The L.E. Waterman Fountain Pen Company was established in the 1880s, and was the 800-pound gorilla in the fountain pen world throughout the rest of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th century.  Waterman, the inventor of the first practical feed for fountain pens, agressively protected its patent rights through intimidation and litigation across the country.  They didn't think they had built a better mouse trap -- they thought they had the best and what should be the only one.

Don't get me wrong -- Waterman created some of the most beautiful and desirable fountain pens ever made.  But this is a site dedicated to the mechanical pencil, and from a pencil perspective, Waterman looks much different as a manufacturer.  The corporate arrogance that was Waterman concerning its fountain pens significantly retarded their development of mechanical pencils. 

As Wahl Eversharp began its meteoric rise in 1917, due in large part to its introduction of an all metal pencil and later pens to match, literally hundreds of manufacturers started producing copies of the Eversharp to go with their pens, or inventing their own.  In fact, every major manufacturer did so -- except for Waterman.  After all, they must have assumed, who needs a pencil when you can have a Waterman pen, right?  An excerpt from Godfrey Dewey's "Personal Shorthand," from 1922, suggests that while your friendly Waterman dealer can supply you with a gold pen, if you try to learn to write using a pencil first, you may never be able to use a pen.

There are no pencils in Waterman catalogs at all until 1919, when the company reluctantly introduced pen and pencil sets for three of its 452 1/2 pens (the plain sterling, "Sheraton Sterling" and "Pansy Panel").  These pencils were all metal pencils made by Aikin Lambert Company and were not a Waterman design.

It appears that the first Waterman pencils were made around 1923, when the company introduced its "ripple" line of pens, long after Parker, Sheaffer and Eversharp were in the game  And so it is there, from a pencil perspective, that our story begins....  

(click on pictures to enlarge)


1.  Early Watermans from the 1920s.

Unlike other manufacturers, Waterman's first pencils were made of hard rubber rather than metal.  And while the company had been toting the tenchology that went into its fountain pens for years, the only advertisement I could find concerning the new Waterman pencils bragged only about how few parts they were made from!

They truly were a pencil Fred Flintstone would appreciate: a threaded tube, a nose cone, a rod mounted on a threaded block inside, and a cap.  That's it.

Most were either black or were manufactured in the red and black "ripple" pattern.  A few were made in different colored ripples, the pink and yellow one seventh from left being one (there were also brown, blue and olive ripples). 

I believe those with the plain cone are the earlier ones, and the ones with the metal tip came later.  Can anyone confirm that?


1a.  Early Waterman metal overlay pencils.

The highest end Waterman pencils from the early to mid 1920s were metal overlay examples such as these. 

Other than whatever precious metal or pattern encased them, all these early pencils were the same inside.


2.  Waterman "Persian," late 1920s.

These deserve their own picture because of the unbelievable colors in which they were made, and the important evolutionary step they represent for Waterman.  These were introduced at the end of the "ripple" period, when Waterman was finally getting the point that compared to other manufacturers, their hard rubber products looked, well, boring. 

Note the early riveted clips.  They came in both the short tip (ripple-style) and the later style, longer tip seen on later Patricians.

The smaller ones are encountered from time to time; however, the oversize ones at the bottom are extremely rare . imagine my surprise when 2 showed up at the 2011 Chicago show!. 


3.  Waterman Patrician, 1929-1939

In 1929, Waterman finally (and probably too late) switched from hard rubber into beautiful celluloids with its "Patrician" line, considered by many collectors to be some of the finest pens ever made.

The pencils were also very nice and unlike the pens, didn't discolor.  The colors were, from left, nacre (pearl and black), onyx (cream and oxblood), turquoise, emerald (jade), and moss agate (green and bronze).  Although I know the pens were also in black, I have never seen a pencil to match.

Pencils without bands are referred to as "first year" models, although I'd like some confirmation that they were not made after 1929.  The moss agate color was not added to the lineup until 1932, which would tends to support that theory.  Has anyone seen a bandless moss agate?

 lady patricia

4.  Waterman Lady Patricia, 1930s.

Waterman quickly discovered, with the onset of the Great Depression, that times were not the best for a luxury flagship brand like the Patrician.  Therefore, the company introduced a lower priced model, called the "Lady Patricia," in many (but not all) the same colors.  Note the second from left, which looks a lot like the Persian model above.  There was also a sterling silver model.

