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Waterman: A History

Lewis Edson Waterman |

Ross Adams |

A little look into the history of Waterman pens and how they have fought to remain one of the world's most known and loved brands.

Lewis Edson Waterman from New York, is credited as the inventor of the fountain pen design we know and use today.

It is reported that whist he was in the middle of an important deal, working as an insurance salesman, his pen leaked over the contract. By the time Waterman had new documents drawn up the client had gone elsewhere, in turn leading him to lose the deal. This set Waterman to turn inventor and in 1883, create and patent the multi-feed fountain pen we are familiar with today. It prevented too much ink being expelled once in use. This pen became known as 'The Regular', equipped with a gold nib and wooden accents. He was rewarded for his work in 1900 and the company received a Gold Medal of Excellence at the "Exposition Universelle" in Paris.

However it was after Lewis Waterman's death in 1901 that the company really became a global success. This was thanks to the founder's nephew, Frank D. Waterman, who took over the running of the company. Waterman pens became the world's largest producer of fountain pens and the market leader in the early part of the 20th century, selling 350,000 pens a year.

This time also saw them come to the forefront with new innovations. The pocket clip was introduced to the pens caps and 1908 saw a retractable (safety) pen released. In 1927 the company created a new pen model made of ebonite which competed against the Parker Duofold made of celluloid. Waterman's first celluloid pen came in the 'Patrician' model of 1929. Although these pens were an exciting introduction to the market because to their uniqueness, they didn't sell very well because of their high retail price and low production rate.

1939 saw the 'Hundred Year Pen' release, a pen with a 100 year guarantee. However this also didn't live up to expectation and sales were overshadowed by the release of the hugely popular Parker 51 in 1941. 

In 1954 the company saw a serious decline and the original American arm of Waterman went into liquidation. The company and their factories were sold to Bic in 1958 for the production of their ballpoint pens, which ironically is what contributed to the decline in Waterman's sales. Back in 1926 the JiF Waterman branch was created in France. It was Jules Fagard (JiF) who carried on the Waterman name, keeping the name, brand and production alive. It is thanks to this that we still have Waterman today.

Since then the company has been sold to Gillette in 1987 and in 2000 it was taken over by Newell Rubbermaid who also look after Parker pens.

Over it's long history Waterman have released some iconic models including the Hemisphere, Allure, Expert, Carene and Embleme.