Parker Pen Company

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Parker Pen Company
Type Subsidiary
Industry Writing instruments
Founded1888;135 years ago (1888)
Founder George Safford Parker
Headquarters Nantes France (after 2011), ,
UK (until 2011)
Area served
Products Fountain and ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils
Parent Newell Brands

The Parker Pen Company is a French manufacturer of luxury writing pens, founded in 1888 [1] by George Safford Parker in Janesville, Wisconsin, United States. In 2011 the Parker factory at Newhaven, East Sussex, England, was closed, and its production transferred to Nantes, France. [2]



George Safford Parker, the founder, had previously been a sales agent for the John Holland Gold Pen Company. He received his first fountain pen related patent in 1889. [3] In 1894 Parker received a patent on his "Lucky Curve" fountain pen feed, [4] which was claimed to draw excess ink back into the pen barrel when the pen was not in use. The company's first successful pen, released in 1899, was the Parker Jointless. The Lucky Curve feed was used in various forms until 1928. [5]

Several models of the Parker 51, regarded as the most widely used model of fountain pen Parker-51s.jpg
Several models of the Parker 51, regarded as the most widely used model of fountain pen

From the 1920s to the 1960s, before the development of the ballpoint pen, Parker was either number one or number two in worldwide writing instrument sales. In 1931, Parker created Quink (quick drying ink), which eliminated the need for blotting. [6] In 1941, the company developed the most widely used model of fountain pen in history (over $400 million worth of sales in its 30-year history), the Parker 51. [7] [8] Manufacturing facilities were set up over the years in Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Mexico, USA, Pakistan, India, Germany (Osmia-Parker), Brazil and Argentina.[ citation needed ]

Parker Duofold desk set, 1930 Duofold Desk Set.jpg
Parker Duofold desk set, 1930
Parker Jotter pen Parker-jotter.jpg
Parker Jotter pen

In 1954 Parker released the Parker Jotter ballpoint [9] pen with its original nylon body and inverted "V" clip. The Jotter would go on to sell over 750 million units during its history. In 1955, the company introduced its Liquid Lead pencil which used liquid graphite to write like a pen. Unfortunately, the Scripto company had introduced a similar product called Fluidlead a few months previously. To avoid a costly patent fight the companies agreed to share their formulas with each other. [10]

The company bought retailer and catalog company Norm Thompson in 1973, and then sold it in 1981. [11] In 1976 Parker acquired Manpower just as the temporary staffing market was surging. In time Manpower provided more revenue than the pen business. A 1982 spinoff, Sintered Specialties, Inc., became SSI Technologies, a manufacturer of automotive sensors.[ citation needed ]

A management buyout in 1986 moved the company's headquarters to Newhaven, East Sussex, England, which was the original location of the Valentine Pen Company previously acquired by Parker. In 1993 Parker was purchased by the Gillette Company, which already owned the Paper Mate brand – the best-selling disposable ballpoint. In 2000 Gillette sold its writing instruments division to the company Newell Rubbermaid, whose Sanford Stationery Division became the largest writing instrument manufacturers in the world at that time, simultaneously owning such brand names as Rotring, Sharpie, Reynolds as well as Parker, PaperMate, Waterman, and Liquid Paper.[ citation needed ]

With increasing commercial competition to the Parker Jotter's classic metal ink refill cartridge design from low cost generic copies produced in China, as Parker's unique design patent for the cartridge expired, Parker's sales began to be drastically adversely affected. In July 2009 Newell Rubbermaid Inc. in response announced that it had decided to close down the Parker production factory at Newhaven in England, with the dismissal of 180 employees from the facility, and relocate production to France. [12] The following month, Newell Rubbermaid Inc. announced that the factory in Janesville, Wisconsin, was also to close the remaining operation there producing Parker Pens (which eliminated a further 153 manufacturing jobs). The company press release stated: "This decision is a response to structural issues accelerated by market trends and is in no way a reflection on the highly valued work performed by our Janesville employees over the years." Newell Rubbermaid offered 'transitional employment services' along with severance pay in compensation to the dismissed workforce. [13] [14]

