Artcraft Fountain Pens were manufactured in Birmingham, Alabama, from as early as 1920 until 1934, when the company moved to Argentina. Because Artcraft was the only company ever to manufacture fountain pens in my home state, I have a special interest. In addition to collecting several Artcraft pens, I’ve gathered a good bit of information about the company and its principal founder, Ford Cromer.
My first Artcraft find was a black chased hard rubber (BCHR) flat-topped pen measuring 4 5/8″ long when capped. I believe that it dates from about 1925. It has a red hard rubber section and an enormous gold nib bearing the Artcraft name enclosed in their artist’s palette logo, plus the word “LifeLong” below that. The barrel is imprinted Cromer Artcraft Pen Company, Inc., Artcraft Fountain Pens, Birmingham, Alabama, with the artist’s palette in the center and the words Makers of Artcraft inside the palette outline. The pocket clip and fill lever are both imprinted with a tiny palette with the word ART inside. This is the black pen in the two photos below.
The second Artcraft that I acquired is the black and pearl celluloid pen in the two photos above. My best guess is that it dates from about 1932. It is a significantly larger pen than the 1925, measuring 5 1/4″ long when capped.
The nib on this pen bears the Artcraft palette logo, and below that says 50 Year Pen. The barrel is imprinted exactly as the BCHR pen above, but the word Cromer has been removed from the imprint. They didn’t bother to re-center the words, but simply removed Cromer. The clip is not imprinted at all, and the fill lever bears a strange little hallmark rather than the palette with ART inside.
My third Artcraft seems to fit squarely between the BCHR pen and the black and pearl pen. It is a black and white celluloid pen, often referred to as “milk cows” pattern, that is the same size as and has the same nib as the BCHR, but bears the barrel imprint – missing the word Cromer – and the “hallmark” on the fill lever of the black and pearl pen. I assume it falls between 1925 and 1932.
My next Artcraft is very similar to the “cows” pen above, but in jade green celluloid. It is the same size, but has the 50 Year Pen imprint on the nib and the odd “hallmark” on both the clip and the fill lever. The clip is the older style like the BCHR. Its barrel imprint lacks the Cromer name. So, it has features like the older BCHR and the later streamlined pens. It’s difficult to say whether it pre- or post-dates the “cows” pen.
Next is the pen I believe to be the oldest of my collection. It is a BHR ringtop pen measuring only 4 1/4″ capped. Its nib bears the Artcraft palette logo, but below that is only the numeral 2. The barrel imprint differs from all the others by saying Cromer Fountain Pen Co. rather than Cromer Artcraft… or simply Artcraft… This pen also carries an ornately engraved 3/8″ wide cap band.
My very latest acquisition is also the pen I believe to be the very latest in the line. Near the end, Artcraft introduced a somewhat smaller pen, still with the general shape of the two tapered pens above, bearing an art deco treatment on the clip and lever. Phil Munson (see below) has one such pen, and mine seems to be an even later variant in that it does not have the art deco treatment on the lever and also that it has a steel nib. The pen still measures 5 1/4″ long, but is smaller diameter. The hardware is not nearly the same quality as all the earlier pens, and the steel nib, imprinted with the Artcraft palette logo, seems quite unusual. No other Artcraft collector has reported having a steel Artcraft nib. It would seem that they were running out of money and tried to make a lower price point pen. This just prior to closing the company in Birmingham and reopening shortly thereafter in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ll do another post about that…
The Artcraft nib is beside the pen in the photo below. This pen has no imprints at all other than on the nib.
Artcraft nibs. Left to right: about 1925, about 1930-32, about 1934.