Author Topic: Very early steel pen writing  (Read 70 times)

Offline AAAndrew

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Very early steel pen writing
« on: June 13, 2018, 04:20:05 PM »
I've been researching the origins of the steel pen industry in the US for a while now.

The earliest known maker of steel pens, as a business, in the US was Peregrine Williamson in Baltimore. In 1808 he sent a letter along with 2 examples of his pens to then President Thomas Jefferson.

I finally tracked down an image of that letter to see what his early steel pen writing looked like. The letter is fuzzy, but it's the only one I could find. I've contacted the Library of Congress to see if they have a better image I can access.

But even with the fuzziness, I thought some of you might find this interesting to see a letter written with a steel pen 14 years before Perry, Gillott or Mitchell made their first pen. 

Andrew

I love how at the bottom he deprecates his hand as that of "a mecanick"

Quote
Sir   
do me the pleasure to Except of two of my three Slit metalic pens in a Calander case which I have Sent you as a preasent and pledge of Respect, I have Contemplated Sending you one before but have been prevented from Considerations of its imperfection to which inventions generally are liable, but haveing been making them for nearly two years they have been considerably improved—So it is with some degree of boldness and asureance I have Sent you those for your inspection and approbation and Especily as many of the most Eminent and Celebrated penmen of this and other places, have pronounced them to be far Superior to any of the patent metalic pens that have ever been invented heretorfore either in Europe or America it being well known that all the metalic pens upon the former principle have been wanting in that flexibility and Elasticity which is So necesary in order to write with Smoothness and Rapidity which in this is happily effected by the two aditional Side Slits—there is no doubt but that you will at once percieve the intention of the principle—that it is to relieve it of that otherwise inevitable Stiffness to which it has always been fixt. you will also discover the utility if not the necesity of the Substance on the nib the pen being reduced to give it the necesary Elasticity and Spring is made too thin without that Substance which is to prevent its acting Severe upon the paper—I merely make those Remarks on the pen to answer the probable inquaries that might arise from the investigations of a Curious mind—You will receive the case with the two Steel pens and pencil both pens fiting in the Same place with directions for pen and Calander wrapt round the case and all inclosd with in a case—Directions to open the Silver case. first to get at the pens pull the plane part from the Calander and it opens in the centre then turning the end of that part directly into the place out of which the pen was taken in order to lengthen it Suficiently to write with—then if the pencil is wanted returne the pen into its place you will notice a Small Sckrew in the centre which in one position Serves to pull out the pen and when turned to the left it opens to the pencil—Sir Should fancy suggest any new idea for the improvement of the pen (as perhaps there is yet room) it will be chearefully Received and adopted.

By Sir Your Obedt Servt

P Williamson

Excuse the errers and hand of a Mecanick

« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 04:22:21 PM by AAAndrew »
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Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Very early steel pen writing
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 06:08:23 PM »
Very interesting. Do you know what size paper he was using in this letter? Is there an envelope also?

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: Very early steel pen writing
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2018, 10:13:14 AM »
The record on the LOC website doesn't say the size, nor does it include an envelope. Since this was sent with a package, it was most likely just included in the package itself. I'm going to contact the National Archives and see if it's possible to get the complete accession record as that should give more information.

It struck me as I thought about it last night, that as far as I know, this is the earliest document we can definitively say was written with a steel pen. Unless Dr. Priestly has a letter somewhere in which he comments that's he's using one of those newfangled steel pens his friend Harrison is making, then this may be it.

I find it interesting that he can most definitely get nice thin hairlines and some impressive swells for one of these early steel pens. His three-slit design must have worked to some degree.
Check out my steel pen history blog
https://thesteelpen.com/