Charles H. Ingersoll and his brother, Robert, sold the Ingersoll Dollar Watch from about 1892 until they declared bankruptcy in 1921. Over that time they claimed to have sold 70,000,000 watches. Charles recycled the dollar concept when he founded the Charles H. Ingersoll Dollar Pen Company in 1924 and began producing a line of fountain pens designed to retail for one dollar.
His first pens were all metal, made from nickel plated brass tubing, and fitted with the key feature that he insisted on, a 14K gold nib. His advertising played heavily on his being “of Dollar Watch Fame” and on the writing quality of the gold nib. To save manufacturing cost, the pens used a twist filler system, with the filler knob actually being an upholstery tack. Not only was this system inexpensive to produce, it gave the pens a very generous ink capacity and became a marketing feature “the stem-winder filler system” throughout the history of the company.
With the advent of celluloid, Ingersoll was quick to see the marketing value of the colorful new material and in 1927 added celluloid pens to his lineup. However, he found that in order to meet his price point the celluloid had to be too thin to be sturdy, so by 1928 he had abandoned celluloid in favor of a specially stabilized Bakelite.
He offered both the metal pens and Bakelite pens until his company finally failed in 1931 under the weight of the Great Depression.
I had never heard of the Ingersoll Dollar Pen until I happened to acquire one of the all metal pens early in 2014 in a lot of several other pens. Its unusual design piqued my interest and I did a little online research into its history.
With some advice from several contributors on the Fountain Pen Network (FPN), I was able to restore the pen, with its unusual and inexpensive “stem-winder” twist filler system, to working order. I posted an article detailing the pen and the restoration on this site, then put the pen in one of my display cases.
As so often happens, I then began noticing other Ingersoll Dollar Pens for sale on ebay and sure enough, I “won” a few auctions for other examples of the all metal pens, including one with the original sticker still attached and apparently in unused condition.
Before long I decided that I should have at least one example of the three basic types of pens made by Ingersoll: metal, celluloid, and Bakelite.
Soon afterward, I had my first celluloid pen, an oversize Chinese Red model,
and described its restoration in this article. That was followed by a second celluloid pen, a Black standard size version, restored and described here. That left only a Bakelite model to complete my quest!
On May 12, 2015, I purchased a Cardinal Red oversize Bakelite “dollar” pen (actual retail price was $2.00) in excellent condition, requiring only some cleanup and replacement of its ink sac. At this point – unless I get completely carried away – I can stop purchasing Mr. Ingersoll’s products and be content with my mini collection.
The all metal pens were made with three different chasing patterns, two types of cap closure, and in pocket clip and ringtop styles. The celluloid pens were made in at least two different sizes, with the larger size featuring a screw-on blind cap to conceal the twist filler knob. The Bakelite pens were available in three sizes (men’s oversize, junior, and ladies) and four colors, but the blind cap was abandoned in favor of a cast metal twist filler knob that replaced the venerable upholstery tack that had served this function in all previous models.
The picture below shows my collection of Ingersoll Dollar Pens. From left to right:
- All metal screw cap ringtop with chevron chasing.
- All metal screw cap pocket pen with straight line chasing.
- All metal screw cap pocket pen with checkerboard chasing. This pen still has the original sticker and is turned so that you can see the unique Ingersoll clip design.
- All metal bayonet cap pocket pen with checkerboard chasing. Notice the L shaped outdent at the cap lip. The cap was secured by pushing this bayonet channel onto a nub on the barrel, then turning to lock it in place. I believe this pen is older production than the three screw cap versions.
- Oversize Chinese Red celluloid pocket pen. Notice the black blind cap at the end of the barrel. This cap concealed the twist filler knob.
- Standard size Black celluloid pocket pen. Notice that this smaller pen does not have the blind cap of the oversize pen, so the blind cap must have been an upscale feature.
- Oversize Cardinal Red Bakelite pocket pen. This pen has a smooth twist filler knob rather than the cast metal style described by other collectors.