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!
If you've ever wanted to play around with a vacuum filler without dropping a lot of cash, the Wing Sung 3013 may be just what you're looking for. New this summer, it's gotten mixed reviews, but we found it a fine pen for the money. And by money, we mean less than $10, or even less than $5 if you shop around on eBay a bit.
The pen has a really nice feel, heavier than any Wing Sung we've seen. We admit we're not a fan of the way the barrel tapers outward abruptly at the section end, and the pen doesn't post at all, but other than those two small quibbles, we're pretty impressed with it for a pen in this price range. There's a blue and green version available, we're told, under the Paili brand on Etsy.
We recommend a good cleaning before first use, to remove any oils left over from the manufacturing process. It disassembles easily, but be sure you have some silicon grease hand when reassembling after cleaning, as you'll want to put some on all four of those o-rings.
If you've never worked a vac filler, it's a really simple, really fun thing to see. First, you unscrew the tip of the plunger and extend it full length. Then, place the nib in your ink, being sure to submerge the breathing hole. Slowly depress the plunger, creating a vacuum in the empty barrel above the plunger. As it nears the section, it reaches a slightly wider portion of the barrel, causing the ink to flow up into the low pressure area of the barrel. Watch the video below to see it in action.
There are some nice stylistic touches as well. Shown here is the engraving on the cap ring, with the Wing Sung name 永生 on one side, and 3013 on the other.
All in all, a great pen, with a nice heft in the hand and a solid, well made feel to it. Of course, don't expect it to be comparable to a TWSBI Vac-700 or TWSBI Vac Mini, or you'll be disappointed, but at this price point, there's no reason not to give it a try.