Parker Duofold Senior "Big Red" (c. 1926)

In 1921, Parker introduced its defining product, the Duofold; originally in orange hard rubber (the famous "big red"), it would later be executed in "unbreakable" Permanite (Parker's trade name for celluloid) and offered in various colors and sizes. This big, distinctive pen became a big hit for Parker. At least once each decade ever since, a Duofold pen has been available somewhere in the Parker lineup, either in name (the "economy" Duofolds of the later 1930s, the English-made Duofolds of the 20s-60s, and the Duofold Centennials of the 1980s and 1990s) or in style (like the 1970s oversize "Big Red" novelty ballpoints)

All of the basic features of the Duofold had been seen before in previous Parker pens, including the basic shape, style, and colors. The button filler, concealed under the blind cap in back, is a very effective filling mechanism, which can fill up the pen completely from a single 2-3 mm push of the button.

The original Duofold had a 25-year guarantee, which wasn't quite as extravagant as Sheaffer's lifetime warranty offered the year before.


Dating Duofolds requires expertise in divining symbols and secret writings beyond my ken, but I am reliably informed that, judging by the type of cap band and the imprint, this pen is a Duofold Senior (a "big red") from from 1926, and appears to be one of the final hard rubber Duofolds.

There are at least three stories in circulation regarding the origin of the name "Duofold". One, that it was named for world traveler George Parker's favorite airplane, sounds pretty good (after all, Parker did use airplanes in the promotion of the new pen) but for the fact that there weren't any airplanes by that name. Another tale holds that it was named for its ability to be converted from a pocket pen to a desk pen simply by replacing the short blind cap with a longer taper (both were supplied in some Duofold gift sets, and Parker could also supply a "Pen Parker" that allowed the cap to be used as a desk stand). The theories most accepted by long-time collectors are (1) that the original Duofold, like the earlier Lucky Curve sac pens, could be converted to eyedropper fillers should the filling mechanism fail, and (2) the fairly rigid point could be used for "manifolding" or making carbon copies, with "Duofold" being another way to say "manifold".

Yet another possibility is vaguely suggested if you consider that "duofold" could be a literal translation of the Latin word "diploma", from which we also get the term "diplomat". Or, maybe it was named in honor of the steep price increase over previous and similar models.

This file last posted on:
2005-Jan-20 17:50:26 CST
MCMVIII, the red network