I ranted about Bic pens and that 57 of those little basters (a favorite word in Maine) have sold every second since the 1950s. Then I had to offer something in its place — ranting without a constructive solution is just pent-up nonsense. So, I suggested thinking about a fountain pen. Now I’ve been asked by several of you to talk about my favorite fountain pen. That’s easy.
First, my favorite writer, though not thinker, is Mark Twain. As a boy my mom and dad took me to Hannibal MO and I saw his place and went through the cave, and his The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been one of my favorite books. I don’t classify this book as fiction, but as boyhood mischief.
So, my second point. When I learned the history of fountain pens I came across the role Mark Twain played. Fountain pens have had a tough history: when you dipped your quill in ink life was easy; it was hard to get much of a flow for little more than a few lines and you had to re-dip. But, then Tom Jefferson and other clever fellas started thinking of ways to get more ink in quills, or their imitations, and the game was on.
Along came what is called an “eye dropper” fountain pen, which was little more than using an eye dropper filled with ink to squirt down into tube of some sort so the pen would have more ink. (Along the way, if you haven’t followed the history itself, the issue was always creating a vacuum and clogging the ability of a fountain pen to give off enough air so that ink could flow. Check those little ridges in your nib and you’ll see the result of someone quite clever.)
Then came pens with rubber “bladders” in the middle of the barrel that could be squeezed to draw ink into the barrel, and now we’ve got something that might hold the day. Well, they leaked and they didn’t always work that well so other solutions were sought.
I’m telling this story from memory, and may have some facts confused, but next came Mr. Conklin with the absolutely brilliant idea that one could form a “crescent shaped” ring in a barrel, that it could be squeezed easily and squeeze the whole bladder and draw in more ink. The issue was how to keep that crescent from squeezing when the person was writing, and the solution was yet another ring that could be shifted so as to permit squeezing or not permit squeezing.
All this to say, is that Conklin produced the Conklin Crescent Filler Fountain Pen and one thought the millennium was around the corner. Mark Twain fell in love with the Crescent filler, Conklin told the world about it, and Mark Twain and Conklin became joined at the hip — and that, my friends, is both enough of the story and tells you why it is that a Conklin Crescent Filler, of course a newer version but with dear Twain’s name on it, is my favorite fountain pen.
I’ll admit the thing is clunky and it doesn’t really sit on the desk very elegantly, but every time I touch mine, I say to myself, “Come Mark, sit on my shoulder and give me a good story to tell”. He hates my theology, and he stinks of cigars, but you have to put with such things to find a good story sometimes.
What is your favorite fountain pen? And we’ll have to keep those who believe in clogging up our rivers and dumpyard with cheap Bics from making obscene remarks. Just stories of fountain pens.