John Holland Pen Company

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Holland Logo

The John Holland Pen Company was one of the first fountain pen manufacturers, beginning production in the second half of 1800. The apex of its success, however, was in this early period of the fountain pen history. At that time the company contributed to fountain pens spread and evolution, particularly in the early '900, when Holland distinguished itself in the research for new filling systems.

In these early days, the pens produced by Holland were between the more advanced for quality and features, but the company always worked at the local level, relying on a network of resellers (among which stands out George S. Parker, founder of the far more famous Parker company). Because of this Holland remained behind in technological advances compared to its competitors of the same time. Starting from the '20s the company was just following the trends set by its competitors, and faced great difficulties during the great depression of 1929. Since the '30s the quality of its pens decreased gradually, and in 1950, with the death of the son of the founder, Holland ceased operations.

Holland
Brand advertising
Models et al.
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Instructions sheet
Patents

History

The origins of John Holland Pen Company will officially went back to 1862 when John A. Holland, acquired the gold nibs manufacturing company started in 1841 by George Sheppard in Cincinnati, with whom he had been employed by approximately from 1850. John Holland immediately began to expand production at dip pen holders, pencils and boxes. The first experiments with fountain pens are traced back to 1859, with the production of a metal pen, but there is no documentation on the marketing of such an object. The real fountain pen production starts therefore later, probably after the market introduction of the hard rubber, occurred in 1870 by Goodyear, but the company is claiming to have started in 1865.

The historical data on the initial production are very scarce, and throughout the first part of the decade of 1870 there is only evidence of advertising for gold nibs and holders. The first news of fountain pen sale dates back to 1879, with production of fountain pens advertised in magazines and scientific literature with the slogan: "We have no record of any fountain pen having been offered to the public before the John Holland fountain pen." First pens were gold nib eyedropper pens, that were improved with different feeding system,

The initial fountain pens marketing was made through a network of distributors, agents and commercial travelers, among which stands out the name of George S. Parker, who will start his own business by improving the feeder of an Holland pen. In 1889 the company was incorporated; at this time Holland probably was the largest fountain pen manufacturer on the market, but only on the 1890's the company launched a nation wide promotional campaign.

At the beginning of 1900 Holland distinguished itself for research on filling systems: the first automatic filling system is dated back around 1905, with the introduction of the sleeve filler on the Eureka model, the following year the company introduced the pull filler, which remained in production until around 1918.[1] Finally since in 1908 the hatchet filler was introduced, which remained in production until 1919. Since 1920, and continuing for all the following production, the company used a lever filler.

A 1925 advertisement

One of the valuable characteristics of this early century production is the presence of great quality overlay models. These models are distinguished by the use of a screw cap, often made in an original manner. In the early models in fact, the thread was placed at the end of the section, and inside the inner cap, while in following model the cap was made without inner cap, and the block was made directly through the threads itself. These pens can easily recognized for the presence of a long straight section. Finally, some models allow you to screw the cap on the bottom of the pen during the use.

With the death of its founder, occurred in 1917, the leadership passed to his sons, but at that time company's preminence in the market was only memory. In 1925 Holland, following all other producers, converted production to celluloid. The pens of that period were substantially similar to those produced by other minor companies, but there are some original models, made with mother of pearl inserts, named Jewel Pen, using the name of the nib. The company still continued to use hard rubber mixing it with celluloid; there are pens produced with cap head and barrel end in hard rubber, where barrel and body are celluloid, or vice versa.

The company severely suffered the crisis of 1929, having low financial resources. The pen quality decreased gradually for all the '30s, when the pens that were made by assembling parts produced by other companies with nibs and stocks parts resulting from earlier production, while the bulk of its revenue came from sales activities of the stationery shop that was on the ground floor of the company building. In 1950, with the death of the last son of John Holland the activity ceased[2]

Chronology

Year Event
1841 George Sheppard started a gold nibs manufacturing company, is the origin of the company
1862 John Holland acquire George Sheppard activity, giving birth to John Holland Pen Company
1865 the company starts fountain pen production [3]
1879 the company began fountain pens marketing
1884 the company open a new factory dedicated to fountain pens production
1889 the company is incorporated
1905 the company introduces the Eureka
1905 the company introduces the sleeve filler
1906 the company introduces the pull filler
1908 the company introduces the hatchet filler
1908 the company introduces the elastic feed
1915 the company retires the pull filler
1917 John Holland dies, his sons take over the management
1919 the company retires the hatchet filler
1920 the company start using the lever filler
1925 the company convert production to celluloid
1950 the company ceases operations

External references

  • [1] An article on the Jewel model.
  • [2] A John Holland biography.
  • [3] The company page on Pen and Watch website
  • [4] An article on company history.

Notes

  1. the date is not clear, the last known advertising seems to date back to 1915.
  2. although the end is reported to be in the late '70s, perhaps because the local business sales remained standing, at least until the company's palace was sold at auction with all the stocks in it in 1980.
  3. as claimed in this advertisement.