More Norman/Normandy Ballpoints

Not long ago I posted about the Norman or Normandy line of ballpoint pens that were made by Norman Gerstenzang, Inc. of New York City during the ballpoint frenzy of the mid to late 1940s. The company called itself “The world’s largest manufacturer of all-metal pens,” and their pens were mostly made of brass, sometimes gold-filled.

For some reason the company labeled some of its pens Norman or Norman “G” andNorman-Normandy ad others Normandy, even though there seems to be no difference beyond the name. With the latter, they played on the history of the Norman invasion of England and named their pens Knight, Long John, and Page. They also produced early multi-color retractable pens. This advertisement shows their lineup at one point.

Since my previous post, I have come into possession of more pens from this company, including some that only differ from the Norman by the addition of “G” on the clip. Perhaps this shows a progression in the naming from Norman “G” to Norman to Normandy

Norman two writer version 1 with reversable insertOne particularly interesting pen is very similar to the Page in the advertisement, but where the Page has a reversible pen/pencil insert, this one has the same sort of insert but with red and blue ballpoints.  Perhaps it is the forerunner to the Two Rite retractable.


The clip imprints are the only difference in some of these pens. Here are clips labeled Norman or Normandy in the picture on the left and labeled Norman “G” on the right.

The pen I thought was the Long John in the previous post may have been some other model, because I now have a pen that matches the Long John picture in the ad, with plastic barrel and brass cap.

The gallery below contains pictures of all these pens. Click on any image to enlarge:


Early advertising ballpoint from Delco

Not just an imprint on some cheap pen, no, Delco had a ballpoint made to resemble a shock absorber!

The refill seems to be from Holt, and it is possible that Delco made the rest of the pen themselves in order to keep employees onboard at the end of WWII. Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Pen-O-Matic – adding a ballpoint to the collection

Pen-O-Matic ballpoint advertisement - CopyDue to a 1949 advertisement that I found online some time ago, I knew that the quirky Pen-O-Matic, which was first made as a fountain pen, later was offered in a ballpoint. I wrote about my Pen-O-Matic fountain pen a few months ago, and really did not expect to find a ballpoint, but one essentially fell into my hands this week.

The first American made ballpoint, the Reynolds International, hit the market with a storm in December, 1945, setting off a frenzy of companies trying to cash in on this new rage. Ballpoints of the 1946-50 era really didn’t write very well and were prone to leaking into one’s pocket or purse, but that didn’t stop entrepreneurs from trying. Gimmicks abounded: tiny ballpoints on a keychain, double-ended two color pens, double-ended ballpoint/cigarette lighter, double-ended ballpoint/pencil, telescoping pens; you name it, someone tried it. Aluminum and brass were stylish, probably because surplus supplies of these metals were practically dumped on the market after the end of WWII.

None of this stopped the folks who made the Pen-O-Matic, whoever they were, from trying yet again, this time with a ballpoint instead of a fountain pen. I think that back in the 1930s, they had heard of the Meteore Pullman in France and tried to emulate it. The Great Depression likely did them in, but undeterred, they saw the ballpoint histeria as another opportunity to promote the idea of an automatically opening capped pen. As we know, it finally worked 20+ years later when the Pilot Vanishing Point pen hit the market.

But they were once again off the mark; the ballpoint pen simply did not work well enough to convince users to change. Not until Parker introduced the Jotter, then improved it with the T-ball, did the ballpoint really have a chance to supplant the fountain pen, and the ballpoint turmoil of the late 1940s was not sufficiently powerful to overcome the deficiencies of the technology.  A clever mechanical design just didn’t get it, and we haven’t heard from them again…or did we…Pilot, did you talk with these people?

They didn’t really change anything, except for updating the look and replacing their button-filler fountain pen with a screw-in ballpoint refill, and I am pretty sure it didn’t write any better than any of the other ballpoints of that era, but it is really a cool pen, so I am presenting it here for what it was: a gimmick, reworked from an unsuccessful gimmick of a decade earlier, using new technology that really wasn’t up to the job.

Norman and Normandy Ballpoint Pens

Norman and Normandy imprints

Brand imprints

Norman Gerstenzang, Inc., located at 715 Fifth Avenue, New York City, claimed to be the “world’s largest manufacturer of all-metal pens” according to a copy of a 1948 advertisement that appears on page 89 of “The Incredible Ball Point Pen.” The ad shows five pens in the Norman/Normandy lineup, including two multi-color pens, the Four-Riter and the Two-Rite; a pushbutton ballpoint, the Knight; a combo ballpoint/pencil, the Page; and a capped ballpoint, the Long John. Notice the “clever” model names that go along with the Norman brand name.

There does not appear to be any particular reason for the dual brand names of Norman and Normandy, as identical pens were made bearing both names.

