The “Pelikan Blätter” served as a newsletter of sorts that provided dealers with information and advice about new products and advertising. It was first published in 1929 and the October edition of that year detailed the introduction of Pelikan’s first ever fountain pen. By that time, the company had already been in business for nearly a century but had never produced a pen. The Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru had been granted a patent in France for a fountain pen design in 1827 and Evelyn Andros de la Rue had developed a cumbersome piston filler as early as 1905 so the concepts had been firmly established by the time Pelikan produced their first model. Self-filling pens that relied on a pressure and lever system and eyedropper filled safety pens dominated the market in the period following World War I. Perhaps it was the addition of the Beindorff children to the family business in the early 1920s that injected fresh viewpoints and an eagerness to seek out new and modern product lines which prompted the venture. Maybe it was just happenstance that at this time in its history the company was propositioned by an engineer looking to bring his design to market. Whatever the reason, Pelikan finally entered the fray with the Transparent Pelikan Fountain Pen (also more simply known as the Pelikan Fountain Pen). Notice the lack of a model number? While similar in appearance to the 100, that designation didn’t come about until around 1931 when an expansion of the company’s product lines created the necessity for a more precise naming scheme. The pen initially derived its name from the transparent ink view window located behind the section. The fledgling design of the 1929 model was short lived and saw several small changes that quickly brought it more in line with how we envision the 100 today. Read on to learn how Pelikan got into the pen business and to explore the model that set the tone for the last 90 years of production.
While browsing through some listings on eBay one day in late March, I happened to stumble across an auction titled “Vintage Pelikan Fountain Pen 14 Karat NIB.” The nondescript caption led me to believe that the seller wasn’t quite sure of what it was they were trying to peddle. The pen in question had seen better days, that much was obvious. Upon closer inspection, the binde was missing and a few gouges marred the surface of the cap and filling mechanism. It would have been easy to dismiss the listing and move on if it weren’t for the lack of cap bands. They weren’t missing mind you; they just weren’t part of the design. The look of the cap offered just enough hope and a promise of what might lie beneath. Scrolling through the rest of the photos in the series revealed just what I had hoped to find, a nib with a heart shaped breather hole. A holy grail for some, the ID became immediately clear. While not in fighting shape, the pen was no doubt a 1929 Transparent Pelikan Fountain Pen and looked very serviceable for a 90 year old writing instrument. Understanding that a major restoration would be needed, I entered the fray, placed my bid, and began the waiting game. To my surprise and delight, I ended up winning that listing on April 1st. The pen arrived a few days later and I half expected it to be an utter disappointment, perhaps with a note tucked inside saying “April Fools’.” Once I was able to inspect it, I knew right away that it was worthy of restoration so I turned to Rick Propas, a fellow Pelikan enthusiast and friend, who agreed to take on the task of reconditioning the eldest of Pelikan’s fountain pens. Such a project is not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced because disaster can befall at any step of the process. With any restoration of this nature, concessions have to be made. For instance, the early green bindes disintegrate when removed from barrels and spares are next to impossible to find. Despite such limitations, I believe that the final product speaks for itself. As an added bonus, Rick was kind enough to offer to document the restoration process. Read on to learn how this wounded bird again learned how to fly as told by the restorer himself.