It was just eight months ago that Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization to several pneumonia cases of unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China. To most of us, I’m sure it feels like much longer due to the global saga that has since ensued. We are now all too familiar with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Not since the H1N1 influenza outbreak of 1918 have we seen a pandemic with such far reaching ramifications for everyday life. Countries across the world have taken unique and unprecedented measures to try and stop the spread of the virus. These have varied in severity by location and have met with mixed degrees of success. Actions universally agreed upon to be effective have included social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene. Germany’s government and healthcare system were well positioned to tackle the challenges posed by the virus at the outset but that is not to say they have had it easy. With the fourth largest economy in the world and approximately 11% of its gross domestic product spent on health care, Germany ranks among the top five countries in the European Union for the number of nurses and physicians per 1,000 people. Germany recorded its first case of COVID-19 on January 27, 2020 in Bavaria. By February 27, the total number of cases had climbed to 26. Towards the end of February mass gatherings and travel were increasingly restricted. In mid-March schools started to close and by March 22, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the federal states and national government had jointly decided to implement a “contact ban.” This served to limit public gatherings to two people, required a physical distance of at least 5 feet, and closed many businesses. Today, Germany has reported approximately 224,000 cases and just over 9,000 deaths, a sad reminder of just how infectious and deadly this virus is. The necessary restrictions outlined above along with others have resulted in the pandemic taking a heavy toll on the operations of most businesses, Pelikan’s included. Read on to learn of the disruption that has been caused thus far and what it means for the company’s fine writing instruments division for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
The Pelikan’s Perch has long striven to be apolitical, preferring to focus on pens and not politics. While I am not without conviction, I have never felt it appropriate to espouse my personal views on this forum. While I will continue to refrain from doing so on a regular basis, I would like to make it a point to acknowledge the exceptional pain and anger that we see bubbling over in our communities. Silence is no longer a luxury that any of us can afford. Since the earliest days of our country, people of color have long had to deal with systemic racism, whether overt, insidious or structural, as well as brutality suffered at the hands of those in positions of power. I have seen firsthand what racism looks like from the vantage of my white privilege. I grew up with it every day of my life and yet I do not hate the way I was taught to hate. I long ago made the decision to not discriminate, to not judge, and to not hate solely based upon the color of one’s skin. Despite that, I have no doubt that I have been passively complicit in furthering racism within our culture. By choosing to not see color, we marginalize and invalidate the racist experiences that those of color encounter on a daily basis, thereby contributing to the problem. I am not a perfect human being, none amongst us are. We all make mistakes and will continue to do so. We need to learn from those mistakes, to recognize that we must do better, to strive for empathy, and to never settle for complacency within ourselves for as long as people continue to be discriminated against.
Today’s post will be brief and to the point because it has nothing to do with Pelikan and everything to do about me which is, admittedly, uncomfortable territory. Perhaps it’s the fear of rejection that has fed my reticence. I have never been one to promote myself or ask for anything beyond your continued readership. I have worked very hard over the past several years to bring you the latest Pelikan news, reviews of unique pens in the line-up, and in-depth, heavily researched original content. That last part has been perhaps the most satisfying for me personally. To date, I have done all of this at my own expense, both financially and with regards to my limited free time. I have always wanted to focus on the content and not allow for distraction. That is why you will never find an ad on my site nor will any of my content ever be placed behind a paywall. Also, to retain my impartiality and independence, I do not solicit nor accept sponsorships.
The Pelikan Hubs event is now over and, after a day of reflection, it’s time for my traditional recap. The most dramatic thing that struck me about the sixth annual Hub event is the sheer amount of growth that has occurred over the past six years. As I demonstrated in my post analyzing this year’s numbers, the annual registrations continue to grow at an astounding clip. The 2019 event saw Hubs take place in 200 cities spread across 46 countries with over 5,500 registered participants, a roughly 15% increase over 2018’s numbers. While those worldwide stats are indeed impressive, I can’t help but be awed by the growth of my local hub. At the very first Hub back in 2014, there were four of us sitting around a table in a small cafe passing around pens and sharing our experiences with various inks and papers. Five years later, the Philadelphia Hub is bursting at the seams and I’m sure similar stories can be seen the world over. The passion of this year’s batch of Hub masters was clearly on display, many going above and beyond to make their individual Hubs extra special. I commend those who have taken up the mantle because it is thanks in no small part to their efforts that this event has been able to continue to grow. In Philadelphia, Frank Limper of Federalist Pens and Paper helmed the Hub for the second year running, once again selecting The Victoria Freehouse Pub to play host. With tasty food and refreshing drink, the venue provided a cozy atmosphere though perhaps one our Hub has outgrown. The only major downside to the location this year was the lack of street parking due to an event happening at the waterfront.
