When you’re looking for a quality writing instrument with style and elegance, Parker or Waterman fountain pens probably spring to mind. Waterman was established in 1884 in New York City by a man by the name of Lewis Edson Waterman, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
As legend has it, in 1883, Waterman was working as an insurance broker in the city and was getting ready to sign important contract when disaster struck – his fountain pen broke and spilled ink everywhere, ruining the document. By the time he got a new contract organized, another broker had already secured the deal. Humiliated and frustrated, Lewis Edson Waterman set about creating quality Waterman fountain pens that could always be relied upon.
Waterman, known as a tough, savvy and highly creative and innovative businessman, immediately got to work in the workshop of his brother, Frank Waterman. He used the capillarity principle which allowed air to induce a steady and even flow of ink, eliminating the likelihood of messy spillages. He soon got a patent for his new Waterman fountain pens, and he was quickly competing with other manufacturers like Parker and Sheaffer in the fierce fountain pen marketplace that existed at the time.
After Waterman’s death in 1901, the company, headed by his nephew Frank D. Waterman, quickly began to ramp up production and expand worldwide. But, it struggled from the late 1920s through to the 1940s, and ceased operations in 1954. Waterman’s French arm was thriving, however, and absorbed the original New York-based company, as well as the British arm. In 2001, Waterman was acquired by Sanford, a division of Newell Rubbermaid. A few years later, to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the establishment of Waterman, an Edson limited edition series of 4,000 pens was produced, each one made of solid silver and individually numbered.
The first Waterman fountain pens were revolutionary in that they contained a reservoir that fed ink to the nib. For the first time, writers did not have to continually replenish the ink on their pens. The earliest Waterman fountain pens were constructed with hard rubber and featured 14K gold nibs, which offered smoothness and flexibility, which made writing easy. Waterman pens need to be cleaned regularly to avoid clogging as a result of dry ink, and should be emptied and flushed out about once a month for optimal performance. If the Waterman fountain pens start to leak, skilled repair persons can replace the cracked barrel or ink sac.
Today, Waterman fountain pens continue to be synonymous with elegance, reliability and ease of use. They’re available in a wide range of colors, styles and materials and are known for the way the nib glides across the paper and their distinctively wide body that’s heavier, and some say easier to grip, than the typical Parker or Sheaffer pen.