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Friday, March 14, 2008

Sheaffer pens were one of the "Big Four" American pen manufacturers of the classic era, and is probably the only one that today survives close to its original configuration. Although Sheaffer's ownership changed (it is currently owned by French based Bic Pen Company), they continue to design and manufacture the majority of their pens.

It should be noted though that why Sheaffer is the original spelling, many people write it as 'Shaeffer' or even 'Schaeffer'.

The Sheaffer story begins in 1907, when Sheaffer began work on his own unique fountain pen design. The invention of the lever filling fountain pen in Fort Madison (Iowa) gave a kick-start to a newly born penmaker. The fountain pens of the day were cumbersome and messy to change refill inks, requiring an eyedropper and a steady hand. Sheaffer's disliking of the inconvenience made him seek a refilling method that would be as simple and clean as possible.

The result, the first practical lever filling fountain pen, earned Walter Sheaffer a U.S. patent in August of 1908. By the next year, he had his first patent. A single stroke of a slim metal lever filled the pen reservoir directly from the ink bottle. Local reception was so enthusiastic that Sheaffer decided to risk his life savings to establish the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company in 1912.

Early fountain pens were rather expensive, and were regarded as not always perfectly reliable. Sheaffer designed a fountain pen that carried a nearly unconditional lifetime guarantee. The "Lifetime" pen, as it was called, was launched in about 1920 for prices starting at $8.75 - twice of what Sheaffer charged for comparable non-Lifetime models

The Sheaffer lever fill system would go on to become the standard of the industry in the U.S. and abroad for several years after the Sheaffer company itself gave them up in the 1940s. However, despite the firm's vigorous legal defense of its patents, the lever filler soon spread to most of the rest of the industry. and the company's offerings were no longer unique. It was time for more innovation.

Sheaffer developed its own aniline based "writing fluid," which was marketed as "Skrip, the successor to ink." It could be that Sheaffer wanted to banish the bad reputation of early acidic ink formulations (which were never intended for use in fountain pens), or it could be that they just tested a new marketing strategy, but in any case they took great troubles for many years to avoid using the term "ink" in connection with Skrip writing fluid.

Quick facts about Sheaffer Pens:

  • The shimmer of Sheaffer's unique inlaid nib is created by a special blend of material ranging from alloys to pure gold.
  • One of the foremost technologies Sheaffer pioneered in the 1920's was a way to make pen caps and barrels of plastic.
  • Sheaffer began with just seven employees in 1912, crowded into the small back room of a jewelry store in Fort Madison, Iowa, USA. Sheaffer was incorporated in 1913.
  • The United Nations Charter was signed with a Sheaffer pen on June 26, 1945.
  • The first Sheaffer ballpoint pen was manufactured and sold in 1946.
  • In November 1951, the 50 millionth Sheaffer pen came off the assembly line.
  • W.A. Sheaffer was 45 years of age when he risked his life-savings to start the Company that would grow into a world-renowned brand name.
  • On December 18, 2001 Sheaffer employees opened a 50-year old time capsule sealed in the lobby wall in the Fort Madison, Iowa facility. Among other predictions, nearly 70% of the employees of a half-century ago thought a cure for the common cold might be found by 2001!
  • Walter Sheaffer was 45 years of age when he risked his life-savings to start the Company that would develop into a world-known brand name.
  • There were already 58 other established pen companies when Sheaffer made history with his patented, high quality, self-filling fountain pen - which revolutionized the writing world.