Subsequently, Parker has abandoned its traditional retail outlets in North America. While some of its former staple Jotter pens may be found in retailers such as Office Depot, the Parker line has been moved to upscale "luxury" retailers in an abandonment of its former business model of quality manufacture combined with mass market appeal and pricing.[ citation needed ] With this commercial strategic move Parker also altered its traditional product warranty on its high end pens, changing the former lifetime guarantee to a two-year warranty limitation. [15]

Parker Pen Co. was an aviation pioneer. The interest of Parker Pen Co. in aircraft came from Kenneth Parker, son of the founder; he enlisted in the fledgling air service and, after flight training at Miami Air Base, he was assigned to officer training in tactical maneuvers at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida. From their first company business plane, the Parker Duofold Fairchild, they used it as an innovative advertising weapon inviting[ clarification needed ] his dealers. [16] Between the 1920s and 1960s, Parker maintained a considerable air fleet.

Famous models

Key models in the company's history include:

Parker 25

The Parker 25 was a pen introduced by the Parker Pen Company in 1975. Created by the renowned designer Kenneth Grange based on a detailed brief, [17] it was manufactured in Newhaven, England and produced in a variety of different versions until 1999. [18] An eye-catching, contemporary-looking pen, with mainly steel components, the Parker 25 was intended to revive the company's fortunes. As The Guardian wrote, '(Grange's) classic Parker pen had the machined lustre of a bullet. In fact, its tapering barrel was inspired by an American space rocket, a form that enabled the lid to be the same diameter as the pen no matter which end it was attached to.' [19] It was affordable enough to become a staple entry-level pen for both work and leisure uses – and for secondary school students at a time when fountain pens were still obligatory in many British schools. Advertising slogans used to market Parker 25s included 'Modern as Tomorrow', 'Space Age Design, Space Age Performance', 'European Styled' and 'Contemporary, Highly Functional Design'. [20]

Parker 25 flighters Parker 25 flighters.jpg
Parker 25 flighters

Parker 25s were issued in several variants: initially, fountain pen, ballpoint, fibre point and mechanical pencil. [21] A rollerball model was introduced in 1981, and fibre tips were phased out a couple of years later. While the great majority of Parker 25s were 'flighters', with a brushed steel finish, matte black and later white versions were issued between 1978 and 1987. The pens had four different trim colours – blue (the most common), black, green, and most rarely of all, orange. Orange trim Parker 25s were discontinued in 1976 following a copyright dispute with Rotring, and surviving examples are very sought after. A striking feature of all Parker 25s is the square plastic tassie logo on the clip.

The earliest Mark I Parker 25 fountain pens dating from the first year of production feature a distinctive breather hole in the nib. While the original models had a flat plastic circle on top of the cap, Mark III and IV pens have a round ridge on this inner cap. Pens manufactured from 1980 feature letter date codes which were changed every quarter. Those manufactured from 1990 are stamped 'Made in UK'; earlier pens were inscribed 'Made in England'. Pens without any manufacture stamps, or inscribed 'Made in Aust', are very rare. Parker 25s were all assembled in Britain by hand [22] – unlike Jotters, Vectors and other mass market pens – and were very minimalist, comprising between 9 and 11 components.

The 25 was an extremely successful pen for Parker commercially, especially during its first decade or so of production. [23] A number of promotional versions were made up to order, featuring company logos on the barrel (the matte black and white versions were often branded in this way), clip or cap.

Some pen fans are rather disparaging about the Parker 25, which lacks the status of the legendary Parker Duofold [24] or the storied Parker 51. [25] But in recent years they have been enjoying a revival, their space age look evoking nostalgia for the final quarter of the twentieth century. The Parker 25 was even given the accolade of an exhibition stand at the Victoria and Albert Museum. [26]

Parker Vector

Parker Vector stainless steel ballpoint pen Parker Vector Stainless Steel Ballpoint Pen.jpg
Parker Vector stainless steel ballpoint pen

