Parker Fountain Pen Identification
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This 1941 advertisement from The Saturday Evening Post features a romantic couple as it promotes the Vacumatic as “the Jewel of Pendom” with which Romance Starts and Romance Ripens.
What’s in a name? In August 1932, Parker began test marketing the next generation in fountain pens, the Golden Arrow. This radical new pen featured a compact plunger-operated pump filler (described in ) that nestled at the back end of the barrel, eliminating the space-hungry pressure bar and sac. Parker had bought the rights to this design (U.S. Patent No 1, 904, 358, applied for on September 14, 1928 and issued on April 18, 1933) from Professor Arthur O. Dahlberg, an instructor in machine design at the University of Wisconsin, and had then spent some time perfecting it. Although the pump mechanism was novel, Dahlberg’s design was not entirely original; it was an extension of Huston Taylor’s 1905 bulb-filler patent (U.S. Patent No 802, 668), and it also used portions of Charles Dunn’s 1920 pump-filler patent (U.S. Patent No 1, 359, 880).
The pen’s dramatically new Art Deco design was highlighted by a stylish new arrow-shaped clip created by Joseph Platt; the body was made of alternating rings of celluloid. Caps and blind caps alternated colored rings with black; initally, the pen was offered with barrel either colored and black or colored and clear (so that the user could see how much ink remained). (The completely opaque version disappeared from the catalog after 1934.) The company’s advertising (see example to the left) made much of the fact that the “revolutionary” new pen offered a far greater ink capacity than was available in competing models.
The name Golden Arrow may have encountered legal difficulties, as there was already on the market a British pen with that name, or it may be that Parker wanted to emphasize the advantages of the new filling system; in any case, the name was soon changed to Vacuum Filler. The pen was received very well, and Parker announced it to the world in a full-page Saturday Evening Post advertisement on March 18, 1933. Shown here is a Vacuum-Filler in Burgundy Pearl; this pen has an opaque barrel.
But the new name wasn’t exactly the most exciting; and in July 1933, according to the February 1934 ParkerGram, Parker changed it to the more mellifluous (and marketable) Vacumatic. Advertising with the Vacumatic name began appearing in late September, and with that name change and some minor aesthetic tweaks, the stage was set for the birth of a legend.
These pens illustrate barrel transparency. The burgundy Vacumatic Standard, made in 1934, has the remarkable barrel transparency that resulted from the use of colored rings that were made with transparent celluloid. The black Major, made in 1945, has solid opaque colored rings, which point up the dramatic “optic” effect produced by the contrast between colored and transparent areas.
Many collectors like to know when their pens were made. Beginning in the Vacumatic era, Parker pens bore date codes on their barrels. For instructions on reading this code, refer to
Different, Yet Still the Same
Although there were several design changes, some minor and some quite significant, the Vacumatic line remained in Parker U.S.A.’s stable until about 1948 and perhaps as late as 1953 elsewhere. On a pen with its date code missing or otherwise illegible, differences in features can help you to narrow the possible years of its manufacture.
The Vacumatic filler mechanism consists of a spring-loaded plunger whose end is attached to the end of a sac-like rubber diaphragm. Depressing the plunger distends the diaphragm to expel air from the pen, and releasing the plunger sucks ink directly into the pen’s barrel. This design gives the pen a very large ink capacity. A technical explanation and cutaway illustrations of the filler are in Anatomy of a Fountain Pen II: The Parker Vacumatic.