The Paul E. Wirt Fountain Pen
Company began manufacturing fountain pens in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania in the early 1880s. They may have been the largest producers of fountain pens during the next two decades. At that time, only L. E. Waterman Pen Company reached similar production levels.
Early Wirt pens were all eyedropper fill pens in black or red & black mottled hard rubber. These early pens were overfeed models - having the feed located on top of the nib. Later, when Wirt offered a traditional under feed pen, it was fairly unique in that it did not have a breather hole in the nib. It was vented through a hole in the feed. While some people have speculated that Wirt may have fell behind in the pen race because he was slow to offer self-filling pens, this information is simply not correct as Wirt was offering self-fillers as early as 1903.
Thankfully, not all Wirt pens
were to be plain black or mottled hard rubber. They also produced many pens with gold or gold-filled overlays, filigree pens, and pens covered with mother of pearl or abalone slabs. Among these higher-end pens is Wirt’s version of the "Snake" pen. Wirt also offered many unique filling systems and was one of the first companies to offer a pocket clip as an option.
Sears, Roebuck & Company were the leading retailer of Wirt Fountain Pens. For many years they purchased huge quantities of pens to sell in their catalogues. However, they did not, at any time, purchase Wirt’s entire production. In addition to Sears, Wirt sold many pens to smaller retailers and even sold single pens to individuals. Wirt had a several names he used on his pens - one of them being "Phenix". Some of these pens were labeled for use by other pen companies and some were labeled to be sold by chain stores or stationary stores. The Phenix pens were all black or mottled hard rubber.
Competition in the pen business became fierce after 1910. Other pen companies were cutting costs by purchasing ready-made parts from suppliers. However, Paul Wirt was still making all parts himself. This is when Wirt sales began to lag. Eventually he began buying many of the parts just to stay competitive.
Wirt eventually switched all production to lever fill pens, with his distinctive "W" on the lever.
By the 1920s, Paul Wirt was in his 70s and had probably lost interest in the declining company. It was at this time that he turned control of the company over to his son Karl. Karl Wirt died in 1921 & Paul sold the company in 1925.
The Wirt Company eventually switched production to plastic, but the depression really took a toll on pen companies and probably put an end to all production. The Paul E. Wirt Pen Co remained open for many years doing pen repair
work and probably many pens were assembled from leftover parts. Eventually the factory was closed and the remaining inventory was sold off.