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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Bioreactive food expiry label wins UK James Dyson AwardWired.co.uk, September 18th
It was chosen from a pool of UK applicants by industrial designer Sir Kenneth Grange (the man behind the Parker pen, the Kenwood mixer and the London black cab), BBC business journalist Steph McGovern and 2013 award winner Sam Etherington, who ...Read more
Steve Knox: Could SHINE be the next Parker Pen for Janesville?Janesville Gazette, September 15th
Thousands of companies and organizations have called Janesville home over the last 100+ years. Start-ups became businesses and a few of those businesses left a lasting mark on the city as well as the world. The one world-class company that will always ...Read more
Robert "Bob" Collins, Janesville, WI (1923-2014)Gazettextra, September 14th
Bob joined the Parker Pen legal team in 1957. He was elected Secretary of Parker Pen in 1977, and added the titles of General Counsel and Vice President in 1981. He retired in 1986, and then partnered with his son, Dan, until 2000. He was a founder of ...Read more
Neighbor to Neighbor: At 97, 'No-Hit Johnny' still holds state recordshngnews.com, September 3rd
Since they were in charge of John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign in Southern Wisconsin, Johnny and Lyn hosted a dinner party for the candidate and his wife at the Parker Pen building. “The Kennedys stopped outside our house for a few minutes, ...Read more
Thomas Mack, Fort Atkinson, WI/formerly Janesville, WI (1945-2014)Gazettextra, August 28th
After college, Tom worked for Parker Pen in Janesville, in their accounting and finance department. On Jan 16, 1978, he was hired by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co. in Fort Atkinson, and spent most of his career as the company's Controller. Tom was also involved...Read more
Absence of Parker's Pen is noticedNapa Valley Register, August 27th
There's been a void in the Register for some time. For those of us who hate to see the continual loss of familiar and well-loved parts of our lives as we age, this one should not be ignored. Everett "Ace" Parker's column hasn't appeared in some time...Read more
Young entrepreneur turns a profitBlair Enterprise Publishing, August 27th
Using a lathe in the basement of his rural home, Sam shapes deer antlers, corncobs, and even spent rifle shells, along with pieces of native walnut and elm, to fit Parker pen assembly kits. “My grandpa Harold Grandia of Johnston got me started making...Read more
Rosella "Rose" Mae Weis Anderson, Beloit, WI (1929-2014)Janesville Gazette, August 19th
She was formerly employed at Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, Beloit Corporation and Colt Industries. Survivors include her husband, Maynard Anderson; children: Gregory (Sharon) Anderson, Paul (Patty Beth) Anderson, and Rose Marie (Jerry) Pulaski; ...Read more