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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Travel: CalendarMadison.com, December 21st
The Rock County Historical Society celebrates Janesville's longtime Parker Pen Co., with an updated exhibit titled “Making Their Mark: 125 Years of Parker Pen.” The exhibit — at Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St. — includes items previously on display...Read more
Pen pals of over 50 years and many miles reuniteThousand Oaks Acorn, December 17th
Pallitto was inside the Parker Pen Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City when she received the name and address of a stranger a world away as part of a promotion for the U.S. pen manufacturer. She doesn't remember what she wrote in the...Read more
Alfreda L. Johnston, Janesville, WI (1937-2014)Gazettextra, December 16th
Alfreda L. Johnston, age 77, of Janesville, died Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, at home. She was born on June 6, 1937, in Utica, WI, the daughter of Alfred and Mae (Guist) Hiller. Alfreda had been employed by Parker Pen, J. M. Bostwick Store, and had...Read more
The Artist: A retrospective celebrates the genius of Ruth Prawer JhabvalaThe Indian Express, December 16th
She was a disciplined lady, who wrote daily between 10 am and 1 pm, and always used a Parker pen to write the first draft. She wrote the final draft on her typewriter. A set of movie posters on display show the work done by Merchant Ivory Productions...Read more
From Quill To Stylus, The Evolution Of The PenHuffington Post UK, December 10th
However, the Parker Pen Company attempts to sum it up, explaining that: “A good pen is a mark of quality and style – unrivalled aesthetics, technical innovation and the care of advanced and skilled craftsmanship are all key factors when qualifying the...Read more
Dorothy Ann Murray, Janesville, WI (1922-2014)Janesville Gazette, December 9th
Dorothy was a Janesville resident, all her life and was employed at the Parker Pen Company. She was a member of St. John Vianney Catholic Church. Dorothy is survived by a nephew, Richard (Cheryl) Murray of Middleton, WI; and a niece, Patricia (Joseph) ...Read more
The return of an icon: Parker unveils new Duofold pens to celebrate its 125th ...CITY A.M., December 4th
Parker has delved into its history to celebrate its 125th anniversary – and the classic Duofold is better than ever. Who among us hasn't received the gift of a Parker pen? From our earliest academic achievements to milestone birthdays and, of course, ...Read more
Steve Knox: Could SHINE be the next Parker Pen for Janesville?Janesville Gazette, September 15th
The one world-class company that will always have a large place in my heart is Parker Pen. Granted, I wasn't alive during the 'good old days' of Parker but ever since I was little I had a fascination with the product and the company. Maybe it was the...Read more