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A History of Pelikan Pen & Ink Company

A History of Pelikan Pen & Ink Company

Ross Adams |

19th Century

1838: In 1832, chemist Carl Hornemann founded his own ink factory in Hanover, Germany. At Pelikan, though, they tend to consider the 28th April 1838 as the company's founding date, as it was the date on the very first price list. All company anniversaries are therefore based on this date.

1842: On the 15th of June, Hornemann purchased some property in the Hainholz area of Hanover. The idea was to start production on a larger scale after previously having to cook and press the ink in a farmyard 30 km away from Hanover.

1863: Günther Wagner obtained the position of chemist and plant manager. He took over the company in 1871 and registered his family emblem, which showed a Pelican, as the company's logo in 1878. It was one of the first German trademarks ever. In order be able to deliver to Austria, which at the time controlled parts of northern Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia, a factory was built in Eger in Northern Hungary but that factory later moved to Vienna.

1881: The Hanover production halls were enlarged. The company employed an additional 39 people and a chap called Fritz Beindorff, who would have more prominence later on. It was his job to visit customers in Austria, Russia and Italy.

1888: Fritz Beindorff married Günther Wagner's oldest daughter in 1888 and took over the company.

1895: Office products for copying, stamping, sticking and erasing were added to the assortment of the time. Due to the vast additions to the assortment, the production halls underwent large expansion.

1896: Pelikan started to produce Indian ink. The foreign companies that were at that stage dominating this market segment could not compete with the quality of the new Pelikan ink.

20th Century

1901: This year saw the birth of Pelikan's famous ink series 4001 - still made today. In the previous year, the company's 236 strong workforce achieved an amazing turnover of 1m Deutschemarks, this was difficult to convert due to DM being a defunct currency and two world wars effecting values over time, but it is would appear to be over £5m in today's money.

1904: 1904 saw the introduction of "Pelikanol" - a white adhesive paste. Up to the 1960's this product was a revolution in sticking paper.

1906: The company purchased property on the Podbielskistrasse in Hanover as their previous facilities could not be expanded further, the new site provided 140,000ft2 of office and production space for the growing company. This was a most modern of buildings at the time but is now listed to ensure its conservation as a notable and historic building in the City of Hanover. The turnover had doubled to 2m Deutschemarks or £10m in today's money.

1912: The art magazine 'Der Pelikan' was published for the first time in 1912. In this magazine, the opinions and ideas of well-known artists and teachers from Germany and abroad were revealed and it showcased art lessons, techniques and materials. The magazine was published for 59 years, up to 1971.

1913: This year was the company's 75th anniversary. The factory's size was doubled, and 1057 people were employed. The turnover had increased to 4.4m Deutschemarks.

1929: This was the year in which the Pelikan fountain pen was born. It was well known for its trademark Green barrel, technically innovative ink flow and transparent ink window. The differential piston mechanism was a true revolution of its time.

1931: Pelikan released its first water colour paint box under the description 735 D/12. It was the first time that opaque watercolours became available to school pupils. It replaced the then popular transparent watercolours. The paint box was first Yellow on the outside with a coloured stripe and White on the inside. It was Pelikan's watercolour paint box that has accompanied most German pupils through their school days.

1934: A cheaper version of the Pelikan fountain pen, now known as "model 100", was released under the product description "Rappen" - in today's money, it cost around £30. A mechanical pencil was also released carrying the Pelikan brand name. In addition, this year saw the first release of PLAKA - the hobby/decoration paint that has remained popular even until now.

1938: The 100 year anniversary catalogue was designed by professor O.H.W. Hadank, the same man who redesigned the Pelikan logo to the shape that it would remain for the next 60 years. 3700 employees celebrated in Pelikan factories in Hanover, Vienna, Danzig, Milan, Barcelona, Bucharest, Sofia, Warsaw, Budapest, Zagreb, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and in many of the delivery facilities abroad. This was also the year that the Pelikan 100N fountain pen was released.

1950: The post war trauma came to an end. The big German industrial boom started. At this time Pelikan released the fountain pen model 400. It is easily recognised due to its Black and Green striped barrel. This model was to become the most popular fountain pen in its price range.

1960: The Pelikan school fountain pen the "Pelikano" was introduced into the marketplace. This pen was developed with the assistance of handwriting educators and expertise fountain pen constructors. The advantages of its ink cartridge filling system and ergonomic form were so popular, that in months it became the most popular school fountain pen - always finding recommendation from teachers.

1972: Pelikan produced its first ink eradicator under the name "Tintentiger". It was praised because it was an easy and clean method of erasing Royal Blue ink. In 1974 the name was changed to "Pelikan Tintenblitz" and in 1977 it became "Super-Pirat". It is the most sold ink eradicator in Germany.

1973: It reached the stage where the Podbielskistrasse facilities in Hanover could no longer be expanded. The writing instrument production was moved to Peine/Voehrum which is approximately 30 km to the east of Hanover. Up until today, Pelikan pens, painting and office Products are still produced there.

1978: The companies legal form is changed from a GmbH (Ltd Co.) into a AG (PLC). The shares were divided within the Beindorff family and 46 other owners. The company's balance sheet added up to nearly DM610m. (£550m in today's money) The company's assortment was extended adding a wide range of Hobby and Game Products. There were also subsidiary companies producing office printers, projectors, data carriers, technical drawing aids and cosmetic products.

1982: The excessive expansion of the assortment and a take over of the Photocopier Company Lumoprint in Hamburg finally resulted in insolvency. A reverse split of the shares in a ratio of 10:1 took place and Pelikan was taken over by Condorpart (Switzerland) in 1984. The company based mainly in Hanover was separated into various sub-companies and parts were sold. Operations were from then onwards run by Pelikan International (later Pelikan Holding) in Switzerland. The Pelikan Holding AG - Zug/Switzerland started trading on the Swiss stock exchange in 1986.

1993: In Autumn 1993 Pelikan's first Limited Edition (Based on the 800 series) is released under the name "Blue Ocean". It was made in a Blue transparent colouring. A total of 5000 fountain pens were produced - 1000 were sold in a set with an additional ballpoint pen.

1996: GOODACE SDN BHD, a company owned by Hooi Keat Loo from Malaysia, took over the majority of Pelikan Holding shares. Two years later the XVI Commonwealth games took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To mark the occasion, the Pelikan Limited Edition Kuala Lumpur was released.

21st Century

2000: Being one of the largest suppliers for retailers and superstores in Germany, Pelikan in this year resumed the distribution of products from Pelikan Hardcopy. In doing so, Pelikan yet again began selling products representing all individual areas of its core competence.

2003: On the 17th of March the company moved to its new office building on the Werftstrasse in Hanover. At around the same time, 125 years after its initial registration - the design of the Pelikan Logo was modified and simplified, but still recognisable as that of Pelikan.

2008: The innovative learn-to-write system Griffix is being introduced. It is the first holistic product concept to consistently accompany the process of learning to write from the very beginning. Apart from the "red dot design award" Pelikan received the desirable ISPA award for the Griffix product row at the Paperworld in Frankfurt.

Pelikan Pens History

The story behind the Pelikan trademarked logo

Almost two decades before the introduction of German trademark laws in 1894, the GÜNTHER WAGNER company applied for its first trademark at Hanover county court.

The trademark was registered on 26th June 1895. The application date is registered on the entry document. Both are now patented in 150 countries world-wide. Since the first registration in 1895, the original form and style of the trademark have been adjusted and modified to suite the trends of the time.

The story behind the Pelikan trademarked logo