I imagine that most of us have experienced a fortunate stroke of serendipity at one time or another in our lives. Perhaps it was one major occurrence or a series of small serendipities along the meandering course of life. Sometimes, we may inadvertently stumble upon a long lost treasure, or we might discover something wholly unexpected and new to us. Maybe you can envision finding something unique and wonderful in the course of a home renovation? Such was the case in March of this year for one unsuspecting couple in North Macedonia. It’s not hard to picture what must have been a look of utter surprise on their faces when they chanced upon a cache of over 300 pens hidden in the attic of an old house that they were in the process of renovating. Not being diehard pen enthusiasts themselves, perhaps they were not struck quite as speechless as many of us would have been. How such a vintage horde of writing instruments came to be forgotten for so many decades is unclear. What is known is that within the couple’s lineage is a former retailer of both pens and watches who was in business around the time of World War II. Now deceased, it is his home that the couple came to inherit and have subsequently taken to the task of remodeling, leading to this most wonderful discovery. We can only presume that at some point, perhaps as a consequence of the post-war fall out, that the shopkeeper stashed the pens away in his attic where they would subsequently lay forgotten for nearly 80 years. What does one do when confronted with a unique and historic trove of writing instruments such as this? The couple in this scenario turned to Dragan Chichikj of ProtoPens, formerly known as UberPens, a retailer with several decades of expertise under his belt. Read on to learn what became of such a rare discovery.Continue reading
Pelikan’s fountain pen production spans nearly nine decades and more than a few mysteries have arisen over that time. Many of those puzzles relate to the provenance of certain models and are born largely from the lack of available documentation today. One lasting consequence of World War II (1939-45) has been the destruction of countless historic records. An area of fountain pen production that has been subjected to a fair bit of speculation has been the models attributed to Günther Wagner’s Danzig-Langfuhr plant. This facility is chiefly known for a unique version of the Pelikan 100N that has long been attributed to it. Danzig is the German word for Gdańsk, a Polish city on the Baltic coast. Following World War I (1914-18), the Treaty of Versailles established the Free City of Gdańsk, a territory that was under the oversight of the League of Nations. While largely influenced by Polish rule, the region remained fairly independent, acting as a conduit between Poland and Germany. The Polish or Danzig Corridor as this region was known was created so that Poland would not be landlocked or completely dependent on German ports. German citizens could cross the corridor by railroad, but were not permitted access to it without special authorization. Danzig’s unique status between the two nations prompted many German manufacturers to establish a presence there in order to sell goods in Poland without incurring the high customs fees that were usually levied on products from foreign companies. In the borough of Wrzeszcz (the Polish word for Langfuhr) during the late 1800s, brick carriage houses served as the base of operations for the troops of the 17th West Pomeranian Railway Battalion. Following World War I, those troops moved out of the region and the demilitarized area was turned into an industrial park of sorts. It was well suited to this purpose being on the outskirts of the city with a well-developed rail line running through the area. It is in this borough of Gdańsk where Günther Wagner would come to establish a factory. Due to a large population of Germans in the region, the Nazi party eventually came to demand that the city be turned over to Germany while the minority Poles hoped for a return to Poland. Hitler used the status of the city as a pretext for attacking Poland in September of 1939.
It is not uncommon for a company to enter into an agreement for the manufacture of goods meant to be sold and distributed by another business. These products are frequently meant to target a different market segment than the manufacturer’s usual wares. As far as fountain pen production is concerned, often times these pens are not tied to the original manufacturer by way of their usual branding. Despite the absence of those tell tale markings, the pen’s designs are not radically altered from that of a company’s standard production models and can be readily identified. The Taylorix company is an example of one such business that purchased a large number of pens from multiple manufacturers upon which they placed their own branding starting sometime in the 1930s. Today, I would like to focus on those Taylorix branded pens produced by Pelikan in the post-war period. Aside from the surviving pens themselves, very little information is know about these models. Pelikan’s archives contain little in the way of details and Taylorix is no longer in business. What we do know is that, for the most part, the Taylorix pens made by Pelikan included the 100N, 130 Ibis, and 140 produced sometime in the 1950s. In a more unusual twist, there has even been an MK10 or two seen with the Taylorix branding, indicating a relationship between the two companies persisted into the 1960s. Read on to learn what we know about these unique Pelikan manufactured pens.
Pelikan introduced the model 100N in March of 1937. The “N” stands for new but rather than replace the model 100 that preceded it, the 100N was produced concurrently, initially just for the export market. It was designed as Pelikan’s response to a trend towards larger pens being produced by other manufacturers. The 100 was, by design, a smaller pen when capped and a very comfortably sized pen with excellent balance when posted. By 1938, the 100N was offered for sale in Germany as a way to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. Somewhat bigger than the 100 and with a larger ink capacity, the 100N continued to employ Pelikan’s differential piston mechanism. Production was constrained by war time rationing which limited the available building materials such as gold and cork. Shortly after its introduction, palladium and later chromium-nickel steel had to be substituted in place of gold for the nib. Around 1942, black plastic synthetic seals were first employed as a replacement for cork. Production was completely interrupted in 1944 due to the war and did not resume again until the factory reopened in 1947. The 100N saw several small iterations of design over its production, some of these better characterized than others. The earliest models had a strong resemblance to the 100 and some even sport the 4 chick logo on the cap top which was being phased out at the time of launch. Other variations such as the Danzig (Poland) produced models and the Emegê pens (Portugal) also stand out and are full topics in and of themselves.