The Perch has always endeavored to be a beacon, shining light on the varied bits of Pelikan arcana. That endeavor has led me down some pretty interesting paths over the years. Of course, I can only expand upon the established body of knowledge by standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me. Occasionally, I am approached about hosting a guest post from someone with a unique insight or experience with the brand which is where we find ourselves today. I’m happy to hand over the reins to Rick Propas, proprietor of the Penguin and a well-known Pelikan collector, retailer, and friend of this blog. The 400 was released in the first half of 1950 and became an incredibly popular model that helped to rebuild the company’s fortunes following World War II. Perhaps lesser known are the many variants derived from the 400 design, namely the 500, 600, and 700. Of these, the 600 remains the most obscure which makes it the perfect fodder for a post. Rick takes a look a close at the 600 and tries to fill in some of the many questions that still surround this model. Without further ado, I give you his take on the model 600.
In 2001, Chartpak, Inc. became the exclusive distributor for the Pelikan brand in the United States as well as Mexico and Canada. The company manufactures and imports fine artist materials, fine writing instruments, and office products for distribution in the Americas. Their website states; “Chartpak has an established portfolio of 14 brands with 60 product lines that span 17 distinct categories of art materials, fine writing, craft & hobby and office products, many of which are made in the USA or Europe.” Chartpak is located in Leeds, Massachusetts and is nestled in the five-college area of the state which boasts a vibrant and active student artist population. While Chartpak’s story accounts for nearly the past 20 years of Pelikan in the United States, have you ever wondered about Pelikan’s past US operations or who distributed their products in North America before Chartpak? A recent inquiry from a reader led me to ponder that very question in greater detail. When you search Google for the answer, you come up with surprisingly little, most likely because the bulk of the history occurred prior to the rise of the internet. Not to be discouraged, I turned to a resource that was satisfyingly nostalgic, the newspaper. After searching through dozens of papers and hundreds of articles, I learned that Jack Kelly was probably correct when he said, “…headlines don’t sell papes. Newsies sell papes.” I also learned a great deal about Pelikan’s more public affairs throughout the 1980s and 90s. While the record in incomplete, we can get at least a basic sense of Pelikan’s operations in the USA over that two decade span. It is important to keep in mind that Pelikan’s business structure is incredibly complex with many divisions. Pelikan AG and later Pelikan International acted largely as holding companies, a type of financial organization that owns a controlling interest in other companies called subsidiaries. While the parent corporation controls the subsidiary’s policies and oversees management decisions, the days to day operations are left to the subsidiary. In this way, the holding company protects itself from losses accrued by the subsidiary (creditors can’t go after the holding company). What we had in the US focused on hardcopy or printer consumables which started out as a product group in the Pelikan product range. The distribution of fine writing instruments in North America has been managed by various agents over the years which I will endeavor to explore. I should make it clear that at no point were fountain pens or fountain pen inks manufactured in the USA. Read on to learn how the company’s fortunes rose and fell over the span of approximately 15 years and why operations eventually ceased.
Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the COVID-19 infection that arises from it have changed the face of our world. We now find ourselves in a place that could scarcely be imagined just a few short months ago. With 5,580,000 people infected and 350,000 dead worldwide, there has hardly been a corner of the globe that has escaped unscathed thus far. In fact, only 15 countries and 11 permanently occupied territories are known to be without any confirmed cases of the virus (and some of those are suspect). Our invisible enemy has no consideration for whom it infects and does not discriminate based on any race, color, creed, or social stature. Perhaps the one thing that makes this tragedy just slightly more bearable is the fact that children have largely been spared its ravages. The upheaval in daily life almost all of us are facing will have far reaching implications for years to come. The impact can be felt in even the smallest aspects of our usual routines. Whether it is social distancing, homeschooling, wearing a mask when out in public, self-quarantining, working from home, or losing one’s job altogether, I think that it is safe to say that whatever “normal” we land on when the dust settles will not be the normal we took for granted a precious few months ago.
