The Mechanics of Promotional Pens – The History and Function of Fountain Pens

The Mechanics of Promotional Pens – The History and Function of Fountain Pens

In today’s computer age of e-mail and text messaging, the art of handwriting appears to be going out of style. Yet, it wasn’t long ago that the fountain pen was “standard issue” for school children to learn proper penmanship. In spite of the emergence of the ballpoint and numerous other technological advances, these promotional pens have remained the premier choice for personalised gifts for several decades.

Promotional fountain pens are part of a collective group of nib pens that are among the oldest writing instruments in history. The grandfather of printed nib pens was the reed pen, dating back to the days of the Ancient Egyptians in the 4th Century B.C. The hollow nature of reeds and bamboo made these plants ideal for holding ink and the nib was not unlike that of modern promotional calligraphy pens. The quill pen, however, was the most popular of the nib pens and was universally used for over 1,000 years. First introduced around 700 A.D., quill pens were made from the feathers of any number of birds including goose, swan, crow, eagle, and turkey. What these early nib pens lacked, though, was the ability to efficiently hold a reservoir of ink.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and this indeed proved true for Lewis Waterman in 1884. Although the first “self-filling” fountain pen was patented in 1831, early fountain pen models had been plagued with failures since their inception. Refilling fountain pens was tedious and they were prone to leakage, a problem that Waterman, an insurance salesman, experienced first-hand when a leaky fountain pen destroyed a valuable sales contract. Waterman set out to improve these pen models by adding grooves to the internal feed mechanism and a “breather hole” in the nib. His determination paid off and his modifications set the stage for years of fountain pen dominance.

The technology of modern promotional fountain pens has remained relatively unchanged from Waterman’s model. Today’s fountain pen nibs are typically crafted from stainless steel or gold, the latter being the optimum choice due to its flexibility and resistance to corrosion. Most nibs have a single slit down the centre to draw the ink down via capillary action and a breather hole to prevent the slit from cracking under pressure. (A few nibs, such as some for calligraphic purposes, contain more than one slit to increase ink flow, resulting in a broader line.) Nibs are available in a variety of sizes and points including round, italic, and oblique.

Ease of use of these promotional executive pens has also greatly improved over the years. Replaceable ink cartridges and superior pen design have greatly reduced the risk of leakage. Nevertheless, such convenient and mess-free methods have not replaced the traditional filling systems which are still available and widely used.

Throughout the years, these promotional pens have become collectors’ items valued for their timeless elegance and sentimentality. They make the perfect personalised gift that is both functional and chic.