The Parker Pen Company was founded in 1888 by George S. Parker. Parker has made pens continuously since then and is still in business today. Parker was one of the Big Four pen companies that dominated the fountain pen industry during its Golden Age. For more information, see the companion article Parker Models found at the tab above.
This picture, like all the illustrations in this post, shows my 1928–9 Big Red Duofold Senior.
The Duofold was launched in 1921 with the Big Red model, which has since become the most recognizable Duofold color. Originally the pen was made from hard rubber, but in 1926 Parker plastic models. Plastic pens quickly dominated the market and were the mainstay of pen manufacturers ever since. Duofolds sold for $7, which was considered outrageously expensive at the time. Nevertheless the public fell in love with the pen and were willing to pay this extravagant sum to own one.
Big Red Senior from 1928–9
I own several Big Red Duofold Seniors. The specific one shown in this post was made in 1928 or 1929. It has two thin gold bands on the cap, that distinguish it from earlier models that had either no band, or a single large band. Later models, know as Slimline, although also having two thin bands, had caps that tapered somewhat so that the top of the cap had a smaller diameter than the bottom where the threads were located.
The weight and size of the pen are given in the table below. The Duofold Senior weighs in at surprisingly light 21g compare to a modern Duofold Centennial that weighs 29g. The extra weight of the Centennial is due to the brass casing for the filling mechanism. The size of the Senior and Centennial are virtually identical, which shows how carefully the designers of the modern pen were to be faithful to the 1920s design.
|Measurement||Units||Duofold Senior||Duofold Centennial|
The nib of the 1928–9 Duofold Senior is appropriately sized for a pen of these dimensions, that is, it’s quite big. It is, of course, made from 14K gold, which was the standard for that day.
The nib is inscribed “Parker Duofold Made in USA” .
The 1920s Duofold pens carried over the button filler mechanism that was used in the Jackknife Safety pen and other predecessors of the Duofold.
Pushing in the button would cause a thin metal strip to bow towards the center of the barrel causing the ink sac to compress. Releasing the button while the nib was immersed in ink caused the ink sac to fill.
The imprint on the barrel is somewhat worn, but it is clearly legible.
The imprint reads George S. Parker—Parker Duofold—Made in USA.
The clip was large and gold-filled.
The engraving on the clip reads “Pat. SE 5–16” at the top and “Parker ” written vertically.
The 1928–29 Parker Duofold Senior was one of the most prestigious and expensive pens of its time. It was meant to reflect the importance of the user and to make a statement. The large size and the amount of gold in the nib was meant to impress people. This was the kind of pen that was used to sign a bill into law, or, for lesser mortals, sign a mortgage contract.
This particular unit has some flaws. There is a series of gauges in the barrel where a tool of some sort seems to have slipped. The imprint is worn, but easily readable. Also, it looks like the lip of the cap had a chip knocked out and later glued into place. These noticeable flaws made the pen less valuable and I purchased it for somewhat less money than a pristine unit. Perhaps some day, if the mood strikes me, I might fill this pen with ink and write with it. A little extra wear probably won’t hurt the value of this pen as it would one in better condition.
Parker did stumble in the 1980s and was bought out by its management, who quickly sold the company to a conglomerate. The conglomerate moved the headquarters to England and subsequently to France. ↩
Plastic pens could be made in a large number of colors and patterns, whereas hard rubber pens came in only red and black. Early plastic Duofold colors include red, black, jade, mandarin yellow, lapis blue, and pearl. ↩
Parker, aware that large Duofold Seniors were too expensive for many people, introduced a smaller and less expensive model named the Duofold Junior, which sold for $5. Also sold at $5 was the Lady Duofold, which was similar to the Junior model except that the clip was replaced with a gold color ring on the top of the cap. The ring was used to attach the pen to a neckless since women’s clothing styles didn’t include pockets. My mother, who was a young girl during the 1920s, told me how much she disliked this style of ladies pens because, inevitably, the pen would work its way loose, unscrew from the cap, and she would look down and find just an empty cap dangling from the neckless. ↩
How is the date of a pen determined? The most common method of dating a pen is by comparing it to contemporary magazine advertisements. Looking at a series of ads in dated magazines for Parker Duofolds during the 1920s shows all the major and minor modifications made during the years it was produced. In particular, Glen Bowen’s book, Collectable Fountain Pens is filled with ads arranged chronologically for each manufacturer. ↩
Beneath the inscription are the additional characters “.47.”, however I don’t know the significance of this. ↩
The Parker Vacumatic pen, which followed the Duofold, had the year of manufacture as part of its imprint. Thus a “9” in the imprint would mean the pen was made in 1939. ↩