Manos "Self-Filling" Fountain Pen
We wouldn't call the Manos a rare pen, but truth is you don't see them very often. Made in Austria after the turn of the century, these hard rubber pens sported a unique curved feed and a piston filler mechanism.
To fill the pen, you turned the screw top all the way to the left till it stopped. Then, you dipped the nib in ink and turned the screw top to the right, drawing ink in. However, the ink did not naturally flow continuously as would be expected. You would simply write for a bit and when more ink was needed, you twisted the screw top a half turn or so to the left again to re-ink the nib. When finished writing, a couple turns to the right would draw any remaining ink on the nib back into the reservoir.
The guts of the pen are quite complicated, moreso than you would guess from outward appearances. A photo on fountainpennetwork.com shows the insides of one laid bare. The Manos could possibly be one of the earliest examples of a disposable fountain pen, in that it was virtually impossible for the average consumer to service it, if needed. When first assembled, the piston filler mechanism was inserted into the barrel, held in place on the section end with a cork sleeve. Once the mechanism was seated, the other end of the barrel was then heat-crimped to seal everything in place, as seen in the above photo. The pen would almost have to be destroyed to reopen it.
Some Manos pens, particularly the BCHR examples, have the Manos imprint on the barrel, but this one has it on the cap, in what is actually a pretty unusual location.
Manos pens were also sold under various trade names, such as Victoria, and Standard, and were still being sold at least until 1924.
Most pen collectors are familiar with Frank Spors & Co., and the wonderful glass-nib pens they imported from Japan. What you might not know is that Spors wholesaled many other items besides pens, everything from broadcloth shirts to the "Wonder Mitten Duster." The collection of correspondence and catalog pages shown here provide a wonderful peek behind the scenes of the company.
Frank Spors never missed an opportunity to be selling. He had special four-page stationery printed that gave him a blank page with a letterhead for correspondence, with the other three pages being a 'mini-catalog' showing an assortment of the goods they offered for sale.
Shown here is a letter from Frank Spors, signed personally, dated June 9, 1928, to the Lamson & Goodnow Mfg. Co. of Shelbourne Falls, MA, inquiring about whether they would be able to provide a stainless steel kitchen knife in bulk at a very low price. As you'll see below, they were not.
What's interesting about this letter is that Mr. Spors chose to send along a complete financial statement for the company, dated January 5, 1928, allowing us an amazing and rare glimpse into the private business financials of the company, and Mr. Spors personally.
The company had assets of $66,000, most of which was inventory, of course. Liabilities totaled $26,000, consisting of outstanding loans and the accounts payable on the warehoused merchandise, which left the net worth of the business at around $40,000. Personally, Mr. Spors owned real estate and his home, with equity valued at approximately $15,000.
The most interesting part, though, is that he then details the phenomenal growth of the company over the last four years. Gross sales in 1924 were around $48,000, which increased to $76,000 in 1925. In the next year sales doubled again, totaling $160,000 for 1926, and finally topping out at $204,000 in 1927.
Below is a small gallery of the inside pages of the catalog mentioned previously, and then another small gallery of additional correspondence between Spors & Co. and the Lamson & Goodnow Mfg. Co. Lastly, a photo of Mr. Spors himself along with his employees, taken around 1921, courtesy of Collectors Weekly.
Arkansas Pen Club member EuGene Smith recently came across this fascinating Boston Safety Fountain Pen 53s and shared it with us at our September meeting. That protruding metal piece is why they're called "hump fillers." The hump on this one appeared to slide back and forth to unlatch the mechanism and allow it to be depressed, compressing the sac inside.
The mechanism on this one was a little stiff, and as EuGene had just purchased it, we decided not to push our luck and didn't try to force it. We found a post on a web forum that said Boston used two digit codes on their pens, the first digit being the type of filling mechanism, in this case the '5', and the second digit being the size of the pen/nib combination, in this case a 3. The 'S' at the end referred to the fact that this pen came with a slightly smaller nib than typical. So, this 53s would mean a 5-type hump filler, a 3-size pen, with the s indicating the nib was a 2 rather than the normal 3.
As you can see in this close-up, the Boston Safety Fountain Pen imprint actually runs beneath the metal band of the filler. EuGene speculated that Boston took ready made barrels destined for other pens, which had already been stamped with the imprint, and modified them for this line. Makes sense to us!
This close-up shows the four leaf clover pen clip, which we are almost certain is not original. We have seen this same add-on clip on other brands of pens, particularly a Manos we came across recently.
Thanks again, EuGene, for sharing this wonderful pen!