On May 7, 2012, my oldest son called me to say that he had been cleaning out the attic of our old house and found a box of old family photos, mostly from my grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s era, and lying in the very bottom of the box was a fountain pen. He knew I would be interested. The pen is imprinted Laughlin Fountain Pen and Detroit, Michigan on the barrel and Laughlin Mfg Co on the nib. He said that it is quite shiny black, not brownish, so it seems that it has not oxidized despite over 25 years in an Alabama attic with who knows how high temperatures in the summer. Amazing!
When he brought the pen to me, he said that he could not figure out how one would fill it with ink, and I realized that it is an eyedropper. The barrel and cap are plain, not chased, and there is no gold trim at all. It has a slip cap and no pocket clip. There was, however, a bit of gold fill left in the imprint on the barrel, and I took the liberty of refilling the imprint. A quick Google search yielded a number of images of advertising by Laughlin and it would seem that this is a fairly early example of their eyedropper pens.I cleaned the exterior, polished the nib, and filled the pen with ink. It wrote beautifully, with a marvelously flexible nib. The nib is extremely fine, and most of its tipping material is worn down, but it still writes well.
The Laughlin Fountain Pen Company, founded by James Laughlin on October 13th, 1896, in Detroit, Michigan. The Laughlin Fountain Pen Company was active until the 1920′s when it stopped production. Some sources say that its assets and patents were bought by the Carter Pen Company, which had made their well-known ink since the 1800s and wanted to go into the pen business as well. The Laughlin Company made very high quality hard rubber fountain pens with eyedropper-, lever-, or thumb-filler mechanisms. Laughlin was also the first company to produce a “Doctor’s pen” – a fountain pen with a thermometer holder in the back side of the barrel – manufactured around 1905.
Apparently Mr. Laughlin firmly believed in the power of advertising. An article in the 1902 Geyer’s Stationer magazine reads as follows, although I can’t find any other mentions of their “New Departure” filling system, which at first glance seems even more messy than a regular eyedropper:
Based on the contents of the box – all memorabilia from my grandfather’s house – and the fact that the pen is a “Gentleman’s style” according to a 1904 Laughlin ad, this pen probably was my grandfather’s. If so it would give me the fountain pens of both my parents and both of my grandfathers – my mother’s Sheaffer TM Touchdown, my father’s Parker 51 Special, my maternal grandfather’s Hudson bakelite flattop, and now this Laughlin from my paternal grandfather.