these vendors are nationally known for their excellence. You can’t go wrong with any of them. If you do have 15 to 20 pens you want restored at the show, it might be best to spread 3 or 4 amongst each of them to see who’s work you like best. Expect also a minimum repair bill to be $20 to $25 per pen. It could be up around $40 to $50 if you want your nib ground to a new size and shape.

If you are having nib work done, be patient and remember it is very precise and time-consuming work. Don’t rush your grinder. However, as you are asking for a very specific and personalized repair, don’t be afraid to say the nib still doesn’t feel right when they ask you to test it. They want you to be happy with their services, and they will work hard to get the precise feel you want in your nib. If they spend an inordinately long amount of time getting your pen just right, they might charge you an extra $5 or $10, which is okay. Time is money, and you will get to enjoy that pen and nib for the rest of your life.

DEALING WITH VENDORS
It came as a great shock to me that not all vendors are there to sell. Some table holders are just there to meet with old friends, show off an impressive collection or to do any number of other things. For most of us, it is a business.

To avoid getting overwhelmed or making rash purchases of the first things you see, spend some time walking around and keeping an eye out for the merchandise on the tables. I like to make a complete sweep of the show before making any purchases…unless I spot something rare that I must buy quickly or not see again.

Don’t be shy. Say hi to the vendors and don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re looking for. It is really easy to overlook the pens you’re looking for on tables that seem lightly populated with pens.

Keep a running tally of prices in your head or on a notepad. It is safe to assume you will find dozens of similar pens at the show. Prices and quality could range all over. Plus, it will help you keep from going over your budget…or show you there is room from an extra new treasure.

1262CWhen you are ready to get serious about buying a pen, there is a whole checklist of things to do:

  • ASK the vendor if you can pick up and examine his or her pen (You’d be surprised at how many people break pens or inadvertently mess up an organizational system.)
  • Look over the pen carefully for cracks, dents, imprint quality and brassing
  • ALWAYS try first to UNSCREW the cap. NEVER YANK on a cap.
  • Search for cracks on the lip of the cap with your thumbnail. If you spin the lip of a cap over your thumbnail, it will gently pick up any crack that might not be visible to the eye.
  • Use a loupe to examine the nib. Are there cracks? Is the tipping good? Are the tines aligned? Are one of the tine tips cracked just below the tipping and about to pop free?
  • If the nib looks okay, then test it for flex with your thumbnail. Put the underside of the nib’s tip on the top of your thumbnail and gently add pressure.
  • ASK if you can test the filling system. If you feel any pressure or resistance in the filling system, don’t force it. Ask the vendor if it needs restoration? (Lots of vendors complain about people breaking levers and other pen parts while checking out the filling system.)
  • Finally, ask if the vendor has ink and if you can dip the pen to try it out.

CLOSING THE DEAL
Cash is king. All pen dealers accept cash. However, many are now accepting credit cards due to the simplicity of smart phones and apps by Square and PayPal.

Before you start negotiating the final price, ask if they accept credit cards…if that is all you have with which to pay. This might save everybody some time and trouble. Don’t be upset if they say yes but also tack on an extra 2% or 3% to cover the fee charged by the credit card company. Some deals run the profit margin pretty thin, and it is fair to pay the processing fee.

1265 Pelikan 400NNTo negotiate a deal well, it helps to be well informed about the pen you are buying and its current prices. Be sure to highlight any flaws in the pen and make an offer that is fair and realistic. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal that is still too high for you. Yet, don’t be afraid to accept a counter offer that is reasonable, especially if you received good customer service.

Many vendors don’t put prices on their pens. Some of them like to game you a bit to see how much you are willing to pay. Let’s say you’re looking at an aerometric Parker 51 in black with a lustraloy cap. You ask how much, and the vendor replies $100. It’s okay to smile, say thanks and put it back down. Unless it has something rare like a stub nib or some other uncommon feature, he or she will likely counter, “Well how much were you hoping it would be?” You can honestly say–because you know there are 3 bajillion black 51s in the world–that you were hoping for around $50. The vendor will likely acquiesce with something like, “Well, I can do $55.”

Feel free to ask vendors lots of questions, BUT understand that they might expect you to buy something if you take up too much of their time. If you have tons of questions, but aren’t ready to buy, save them until you are with a vendor whose pens you will be buying or until the show slows down and the vendor has more free time to talk.

And, of course, if you do get a cranky vendor who doesn’t treat you as you feel you should be treated, just move on to the next. There are often well over 100 vendors at most shows, and somebody nice will likely have just what you’re looking for.

Have fun!

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 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.