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The Parker 51 is a fountain pen introduced in 1941, and in production until 1972. Parker’s period advertising called it “The World’s Most Wanted Pen,” a slogan alluding to restrictions on production of pens for the civilian market in the United States during World War II. Parker's continued advertising during the war created a demand that took several years to fulfill after the end of the conflict.
The pen and the ink were both named 51 to mark 1939, the company's 51st year of existence, during which development was completed (U.S. design patent No. 116,097, U.S. Patent 2,223,541 filed). By giving the pen a number instead of a name, Parker avoided the problem of translating a name into other languages.
Design and history
The 51 was innovative, with its hooded, tubular nib and multi-finned collector, all designed to work in conjunction with the pen's proprietary ink, allowing the nib to stay wet and lay down an even line with either the ultra-fast drying ink or more traditional inks.
With various refinements, the 51 stayed in production until 1972. The most significant design change came in 1948, with the introduction of the improved Aerometric filling system. At the same time, Parker reformulated its ink, reducing the alkalinity, adding a selection of brilliant colors, and calling the new product Superchrome. Like the 51 ink, it also came with a warning that it should be used only in the Parker 51 (or its new little brother, the 21), but the warning was more discreet.
There were two iterations of a special ink formulated exclusively for use in the Parker 51. This ink was highly alkaline and while water-based, also included a substantial amount of isopropyl alcohol. It was released in 1941 as "51" ink, along with the Parker 51 pen; in 1947 it was made somewhat less corrosive, and renamed "Superchrome". Parker was careful to print prominent warnings on caps, labels, and boxes that the ink could only be used in the 51 (and, later, its economy version, the 21), and would damage any other pen. These special inks are no longer available, but Parker's Quink fountain pen ink, introduced in 1931, is still suitable.
A pilot who is suspected of falsifying flight records in his logbook in order to overstate his actual experience is said to have logged "P-51 hours".
The 51 is popular with pen collectors, and in 2002 Parker issued a lookalike model called the 51 Special Edition. In 2004, the larger and heavier Parker 100 was released.
- Parker 51 Special Edition (Originally official site for limited reissue of Parker 51, but seems to have other news about Parker pens, too. ;)