I find it somewhat taxing to consistently review Pelikan’s fountain pens here on the blog, not because they aren’t great pens but because many of them are just variations on a theme. It becomes a challenge to find new things to write about with pens that are essentially unchanged aside from a fresh coat of paint. Consequently, I try to pick my reviews carefully, keeping my selection criteria to new, unique, or especially exciting features and finishes. I’m also hesitant to review pens that a majority of people won’t get to see in real life let alone own. Still, from time to time there comes a new finish so exciting that it just begs to be reviewed. That is the situation I find myself in with this year’s M1000 Raden Green Ray. This release follows the M805 Raden Royal Platinum (2018) and the M800 Raden Royal Gold (2017). The last Raden based off of the M1000 chassis was the Sunrise (2016). The newest entry in the lineup flaunts wide green stripes that reflect a rainbow of shimmering color in good light. We are so accustomed to the pinstriped pattern of Pelikan’s pens that this one cannot help but stand out. The stripes are made all the more impressive when juxtaposed against a background of deep black Japanese Urushi lacquer. The end result is really something to behold but, sadly, only 400 of these special edition M1000s were made. If pens utilizing the Raden technique appeal to you, then this is a must own Pelikan. Unfortunately, high pricing and limited production will keep this out of the hands of most so read on if for nothing more than to enjoy the eye candy.
With the first half of 2020 almost behind us, you may have noticed a relative dearth of new fountain pens releases coming out of Hannover. This is likely in no small part due to the turmoil that has engulfed the world as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Thus far, we have come to see just three new models brought to the market in 2o2o. These include the M200 Pastel-Green, the M1000 Raden Green Ray, and let us not forget the more limited release of the M800 Chinese Demonstrator. While we anticipate some fresh new models for the second half of the year, I thought that it might be worthwhile to take a look at what we already have in hand. Announced at the end of last year and released in late March, the M200 Pastel-Green is an interesting new member of Pelikan’s Classic line-up. The company has really embraced an array of pastel colors married to white resin accents over the last few years. That said, the Pastel-Green is now just the third pen from the M2xx series to utilize white resin, following closely on the heels of 2019’s M200 Gold-Marbled. At the risk of deluding myself, I’d like to think that perhaps someone at Pelikan is listening as it appears that some of the features that I critiqued in my Gold-Marbled review were addressed with this release. The reason that I chose to review this one today is for the uniqueness of the finish which is somewhat different from prior releases. The Pastel-Green is a special edition meaning that it will only be around for a limited time so read on to find out whether or not it’s just the trick to brighten up this otherwise bleak Spring.
Paul von Hindenburg (10/2/1847 – 8/2/1934) was a general who commanded the Imperial German Army during World War I. He would go on to become the President of Germany in 1925 during the time of the Weimar Republic (1919 – 1933), an office that he held until his death. On November 19, 1932, a letter known as the “Industrielleneingabe” was signed by more than a dozen representatives of industry, finance, and agriculture urging President Hindenburg to appoint Adolf Hitler (4/20/1889 – 4/30/1945) Chancellor of Germany. One of the notable signatories on that letter was Fritz Beindorff, Sr (4/29/1860 – 6/2/1944), then owner of Pelikan. Mr. Beindorff was incredibly influential in Hannover at the time, holding many honorary, appointed, and elected positions. Few companies have shaped the face of Hannover more than Pelikan thanks in no small part to his leadership. Hindenburg did not immediately comply with the request but, under pressure from several advisers, he would appoint Hitler to the position of Chancellor in January 1933, a pivotal moment in the Nazi rise to power.