The precursor to the Parker Vector was introduced in 1981. It was a simple cylindrical plastic cap and barrel roller-ball pen called the "Parker RB1". [27] In 1984, Parker added the FP1 ("Fountain Pen 1"), with essentially the same design. The RB1 and FP1 models were produced until 1986, at which time Parker revised the pen by lengthening the cap and shortening the barrel and renaming the new pen the "Vector Standard". Presently, there are four models available (in plastic and steel): the fountain pen, capped rollerball, pushbutton ballpoint, and pushbutton pencil. [28]

US Presidential Parkers

Bill Clinton Parker Insignia Set Bill Clinton Parker Insignia Set.jpg
Bill Clinton Parker Insignia Set

Parker Jotters were a favorite choice of President John F. Kennedy for signing legislation and to give as gifts. [29] Indeed, successive presidents from Kennedy to Clinton used Parker pens for these purposes, and Parker retained a special representative, John W. Gibbs, to handle White House orders. In one of his early years in office, Lyndon Johnson ordered no less than 60,000 Parker pens. LBJ would use up to 75 pens to sign each important document and bill, writing different strokes of the letters of his name with different pens, and giving them all away to allies and supporters with little typed certificates. After Parker ceased to be an American-owned company, later presidents switched to using A. T. Cross Company pens. [30]


Products offered by the Parker Pen Company as of 2012: [31]

5th TechnologyI.M., Ingenuity, Sonnet, Urban
Fountain pens Duofold, Premier, Frontier, Sonnet, Facet, Esprit, Urban, I.M., Vector, Jotter
Ballpoint pens Reflex, Facet, Executive, Esprit, Frontier, Urban, I.M., Vector, Jotter
Inks and refills Quink, 5TH Mode

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ballpoint pen</span> Device dispensing ink over a metal ball at its point

A ballpoint pen, also known as a biro, ball pen, or dot pen, is a pen that dispenses ink over a metal ball at its point, i.e. over a "ball point". The metal commonly used is steel, brass, or tungsten carbide. The design was conceived and developed as a cleaner and more reliable alternative to dip pens and fountain pens, and it is now the world's most-used writing instrument; millions are manufactured and sold daily. It has influenced art and graphic design and spawned an artwork genre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fountain pen</span> Writing implement with nib and internal ink reservoir

A fountain pen is a writing instrument which uses a metal nib to apply a water-based ink to paper. It is distinguished from earlier dip pens by using an internal reservoir to hold ink, eliminating the need to repeatedly dip the pen in an inkwell during use. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib and deposits the ink on paper via a combination of gravity and capillary action. Filling the reservoir with ink may be achieved manually, via the use of an eyedropper or syringe, or via an internal filling mechanism which creates suction or a vacuum to transfer ink directly through the nib into the reservoir. Some pens employ removable reservoirs in the form of pre-filled ink cartridges.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pen</span> Writing and drawing implement using liquid or paste ink

A pen is a common writing instrument that applies ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Early pens such as reed pens, quill pens, dip pens and ruling pens held a small amount of ink on a nib or in a small void or cavity which had to be periodically recharged by dipping the tip of the pen into an inkwell. Today, such pens find only a small number of specialized uses, such as in illustration and calligraphy. Reed pens, quill pens and dip pens, which were used for writing, have been replaced by ballpoint pens, rollerball pens, fountain pens and felt or ceramic tip pens. Ruling pens, which were used for technical drawing and cartography, have been replaced by technical pens such as the Rapidograph. All of these modern pens contain internal ink reservoirs, such that they do not need to be dipped in ink while writing.

George Safford Parker was an American inventor and industrialist.

The Waterman Pen Company is a major manufacturing company of luxury fountain pens and inks, based in Paris, France. The firm was established in 1884 in New York City by Lewis Waterman, being one of the few remaining first-generation fountain pen companies, as "Waterman S.A."

Ohto Co., Ltd. is a Japanese manufacturing company of writing implements. The company was established in 1919 as a manufacturer of dyes and ink. In 1949, the company became a pen manufacturer after they manufactured the world's first ball point pen with a chrome ball. This was also Japan's first ballpoint pen.

