This article is written by guest author Isaac Bershady.
Parker 51 Legacy
Sleek, simple, and efficient. The Parker 51, dominating high-end pen market during its thirty-year lifetime, became an emblem of modern aesthetics in the mid-twentieth century. Designed to commemorate the fifty-first anniversary of Parker in 1939, the 51 materialized as the pen for Parker’s future generation. Its clean and smooth lines, hooded nib, and new twistless cap made the 51 stand out from the heritage of Parker pens. The 51 was a pen for the next era.
Officially introduced to the US market in 1941, the 51 rapidly became Parkers bestseller during World War Two. But after the war, the 51’s design was far from static. The original filler system, a multi-stroke vacuum pump similar to the Parker Vacumatic (an early 1930s design), was replaced with a newer, sleeker, and easier to use Aero-metric pump — originally called “Foto-Fill.” While the Aero-metric 51s could hold less ink than the vaumatic version, its ease of use made the pen still more popular. Until the end of its official production in 1972, the Parker 51 went through minor aesthetic changes, from a shorter clip to an engraving of “51” on the shaft, and sold more than twenty million pens. The pen’s success lay in breaking the mold.
The Parker 51 left an indelible legacy in pens that came after it. The hooded nib, sported first by the 51, was later introduced in other Parker models such as the Parker 21 and the 41. The cleaner look of the 51 was passed down to the next era of pens, replacing the marbled and decorative pens of old in popularity. Indeed, Parker has since paid homage to its most successful writing tool by producing special editions like the 2002 Parker 51 with the Empire State Building etched on its cap. Other pens like the Parker 100 have mimicked the look of its grandfather pen, creating an updated, slightly larger-dimensioned modern pen.
After the enormous success of the high end Parker 51 pen, there was a demand for a more economical, student-oriented pen that still had the elegance of a Parker pen. One of the most efficacious solutions was the Parker 45. Remaining in production from 1960 through as late as 2007, the 45 triumphed not only because of its relatively parsimonious price, but also because of its accessibility with a replaceable cartridge system as well as the wide assortment of colors from which the younger, target market could select. The new cartridge configuration, for which the patent rights had been newly acquired from Eversharp, meant that all Parker pens fitted for cartridges would be able use any Parker cartridge. Simple.
51 and 45: Heirlooms
This particular Parker 45 is the Slimfold MK II, produced between 1971 and 1975 in England. In 1972, when my father was living in England as a young boy, he became interested in writing with and collecting fountain pens. This Parker Slimfold MK II was one of the first fountain pens his father had bought for him. Noticing my father’s interest in fountain pens, my great-grandfather gifted his pair of Parker 51 fountain pen and pencil to my father. My great-grandfather Irving, a tailor and garment-factory owner, bought these particular pens after the Second World War. He had this set engraved with his initials, I.B. — which, as luck would have it, are the same as mine.
My interest in pens and how I came to have these pens is similar to the beginnings of my father’s interest. During high school, when my parents were living in England, I chanced upon a selection of fountain pens in a WHSmith shop. A brushed stainless steel fountain pen, modestly priced, started my fountain pen collection (not pictured). Upon showing it to my father he said he had two more for me. A few weeks later, after he rummaged through old storage boxes, he presented to me his first Parker 45 and my great-grandfather’s Parker 51. Now, whenever I need to write a heartfelt letter or feel like taking notes with some classic modern style, I fill them up, blot the nibs, and go. The Parker 51 and 45, timeless in themselves, have inspired in the hands of many generations.