Sir Horace Rumbold (2/5/1869 – 5/24/1941), the British Ambassador to Berlin at the time wrote in February of that year; “Hitler may be no statesman but he is an uncommonly clever and audacious demagogue and fully alive to every popular instinct.” Hitler would use his new position to suppress opposition and to consolidate and strengthen his power. In 1933, the German cabinet enacted a law which stated that upon Hindenburg’s death, the office of the president would be abolished and its powers merged with those of the Chancellor. This allowed Hitler’s government to become a legal dictatorship. In that role, he would spend the next five years forging new alliances and rebuilding the German war machine. This culminated on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland effectively kicking off World War II. The United Kingdom and France would declare war on Germany two days later. Pelikan had just celebrated its 100th anniversary the year prior and had only entered the fountain pen market ten years earlier. Much of the company’s manufacturing apparatus at the time was contained within Germany and therefore was subject to many wartime regulations that would come to be handed down over the course of the conflict. Read on to find out just how the war and its aftermath would affect Pelikan’s domestic and international operations. As the text is heavily laden with dates, I have included a timeline at the end so that you may better visualize how the events unfolded.
The M800 Demonstrator has had an interesting life. It was first released in 2008 as a special edition to celebrate the company’s 170th anniversary and it came in two forms. The first of these was a standard demonstrator in clear, transparent resin that lacked any embellishment on the barrel or cap. The clear resin allowed for unobstructed viewing of the brass piston assembly which was complimented by Pelikan’s standard gold plated trim. At the same time, another model was released, identical to the first save that this one featured etched descriptors of the various parts filled in with white paint. These pointed out key features such as the spindle nut, twist stopper, and piston to name just a few. Eight attributes in all were labeled along the barrel and piston knob. Interestingly, this particular model featured a cut out in the brass connector of the piston assembly to allow for better visualization of the spindle within the connector, making it a true demonstrator pen. When the same features were incorporated on an M805 variant in palladium trim in 2015, this little detail would be left out. Most of the etched variants were annotated in the English language while a small minority would be done in Spanish. Niche Pens once declared that, “Altogether, 3,500 Clear Demonstrators were produced, the majority with English engravings, a small number with Spanish engravings and an even smaller number with no engravings at all.” While the veracity of that statement cannot be verified, it further imbues the M800 Demonstrator with a bit of mystique. Both pens were readily available in their time but have been out of production for about twelve years now and are infrequently encountered. This model is not without its fair share of intrigue and new developments for 2020 make it worth revisiting.
A lot of emphasis gets placed upon just how much flex can be derived from a fountain pen these days. Go to any pen show and you will invariably hear attendees asking after pens equipped with flexible nibs. If you frequent any of the popular pen auction/sales sites, a lot of Pelikan’s vintage offerings get put forward as fitting the bill. The principle of caveat emptor should be utilized in those scenarios since applying excessive pressure to a semi-flexible nib can result in great line variation but at the cost of significant stress that could ultimately lead to nib failure. While the company’s nibs from the 1930s through the 60s are excellent and considerably better than today’s offerings, they are not what I would call true flex nibs. It has been my experience that the more accurate descriptor applied to these nibs would be semi-flex with a springiness that imparts a tremendous amount of character to some to these vintage pieces. Of course, there is an exception to that rule. Pelikan produced a nib stamped ‘ST’ which could be found equipped as a specialty nib on various models. First introduced with the 100N in 1938, these nib were particularly elastic and came in EF or EEF. The 140s and 400s had gold versions produced from 1954 – 1965 and the 120s came with stainless steel variants made from 1957 – 1965. These stenographic nibs are truly flexible, putting down a line ranging from EEF/EF to B/BB. It should be pointed out that not all ST nibs are created equal and your mileage may vary. Pelikan also made specific pens dedicated to stenography in the 1970s and 80s which should be held apart from the nibs discussed here. Those models comprise the P11, P16, and P470 lines which are all nice writers but the nibs are certainly not what I would call flexible. I can only surmise that the differences might owe to the various stenographic systems that have been used over the years. Pitman relies on line variation where Gregg and Teeline do not. Read on to learn about how these flexible nibs were meant to be employed.