A diverse product range with appeal for everyone
Lewis Edson Waterman is generally credited with being the father of the fountain pen. And although this isn't strictly accurate, it's true to say that he was the first fountain pen maker to make it big internationally.
But if it was not for the faulty pen which made Waterman lose a lucrative sale when he was an insurance broker, his pen company may not have come into existence.
The story goes that Waterman gave his client a pen to sign the policy. As was common in the 1870s the reservoir pen would do nothing but blot the contract. What happens next depends upon which version of the myth you accept. Either the client was superstitious, viewed the recalcitrant pen as a bad omen and pulled out of the deal, or by the time Waterman fetched a new copy of the contract for signature, a rival insurance broker had swiped the client's business.
No matter, Waterman was severely pissed by the turn of events. While contemplating what to do next, Waterman had the brainwave that would change his fortunes. Feeling he was onto something with his idea for a new multi-channel ink feed, Waterman made a prototype and fitted it to a pen body made from the spoke of a wagon wheel.
This first pen worked so well that Waterman went into production, initially on a small scale in the early 1880s. Patenting the multi-channel capillary feed that was to become the basis of all fountain pens, Waterman invested heavily in marketing and soon was rewarded. Waterman developed rapidly into a national and international success. In 1900 the company's pens won international acclaim, winning a gold medal at the Paris Exposition.
Unfortunately, Waterman's death just a year later denied him the opportunity to see his company evolve into the multinational it became in the 1920s with subsidiaries in Canada, France and the UK. The Roaring Twenties were to be Waterman's Golden Era as during the 1930s and 40s the company lost out substantially to competitors.
In 1959 the American operations of the beleaguered Waterman group were sold to the French company, BIC to serve as their main production facility in the US. However, the Waterman name lived on as their French subsidiary was not included in the sale to BIC.
JIF-Waterman invented the first practical disposabe ink cartridge and thanks to astute management did well in post World War ll Europe. Today, the company continues to go from strength to strength under the American ownership of Gilette.
The Waterman brand persists as a synonmy for solid well-made pens. Their product range is diverse, beautifully crafted and elegant, with appeal for everyone who wants to make a statement with their fountain pen.