Sheaffer Snorkel Fountain Pen
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This 1951 advertisement claims that the new TM writing instruments outdate all others!
By the end of the 1940s, Sheaffer’s plunger-type filling system (Vacuum-Fil) was getting very long in the tooth. It was also expensive to repair, and although Sheaffer had ceased offering its “unconditional” Lifetime warranty shortly after World War II, the “wire pens, ” as Sheaffer’s repair people called them in reference to the wire-like plunger shaft, were no fun. Sheaffer needed something new.
In a classic example of the famous adage that there’s nothing new under the sun, the company turned to a design that had made its appearance about 20 years earlier: Chilton’s second model from about 1927. The advantages of a sac-filling pen that worked with the same single-stroke action as a plunger filler must have been very appealing: it would be simpler to manufacture and easier to repair, and it would not require Sheaffer to retrain its millions of loyal users.
Sheaffer’s contribution to the technology was an ingenious solution to the problem Chilton had wrestled with, the need to allow air into the pen on the upstroke and then compress that air on the downstroke. Simple, reliable, and cheap to manufacture, Sheaffer’s design (U.S. Patent No 2, 610, 612) remained in the company’s product line into the latter half of the 1960s.
Sheaffer introduced its new Touchdown pens in 1949. Externally, these pens looked no different from their plunger-filling predecessors. These “fat” Touchdowns were Sheaffer’s shortest-lived product; just one year later, in 1950, Sheaffer replaced the model with a torpedo-shaped “skinny” version that was more in tune with the times, called the TM (Thin Model). Advertising for the TM emphasized the pen’s pencil-thin profile; the Touchdown filler was by then old news. Shown here are a 1949 Touchdown Sentinel and a Touchdown TM Sentinel; note the distinct difference in girth:
Touchdown TM Models: A Pen for Everyone’s Taste and Pocketbook
In addition to the Sentinel above, the Touchdown TM appeared in a broad range of models, from the bargain-priced Craftsman, the last holdover with the postwar “wire” cap band, to the extravagant Masterpiece, with its solid 14K gold cap and barrel and Sheaffer’s best 14K two-tone “TRIUMPH” point. Shown here, from top to bottom, are a Crest Deluxe, a Signature, a Valiant, an Admiral, and a Craftsman.
Interestingly, the Admiral and Craftsman are built to a design different from that of the other models. Lacking the metal thread ring that Sheaffer applied to the line’s better models, these two pens are fatter, more cigar shaped than their more expensive siblings. The Craftsman, in fact, is styled the same as the lever-filling Craftsman of the latter 1940s, and it was the last holdout of the “wire band” pens that had appeared immediately after World War II. Internally, the construction of all Touchdown TM models is the same.
|Touchdown TM Models and Features|
|Masterpiece||14K Gold, vertical lines||9K, 14K, or 18K Gold, vertical lines||14K 2T “TRIUMPH”||Smooth|
|Crest Masterpiece||Plastic, choice of colors||14K gold|
|Autograph||Plastic, black||14K 19∕32"||14K Smooth|
|Sentinel Deluxe||Polished SS, vertical lines||GF 3∕16"|
|Statesman||GF 1∕4"||14K 2T No. 5|
|Sovereign||Polished SS, vertical lines (grps
of 3, middle line wavy)
|Admiral||GF narrow inset||14K No. 5||Sheaffer’S|
|Craftsman||Wire||14K No. 33|
The End Came Quickly — But Not Permanently
In 1952, Sheaffer replaced the Touchdown TM with the revolutionary (but much more complicated) Snorkel, whose external design is virtually identical to that of the Touchdown TM, only elongated a small amount to accommodate the additional Snorkel filling mechanism. In a way, this change is too bad, because the Touchdown TM offered a superb writing experience, excellent quality, and simplicity.
But good ideas die hard, and thus with the Touchdown. In the early 1960s, to provide a lower-priced line to accompany the radically new PFM, Sheaffer introduced the Imperial series. Styled like the PFM but narrower, the Imperial was offered in styles ranging from cartridge fillers to Touchdowns that shared some parts with their decade-earlier forebears, from pens with resin caps and barrels to pens with sterling silver and vermeil caps and barrels. Shown here is a representative sampling of Touchdown Imperials:
At a Glance