The model on the right is actually a "Lady Patricia Ink-Vue," which was a companion to the company's new "Ink-Vue" line (see next picture).  Other than the clip, center band and color, it's identical to the Lady Patricia.  These came in the red shown (sunset) and "mist grey."  Those with gold-filled trim were called the "Lady Patricia De Luxe Ink-Vue."

 ink vue

5. Waterman Ink-Vue, Ink-Vue Deluxe and No. 7, 1935-1939.

The Waterman Ink-Vue pen was more of a Rube Goldberg-innovation than a real advance in technology.  It was just a more elaborate way of doing the same thing - sucking up ink with a bladder.

The pencils, were likewise nothing new, just overgrown Lady Patricias.  The colors were kind of neat, though:  from the top, silver ray copper ray and emerald ray.

The top two are Ink Vue pencils.  Next is the Ink Vue Deluxe, which has a three part band and a celluloid nose cone that matches the barrel.  Note the different clip and colored stepped cap, as well.

The No. 7, which was conventional lever fill pen produced at the same time as the Ink Vue, had pencils (bottom) that were very similar to the Ink-Vue Deluxe.   Note that the nose cone is black, as well as the stepped cap on the top, and it has a one-piece band.


5a.  Waterman Ink-Vue Demonstrator

You've got to laugh at this.  In the last frame, I mentioned what a technological innovation Waterman advertised in the Ink-Vue.  Apparently, the company felt the need to produce a demonstrator to show the inner workings of the companion pencil.

So what do they chose to show?  "Look, here is where we keep the extra lead."  Oooooh.  Aaaaah.


6. Other Waterman Models, mid- to late 1930s.

Thes came in a variety of styles and colors.  From the left are two that I haven't identified yet, two variations of the #32, and six examples of the #92V (which I believe was also called the "Ladies Thorobred").  The turqouise and bronze example on the right, with its wider band, is a real prize, as is the clipless green example to the left of it.


 others7.  Here's another group of mid- to late 1930s Watermans.  The first four are all #94s, I believe (they used two different styles of clips).  The next two are full size "Thorobred" pencils.  I can't identify the clip on the next one.  The last two are cap-actuated repeater pencils, unusual for the era, referred to as the "No. 511."

8.  Waterman Hundred Year Pen, 1939-1940s.

Waterman was again finding itself playing catch-up by 1939.  Sales of the Patrician line had been tapering off for some time, the Ink-Vue wasn't much of a competitor for the Parker Vacumatic, and the rest of Waterman's line was, as the last two frames indicate, chaotic and dated.

So in 1939, Waterman launched a new flagship, called The Hundred-Year pen.  Unfortunately, while the nibs were nice, they were standard lever fillers (strike one), made from a plastic that tended to disintegrate (strike two) and did I mention, tended to disintegrate (strke three).

The pencils, which were a reworking of the No. 511 (see previous picture), were unfortunately made from the same brittle plastic.  "First year" examples were ribbed.  Later, smooth barrels were introduced, then finally the company switched to a standard twist mechanism.

Be very careful with these.  Most of these 100-year pens barely made it past 50 because they are so fragile.

 1940s9.  Into the 1940s, Waterman did produce very attractive looking pencils.  Although I've heard the name "Commander" broadly applied to thosd sporting the clips on the example at far right, I'd appreciate hearing what the names were for these.

10.  Later Watermans all sporting metal caps.  Most are twist models, but note the fourth and fifth from the left are cap actuated clutch models. 

The next three are referred to as "Taperite" models. 

The last three examples, with the sweeping clips, are "C/F" pencils, companions to the C/F (Cartridge Fill) pens introduced by the company in 1953.   While plastic cartridge pens have since become the standard for all modern fountain pens, this innovation was not enough to keep the company in the United States.  The American operations of Waterman ceased operations around 1958, and in 1971, the company was revived by its French subsidiary.

 And so, since this site is about American mechanical pencils, our story ends here.....
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