Waterman Fountain Pens are one of the most iconic writing instruments in history. Founded in 1884 by Lewis Edson Waterman, the company became a leader in the pen industry. They revolutionized the way people wrote and made fountain pens accessible to the masses.
The story of Waterman Fountain Pens began in 1883 when Lewis Waterman was an insurance broker in New York City. He was signing a contract with a client when his pen failed, ruining the document. This incident prompted Waterman to develop a more reliable fountain pen. He spent the next year experimenting with different designs.
In 1884, Waterman patented his first fountain pen. It had a feed system that prevented ink from leaking and ensured a consistent flow of ink to the nib. The pen was an instant success, and Waterman went on to patent many more improvements to the fountain pen. These included a screw cap to prevent the ink from drying out. There was also a lever mechanism to refill the pen.
Waterman’s pens became popular among writers, businesspeople, and artists. Their style, durability, and dependability echoes the Benrus Watch of the day. The company expanded rapidly, establishing a presence in Europe and other parts of the world. In 1901, Waterman introduced the Ideal Fountain Pen. It became one of the most popular pens of its time. The Ideal was known for its sleek design and smooth writing. It was favored by writers such as Mark Twain. Twain famously said that he “would rather be caught stealing than have to do without my Waterman.”
During World War I, Waterman provided pens to soldiers, and the company also produced commemorative pens to honor the war’s heroes. In the years that followed, Waterman continued to innovate and refine its pens. He introduced new materials such as celluloid and developing new nib designs.
Waterman has produced many different models of pens over the years. Some of the most famous and notable Waterman pen models include:
Waterman Ideal: This was the brand’s first successful pen model, introduced in 1904. It featured a unique ink feed system that ensured a smooth and consistent flow of ink.
Waterman 12: This model was introduced in 1899. It became one of the most popular fountain pens of the early 20th century. It was known for its compact size and reliable performance.
Waterman Taperite: Introduced in the 1940s, this model featured a tapered barrel and streamlined design. It was popular among soldiers and others who needed a reliable, portable writing instrument.
Waterman Phileas: This model was introduced in the 1990s and became popular for its affordability and high quality. It featured a modern design and was available in a range of colors and finishes.
Waterman Carene: This model was introduced in the 2000s and was known for its sleek, modern design. It featured a unique “suspended” nib that provided a smooth, effortless writing experience.
Despite the rise of ballpoint pens and other writing instruments in the mid-20th century, Waterman continued to produce high-quality fountain pens, catering to a niche market of writing enthusiasts and collectors.
Waterman vs. the Competition
In the early 20th century, Waterman pens competed with several other pen manufacturers, including Parker, Sheaffer, and Wahl-Eversharp.
Parker Pen Company was founded in 1888. It became known for its “Lucky Curve” fountain pen, which featured a curved ink reservoir that prevented leaks. Sheaffer Pen Company was founded in 1912 and was known for its innovative “White Dot” pen, which had a white dot on the clip to signify its high quality. Wahl-Eversharp was also founded in 1912 and was known for its “Doric” line of pens, which had distinctive Art Deco styling.
Avoiding the Mess
The Waterman Fountain Pen Company was one of the first manufacturers to address the problem of ink leakage and blotting in fountain pens. Waterman’s feed system, which was patented in 1884, used a series of grooves and channels to control the flow of ink from the ink reservoir to the nib. The feed system also included a mechanism that helped prevent ink from spilling or leaking, which was a major problem with early fountain pens. Waterman’s design proved to be highly effective, and the company’s pens gained a reputation for their reliability and performance.
However, while Waterman pens were much less prone to leaking and blotting than earlier fountain pens, they were not entirely immune to these problems. Depending on the specific model and usage, Waterman pens could still experience issues with ink leakage or blotting, especially if the pen was not maintained properly or used with a low-quality ink.
Most fountain pens of the early 20th century did not have a protective cap over the nib, as modern fountain pens typically do. Instead, users would have to be careful to avoid damaging the nib or getting ink on their clothes when carrying the pen around. However, some pens did feature a cap to protect the nib.
For example, Waterman produced pens with screw-on caps that covered the nib when not in use. Parker pens also had screw-on caps that protected the nib and helped to prevent ink from leaking. Sheaffer pens often had snap-on caps that covered the nib. Wahl-Eversharp pens had retractable nibs that could be protected by the pen’s body when not in use.
The Company Changing Hands
Here’s a brief overview:
Lewis Edson Waterman (1884-1901) – Founded the company and was its first owner. Waterman remained at the helm of the company until his death in 1901.
Waterman family (1901-1954) – After Lewis Waterman’s death, his sons took over the company and ran it until 1954.
The British Pens Company (1954-1960) – In 1954, the Waterman family sold the company to the British Pens Company, which continued to produce Waterman pens for the next six years.
Bic (1960-1987) – In 1960, the Waterman Fountain Pen Company was acquired by the Bic Company, which expanded the brand’s presence in the United States and around the world. During this time, Waterman introduced new designs and materials, including the popular C/F model.
Gillette (1987-2000) – In 1987, Bic sold the Waterman brand to the Gillette Company, which continued to produce high-end fountain pens under the Waterman name.
Newell Brands (2000-and Beyond) – In 2000, Gillette sold the Waterman Fountain Pen Company to Newell Brands, which also owns other major brands such as Sharpie, Paper Mate, and Parker. Today, Waterman pens are still produced under the ownership of Newell Brands, with a focus on luxury writing instruments and fine craftsmanship.
- Year Started: 1884
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Lewis Edson Waterman
- Owner While In Use: Many
- Owner Successor: Newell Brands
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Waterman Pens
- Naics Code: 339940
- Location Headquarters: New York, New York, USA