The company that we know today as Pelikan is now 181 years old. In all of that time, it has cultivated a rich history full of unusual anecdotes and outstanding achievements. Just take a close look at any of their fine writing instruments and you will see a glimpse of bygone days. Perhaps not as well known are the guardians of that history. Those of us who have studied the company and their products are well aware of the select few who have been chosen to stand watch over precious artifacts from the days of yore. The modern world is so focused on consumption that it seems precious little is built to last, and the history of things can quickly be forgotten. In that setting, it is reassuring to know that there are still companies looking to preserve even a small piece of history, not because they have to but because they want to. It is with that backdrop in mind that I would like to introduce you to Pelikan’s archivists, past and present. Currently housed in the original location of Pelikan’s Hannover factory in what is known as the TintenTurm, the company’s archives contain a wide variety of artifacts. These include vintage inks, prototype pens, old displays, historic advertising, and more. We have recently passed a transition point where Pelikan’s long time archivist, Jürgen Dittmer, has officially retired and whose role is now being filled by Wilfried Leuthold. Who are these men and what is their charge? Read on to find out.
Barring any further unforeseen news breaking over the next few weeks, this will likely be my last post of the year as we gear up for the Christmas and New Years holidays. I thought that it would be useful to look back at what 2018 has brought us and maybe try to prognosticate a little of what 2019 might hold in store. Pelikan has already given us a peek into some of what lies ahead. There was a lot of buzz and excitement going into this year in particular. After all, it’s not every day that a company turns 180 years old. Over the past five to six years, Pelikan has really ramped up their annual number of new releases and this year was no exception with ten new birds joining the catalogue. While I was personally left somewhat underwhelmed, there were more than a few gems to be had amongst the lot. Of course the year wasn’t just about new pens. We were given Edelstein Olivine as the Ink of the Year and Garnet was resurrected to live on in the standard Edelstein line up. Many of us were also fortunate enough to be able to take part in Pelikan’s largest gathering of pen enthusiasts to date for their 2018 Hubs event. While we had a lot of good come out of 2018, we were all left a little cold when Pelikan increased the prices of their EF nibs across the globe. Read on for a recap of all of the year’s highs and lows as well as some thoughts on what’s to come.
Another Pelikan Hubs event has come and gone meaning that it’s time for a proper recap. September 21st was a big day for lovers of fine writing as it marked the fifth installment of Pelikan’s annual gathering. Word continues to spread about the fun and excitement of the evening as demonstrated by the ever-expanding number of registrations. This year saw gatherings take place in 181 cities spread across 46 countries with over 4500 registered participants, a roughly 30% increase over the year prior. Given the gravity of the occasion, Pelikan kindly provided me an opportunity to interview the Hubs team ahead of this year’s event, allowing us a fresh perspective and a small peak behind the curtain. Not all was smooth sailing this year, perhaps a reflection of some growing pains. There are reports of Pelikan’s gifts not being delivered to a few of the Hub locations in time for the event. Other Hubs have reported Olivine ink boxes containing Smoky Quartz, a puzzle that’s beyond me to solve. While disappointing, I think that it is important to keep things in perspective. The free gifts are indeed nice but they are by no means what brings the majority of us together so hopefully those Hubs were able to make the best of the situation. The Hub masters continue to show no shortage of passion and commitment and deserve a lot of kudos for ensuring the success of their local venues. Many went above and beyond by making or purchasing their own items for attendees to sample and take home. It is the dedication of the Hub masters that goes a long way to making the event as great as it is. Their efforts are even more commendable when you look at the ever increasing burden of finding a venue for such large groups without any budget. It’s that burden which prompted me to relinquish the title of Hub Master this year in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Frank Limper of Federalist Pens and Paper picked up the mantle and ran a great event. Our local hub has been held at a variety of locations and this year brought us somewhere new, The Victoria Freehouse Pub. The venue was cozy, provided good food and drink, and had a nice atmosphere. Everyone that I spoke with had a great time and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the venue for a future gathering. The only major blemish on my night was the parking ticket waiting for me when all was said and done (¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).
The early days of 2018 have provided me some time for introspection (there is not much else you can do when in the midst of a bomb cyclone). There has been a lot to reflect upon personally, professionally, and globally. This past year’s world events alone have been quite tumultuous, leaving the future seemingly more uncertain than ever. Trying to turn to lighter fare, one thing that has been on the forefront of my mind recently is a question that I’ve been asked several times over the past few months. That question can be summed up in two words; “Why Pelikan?” In over three years of blogging here at the Perch, I can’t believe that I haven’t addressed this sooner. It’s true that there are many great manufacturers out there who have produced a countless number of awesome and desirable fountain pens. What then does Pelikan have that puts it above all of the other brands in my mind and how informed am I to even make that type of declaration? I hope to share with you my experiences before Pelikan and why I chose to dedicate myself to just that brand of fountain pen. I thought this would make for excellent fodder for the first post of the year. All I can say up front is that Pelikan pens have some indescribable quality, a character and a discipline, that makes owning and using them a joy that transcends the sum of their parts. By the end of this article, I hope to be able to impart upon you just a little sense of that magic.