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UK Parkers of the 1950s

14k "Newhaven" broad stub point on UK Parker Duofold Demi (c1955)

Beginning in the early 1950s, Parker revamped its entire US model lineup, creating new pens at various price points that all emulated the hot-selling 51 to a greater or lesser extent. The short-lived V.S. button-filler from around 1950 would be the only conventional-looking open-point pen that Parker would offer in this decade. Over in the U.K., apparently, customers were not entirely sold yet on the virtues of the hooded nib, and this led to a line of more traditional-looking pens of singular quality and writing performance sold under the venerable Duofold name (and variations thereon). These pens carried on the traditional "open" point to pens made from the latest materials and using the latest technologies.

Parker Duofold (UK), brown, button filler c 1952

Let's first jump back a couple of decades: Parker began actively exporting empire-made (Canadian) pens to the UK in the 1920s; In 1935, the Parker UK sales office arranged for the Copenhagen firm Olsen (which had had an association with Parker dating back to 1903) to manufacture pens for UK and continental sale (this relationship seems to have ended badly in the 1950s when Parker discovered that Olsen had also quietly set up a similar agreement with Parker's competitor Esterbrook). In 1940, Parker began to buy in to the English firm (in Newhaven) that made Valentine and Whytworth pens, and thereby acquired production facilities within the UK proper. Most of the Parkers made in Newhaven during the early 1940s were of the older Streamline Duofold design that Parker USA had already dropped a few years before. Many of these pens featured celluoid patterns found in other English pens of the day, such as the cross-hatch patterns well known to Conway Stewart fans. Production of the more complicated Vacumatic-type pens was apparently left to Olsen in Denmark.

Pen packaging was a lot more utilitarian back in the old days, as shown by the light card-stock box and wax-paper envelope for this UK-made Duofold Demi.

Parker may have dropped its popular Duofold nameplate in the U.S., but it was still a blue chip in the UK market. And so, when the first all-new UK-exclusive model appeared just after the end of the second world war, it was called the NS ("New Style") Duofold. These looked roughly like solid-color Vacumatics, but were button-fillers. These were supplanted in 1948 by the "AF" (Aluminium Filler) Duofold, which had an improved button filler design.

This Parker Duofold Demi (c 1955) used the simple and reliable Aerometric filler that Parker had introduced a few years before on the model 51.

In 1953 came an all-new Duofold, with an open point and 51-Demi-style aerometric filler (the venerable button-filler was now finally abandoned); the new model came in unsually rich-looking solid black, red, blue, and green colors in synthetic plastic, with luxurious gold-filled arrow clips, screw-on caps, and engraved cap bands. These were offered in Duofold (standard-size) and Demi Duofold (small size) models; these were joined in 1958 by the big Maxima Duofold, the smaller Junior Duofold and the short, slender Slimfold.

Parker Duofold Maxima (UK), c1957

I've focused here only on the English Duofolds, but Parker's UK division made a wide variety of unusual models during the 1950s-70s, many of these exclusive to the UK (they also made their fair share of 51s, 61s, and other standard Parker models). In fact, the UK operation became so good a turning out fine fountain pens that when Parker was forced to retrench and consolidate its various international model lines in the 1980s, this had the effect of moving much of the fine-pen production from the US to the UK, culminating in the issue of the UK-made Duofold Centennial in 1988. Now that Parker pen production in the USA has been shut down altogether, all of the Parker fountain pens now come either from the UK (as with the Duofold, the 105, and other models) or from France (whence come the Sonnets, successors to the famous Parker 75).

The Verdict

These Newhaven pens aren't well known to US collectors (except for die-hard Parker maniacs); this works out in your favor when you're shopping around on e-bay or other venues where you can often buy them direct from the UK or its commonwealth members for some pretty good prices.

The Newhaven points on these pens are exceptionally smooth and well-made, and the simple, durable aerometric filler is a big plus. I find the solid colors to be very attractive (I'm particularly partial to the burgundy), and the gold-filled trim is of high quality and harmonizes well with the rest of the pen.

Maker Parker
Origin UK
Production 1948-1965c
Type Button and aerometric fillers
Point 14k gold
Construction Solid color plastics, gold fill trim