Waterman #42 Safety Pen (c. 1920)

The original fountain pens were simply tubes to be filled with an eyedropper and then sealed by screwing in the point and section. Given the manufacturing capabilities of the day, the usual slip on (rather than screw-on) caps, the behavior of hard rubber, normal wear and tear, and the propensity of ink to go places where it isn't wanted, these pens were prone to leakage. The safety pen, introduced by Waterman in 1907 (this example dates from around 1920, judging by the imprints and clip) provided an interim solution to this problem by storing the works inside the barrel and covering the end with a tightly fitted threaded cap.

The basic construction and distinctive appearance of the Waterman safeties was widely copied. In many countries, production of safety pens continued right up until World War II. As late as 1925, Waterman was still offering the safety pen, but still felt compelled to provide a careful explanation of its use:


"Every Safety Pen buyer should be carefully and accurately informed as to how to fill and use the Safety Pen. Lacking this knowledge, the buyer of a Safety may have trouble. The directions are simple: To fill, hold the pen in an upright position and screw off the cap. You will notice that the pen is sunk in the barrel. With a dropper fill the barrel to the top. Keeping the open end up, place the cap on the lower end of the barrel and turn to the right. This will cause the pen point to rise from the barrel and lock the pen section securely in place. Now wipe all ink from the end and the pen is ready to write."


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