My collection includes two of the Knight models – one each of Norman and Normandy – and one of the Long John capped pens.

Click on any image to open the gallery for larger views:



Pen-O-Matic – an odd one for sure!

Here’s something a little different!

Pen-O-Matic full view with boxI really get a kick out of the wide variety of ideas that are embodied in fountain pens. Filling systems, from eyedropper to crescent, lever, button, Vacumatic, and Snorkel are good examples. Various ways to show the user how much ink remained in the pen are another, from clear areas at the base of the section to ink view windows, transparent strips in the barrel, to completely transparent barrels. Colors, patterns, facets, metal overlays, and pocket clip designs also served to distinguish brands. There were gimmicks as well, and this pen is one of them.

This is a Pen-O-Matic, an inexpensive American version of the fabled Meteore Pullman introduced in 1932. The Pullman sold for the equivalent of $7 in 1932, which is a typical price for a high end pen of the day. I’m sure the Pen-O-Matic was not that high priced, but I have nothing to go by except for an advertisement for a much later ballpoint version of 1949 that wholesaled for $7.20 per dozen.

The Pen-O-Matic’s “gimmick” was that it, like the Meteore Pullman, was capless – yes, the distant forerunner of the Pilot/Namiki Capless/Vanishing Point pens of today. The nib was extended by sliding the “cap” toward the clip, whereupon a small door popped open and the nib was revealed. Sliding the “cap” back retracted the nib and closed the door. Like the Pilot/Namiki, the pocket clip is oriented so that the nib faces up when the pen is clipped into a pocket.

The button filling system is accessed by unscrewing the “cap” at which time the pen is filled much like a Parker Duofold.

I have the pen, which does not seem to have ever been used, complete with the original box and instructions. The door that covers the nib is hinged via a tiny pin that seems quite fragile, so it is not surprising that more of these have not survived – if many were sold at all…

I found a closeup picture of the Meteore Pullman door – which opens on top of the nib instead of underneath – that shows how Meteore used a metal rim around the opening to provide a much sturdier door hinge.

Click on any image to open the gallery for larger views:

Vintage Conklin Store Display Restoration

Conklin Store Display front viewI bought a very early, perhaps 1905-1910 vintage, Conklin countertop store display case, in pieces.  Fortunately all the pieces were there and none were badly damaged.  I decided to restore it to proper use, but not to attempt to refinish wood or replace cloth unless it were absolutely necessary.

I found that the key to the original lock on the back door must have been lost decades ago, because the door was now held closed by a large nail inserted from the side through a hold drilled in the frame and into the door.  I took the door to a locksmith, who made a key for me.  I plan to attach that key securely so that it will not be separated from the display again.

I disassembled and re-glued the frame that surrounds the door and also the frame of one of the two pen trays.  I decided against refinishing any of the wood, as it was in quite good condition.  I did clean it thoroughly, though, as it had accumulated the grime of the ages.

After studying how glass panels were glued in the old days, I cleaned the edges of the glass and glued new baize strips to them.  Originally, hide glue would have been used, along with good felt, but I decided to go with a modern cement for glass, keeping the felt/baize strips for proper appearance.  The wooden strips that support the two pen trays were glued to the inside of the glass, and I had to re-glue them as well.

Once all the preliminaries were done, I began to glue the glass panels to the wooden frame.  Finding ways to clamp them in place while the glue set was a challenge, but a pair of soft-jawed bar clamps really got the job done.  The two side panels went on first, then the front pane.  Finally, the top panel was glued to the top of the frame and the other three panels.

After a day for the glue to set, I slipped the two pen trays into the case and all was done.  I have a small collection of Conklin Crescent Filler fountain pens, the very ones that would have been displayed in this case, so I placed them in the top tray and filled the bottom tray with an assortment of other pens.

I’m quite pleased with the results. Click on any image to open the gallery for larger views.



Another Family Pen

Once again my son, Perry, has unearthed a family fountain pen.  This time it is a Sheaffer Balance pen and pencil set in the original box.  Specifically, the pen is a Sovereign (Lifetime, full length, slender girth) in Golden Brown, and the pencil matches it. Based on the style of the clip, the pen could have been made anytime from about 1936 to early 1942.

Although there is no personalization on the set, Perry found it among items that belonged to my aunt Laura Gaines, my father’s older half-sister.  This means that I now have pens that belonged to both of my grandfathers, my mother, my father, and my aunt. Laura Gaines was President of the Alabama Education Association sometime in the late 1940s, and she may have used this pen then.

One unusual feature of this set is the box itself.  When I opened the clamshell style box, I noticed that the insert with loops holding the pen and pencil seemed a little different than others I’ve seen.  I pulled on it and out it came, revealing that it is actually a snap-closure carrying case for the set.

Click on any picture below to open the gallery for larger views: