Parker Pen Company
View of the Parker factory on Railway Road
|Founder||George Safford Parker|
|Headquarters||Nantes France (after 2011), |
UK (until 2011)
|Products||Fountain and ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils|
The Parker Pen Company is an American manufacturer of luxury pens, founded in 1888 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.
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. In 1894 Parker received a patent on his "Lucky Curve" fountain pen feed, 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.
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. 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. Manufacturing facilities were set up over the years in Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Mexico, USA, Pakistan, India, Germany (Osmia-Parker), Brazil and Argentina.
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.
The company bought retailer and catalog company Norm Thompson in 1973, and then sold it in 1981. 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.
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.
With commercial competition increasing upon 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. 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.
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. 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.
Parker Pen Co. was an aviation pioneer. The interest of Parker Pen Co. about aircraft came from Kenneth Parker, son of the founder, he enlisted in the fledgling air service and, after flight training at Miami Air Base, Kenneth 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 his dealers.
Key models in the company's history include:
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, it was manufactured in Newhaven, England and produced in a variety of different versions until 1999. 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.' 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'.
Parker 25s were issued in several variants: initially, fountain pen, ballpoint, fibre point and mechanical pencil. 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 - 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. 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 aficionados are rather disparaging about the Parker 25, which lacks the status of the legendary Parker Duofold or the storied Parker 51. 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.
Parker Pen Co. was also an aviation pioneer related in Parker; An invitatión to Fly. Parker Pen Co.'s interest in aircraft came from the founder's son, Kenneth Parker, enlisted in the fledgling air service and, after flight training at Miami Air Force Base, Kenneth was assigned to officer training in tactical maneuvers. at the Pensacola Florida Naval Air Station From their first company commercial aircraft, the Parker Duofold Fairchild, they used it as an innovative advertising weapon. Between the 1920s and 1960s, it maintained a considerable air fleet.
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". 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.
US Presidential Parkers
Parker Jotters were a favorite choice of President John F. Kennedy for signing legislation and to give as gifts. 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.
|5th Technology||I.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|
- "Sorry". www.parkerpen.com. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Pen factory closure plan revealed". 16 July 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2018 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
- "George safford parker". google.com. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- US patent n.512319 Archived 11 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Parker/en - FountainPen". www.fountainpen.it. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Sorry". www.parkerpen.com. Archived from the original on 27 May 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Parker Penography: PARKER 51". parkerpens.net. Archived from the original on 22 October 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Books About Pens". www.booksaboutpens.com. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "Vintage Pen Blog". GoPens.com. Archived from the original on 6 September 2017.
- Hambug, Ken (20 November 1989). "Portland's Norm Thompson is 40 and still growing". The Oregonian. p. C9.
- Sussex Edition Archived 26 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine; BBC News.
- Parker Pen Newhaven closure plan revealed Archived 10 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine, The Argus, 16 July 2009
- Sanford leaving Janesville Archived 23 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Madison.com, 19 August 2009
- Parker Official Website Archived 9 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- "Parker An Invitation to Fly". www.parkersheaffer.com. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
- See Malcolm Toak, Pen to Paper, The Story of Newhaven's Pen Factory, New Anzac Publications, 2005
- See Parker Pens website, by Swedish pen historian Tony Fischier http://parkerpens.net/parker25.html
- Justin McQuirk, 'Kenneth Grange, a very British modernist', The Guardian, 19 July 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/jul/19/kenneth-grange-british-modernist
- See examples at More Engineering website created by former Parker engineer, http://www.moreengineering.co.uk/publications-and-prices/4584108238
- See David Shepherd and Dan Zazove, Parker Duofold, Surrenden Pens Ltd, 2006.
- See David Shepherd and Mark Shepherd, Parker "51", Surrenden Pens Ltd, 2004.
- Kenneth Grange at the Boilerhouse, Parker 25, Design Council Slide Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=53760&sos=0
- Note: The RB1 name stands for "Rollerball 1".
- When Parker Pens Ruled Archived 12 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine; Tuesday, 7 December 2010; article; The Wall Street Journal; comment: about the relaunch of Parker Pens held at the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. Pictured are two Parker Vectors with polished steel finish; retrieved ???.
- "John F. Kennedy Parker Jotter Pen". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. JFK Library and museum. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
President Kennedy's Favorite Pen
- Loring, John. "The Presidential Pen - the first fifty years". John Loring. Archived from the original on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
- "Welcome to Parker". www.parkerpen.com. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
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