George Parker patented his first pen in 1889 when he was still teaching telegraphy students how to transcribe Morse code. In 1894, he invented and patented his "lucky curve" feed system, which greatly reduced the leakage that was a common problem of early eyedropper fountain pens. By 1905, Parker’s Lucky Curve pens were a force to be reckoned with in the growing fountain-pen industry.

The Parker Jack Knife Safety pen arrived in 1911. Its cap could be screwed down to the pen’s body, making it ink-tight. One especially prized model had a transparent, amber, Bakelite body. Other Parker pens from the 1910s include the no. 15, a ladies model with a mother-of-pearl barrel and black hard-rubber caps that were either crowned by a semi-precious stone or covered in gold-filled filigree. The Parker no. 16 was a very small pen with gold-filled filigree, while the descriptive name of the Black Giant pretty much sums up its utilitarian design.

The Jack Knife evolved into the "Big Red" button-filler Duofold in 1921, which was advertised to "rival the beauty of the scarlet tanager." Duofolds in Mandarin yellow and lapis lazuli followed in 1927. Vintage yellow Duofolds are extremely collectible, but a blue model named for the Zaner Blouser calligraphy school is one of the most rare Parkers ever made.

In fact, as a group, the vintage Parker Duofold fountain pens from the 1920s are extraordinarily beautiful writing instruments. Jade pens made out of a branded plastic called Permanite were sold in a variety of sizes (Junior, Ladies, Senior) and in sets with matching mechanical pencils. Some Duofolds had pearl handles and caps, veined with black plastic. Apple green and "Modernistic blue" were other popular colors, as were moiré-patterned fountain pens, which ranged from pink to blue.

The Vacumatics followed the Duofolds in 1932. These pens held twice as much ink as those that had preceded them (102 percent more, to be specific), and, for the first time, the clip on the cap was shaped like an arrow, which would become a symbol of the Parker brand. These were also Parker’s first mass-produced pens. Some had horizontal layers of silver alternating with translucent plastic, which allowed the user to see how much ink was left in the pen. Codes were printed on all Vacumatic barrels, making them relatively easy to date today.

A Junior Vacumatic was introduced in 1934—the Golden Web pattern from that series lasted only from 1936 until about 1938, making it a particularly prized Parker for collectors. Even more rare is the Imperial Vacumatic from 1939, which was produced to compete with the Sheaffer Crest.

That same year, 1939, the company finished developing the pen for which it would become best known, the Parker 51. Released in 1941, the pen used a new, quick-drying ink, which m...

The original Parker 51 had a quick-action, vacumatic-type filler, but in 1948, this was replaced with an aerometric filler, which was actually similar to some of the sleeve-filler systems that had been around for 40 years. 1948 was also the year the pen’s arrow clip was redesigned.

Parker 51s are not especially valuable, so collectors who want to actually use one to write with would do well to choose a post-1948 model, since they tend to work better. For collectors who want to find a 51 to put away, look for models with solid-gold caps, Empire 51s, pens with small aluminum "jewels" at the bases of their clips, and the pre-production models tested in Venezuela, Columbia, Spain, and other climates with high humidity to test the tolerances of the ink.

Other notable Parker pens from the post-war era include the Parkette, a low-priced, lever-filler model from the early 1950s that looked like a 51 but was marketed to students; the Parker Jotter, which was Parker’s 1954 entry into the ballpoint pen wars (the 51 Jotter resembled the famous Parker 51); the self-wicking (but, at $20, expensive for its time) Parker 61 from 1956; and the Parker 75 of 1964, whose silver, engraved, grid-pattern body was an instant classic.

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Recent News: Parker Pens

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The Cold War and its aftermath
Devex, July 23rd

An active Republican, Parker was the CEO of the Parker Pen Co., founded by his grandfather in 1888. A successful businessman and a former marine lieutenant, there was nothing in his resume to suggest that he had ever given much thought to international ...Read more

Lots to see and do at estate's annual festival
Nuneaton News, July 22nd

RECOGNITION... former councillor Sid Tooth receives a Parker pen for 30 years loyal service to the area at last year's event. CANINE CAPERS... a dog show forms part of last year's event in Stubbs' Park. BARGAINS GALORE... some of the tombola stalls...Read more

Bernice M. (Asplund) Sockness, Rockton, IL/Janesville, WI (1929-2014)
Janesville Gazette, July 16th

During World War II, she worked at Shurtleff's Dairy, packing ice cream cartons, and was a "Rosie the Riveter" at Parker Pen Co., making fuses for bombs. She married a U.S. Army vet., Harland L. Sockness, on Aug. 4, 1950, at St. Paul's Evangelical...Read more

And then there were none, July 15th

Jason Leonard called time on his record-breaking career with a Parker Pen Challenge Cup final win at Harlequins and he was joined in retirement by one third of Leicester's ABC club, Dorian West. The following year saw four retirements with Paul Grayson ...Read more

Rugby: Crusaders too good for Highlanders
Otago Daily Times, July 12th

A good night's work led to a good night's kip for the Crusaders. They got their four-try victory and with it, the near certainty that the Sharks, who played overnight, couldn't knock them out of second place. It was a nice place for the Crusaders and...Read more

Eleanor J. McCarthy, Janesville, WI (1924-2014)
Gazettextra, July 9th

Over the years, Eleanor worked at Parker Pen, the former Cunningham-Buehl Law Firm, Sintered Specialties and Rock County Council on Aging. Eleanor was a very loving, caring, calming and quiet lady. who was affectionately known as "Mother Teresa" to ...Read more

Margaret "Marg" Kettle, Janesville, WI (1920-2014)
Gazettextra, July 5th

She was employed as a secretary at Parker Pen for many years and as a legal secretary at the Geffs and Block Law Firm. She retired from Murphy, Rude and Forrestal Law Office. She loved all sports, and played 2nd base for the Lions Oil Girls Softball Team...Read more

Robert "Bob" L. Kuranz, Janesville, WI (1931-2014)
Janesville Gazette, June 25th

Bob spent 35 years at the Parker Pen Company as the chemist in charge of developing production ink formulas and controlling their application. After his retirement in 1993, and as a result of his experience with inks at Parker, he became a court...Read more