Waterman Philéas is a series of writing instruments including fountain pens, rollerballs, ballpoints and pencils produced by the Waterman pen company. It is well-known because of its good price-quality ratio and is therefore often recommended for novice fountain pen users and collectors. This series is now discontinued.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parker Vacumatic</span> Fountain pen made by Parker Pen Company

The Parker Vacumatic fountain pen was launched in 1932, and would come to out-sell the Parker Duofold, the then top seller. The pen was originally marketed under the name of Golden Arrow, a reference to the new arrow clip but was again changed to Vacuum Filler in reference to its ink reservoir filling action.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quink</span> Parker fountain pen ink

Quink is a fountain pen ink developed by the Parker Pen Company. It was introduced in 1931 and has remained in production ever since.

Paper Mate is a division of Sanford L.P., a Newell Brands company that produces writing instruments. Paper Mate's offices are located in Oak Brook, Illinois, along with those of Newell Rubbermaid's other office products divisions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Newell Brands</span> American consumer products company

Newell Brands is an American manufacturer, marketer and distributor of consumer and commercial products. The company's brands and products include Rubbermaid storage and trash containers; home organization and reusable container products; Contigo and Bubba water bottles; Coleman outdoor products; writing instruments glue ; children's products ; cookware and small appliances and fragrance products.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rotring</span> Technical writing and drawing instruments company

Rotring is a former German manufacturing company of technical drawing tools and writing implements. Established in 1928 as a fountain pen manufacturer, Rotring is currently a brand owned by Newell Brands after its acquisition in 1998. The name "Rotring" directly translates to "red ring" which is still placed around the barrel of their pens today. The company's name was changed to Rotring in the early 1970s to match the trademark.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jotter</span> Retracting refillable ballpoint pen by Parker

The Parker Jotter is the Parker Pen Company's second and best-selling retracting refillable ballpoint pen. The first was the Hopalong Cassidy ballpoint.. Since 1954, over 750 million have been sold worldwide. It is priced between $6 for lower end models, and $20 for higher end models, such as special editions. Its refill has a ballpoint tip originally called the T-Ball, with a unique textured surface that greatly reduces slipping and failure to transfer ink onto slick paper, known as "skipping." The technology is now commonly used in the pen industry. The pens are also a popular advertising medium. The external design of the Parker T-Ball refill is a configuration copied by many other brands of refillable pens.

Lamy is a German pen manufacturing company. Josef Lamy, who was a sales representative for Parker Pen in Germany, founded the business in 1930 by purchasing the Orthos pen manufacturer. Lamy was a pioneer in the use of moulded synthetic plastics to make their products.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zebra (pen manufacturer)</span> Japanese manufacturer of writing instruments

Zebra Co., Ltd. is a Japanese manufacturer of writing instruments, established in 1914 by Tokumatsu Ishikawa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A. T. Cross Company</span> American manufacturing company

A.T. Cross Company, LLC. is an American manufacturing company of writing implements, based in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1846, is one of the oldest pen manufacturers in the world. Cross' products include fountain, ballpoint, and rollerball pens, mechanical pencils and refills. The company also manufactures accessories for those goods such as cases and wallets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parker Jointless</span> Fountain pen line made by Parker Pen Company

The Parker Jointless "Lucky Curve" is a range of fountain pens released by the Parker Pen Company in late 1897. The pen used the Lucky Curve ink supply system, designed to draw ink even when the pen was not in use, which was invented and patented by George Safford Parker in 1894. The pen was named "Jointless" because of its one-piece ink barrel, designed to prevent leakage, an innovation at the time – though the design made the refilling process messy. The pen was Parker's first to be advertised outside the United States. The American government purchased the pens in large quantities and a Parker Jointless was one of the pens used to sign the Spanish–American Treaty of Paris in 1898.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reynolds International Pen Company</span> Manufacturing company of writing instruments

Reynolds Pens is an Indian brand and a former American manufacturing company of writing instruments, mainly pens. Products commercialized under the Reynolds name include ballpoint, gel, rollerball, and fountain pens, and mechanical pencils.


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