All American Streamline Pens c1931-c1938
by Jim Mamoulides, February 24, 2002
Like many pen makers during the late 1920s and the Depression, Conklin made an economy line, calling theirs the "All American Pen." The first All American pens were made as flattop pens, plainer versions of the Endura line, probably in the late 1920s, and generally in solid colors imprinted "The All American Pen" and "A Conklin Product" on the second line underneath. When Conklin streamlined the top line Endura pens in 1930 / 1931, the All American followed suit.
Conklin All American Imprint
All American nibs are plain, marked only "All American" in block caps in a curve across the nib, with All above American. The nibs are also smaller and lighter than the Endura nibs.
What catches the eye of many collectors is the wilder patterned plastics that appear on the All American pens and the unique plunger fill system that was fitted to some pens.
Conklin All American Streamline Black Green Candy Stripe c1934
Generally, Endura Symetriks and All Americans used different plastics, but there are exceptions. You can see an example of the same Web pattern plastic on both an Endura Symetrik and an All American on this site. It's possible that Conklin, strapped for cash in the 1930s, may have used the same plastics on both pens in some cases.
Conklin All American Streamline Brown Web Plunger Filler c1932
Some identifying differences between the Endura Symetrik and the All American include:
Conklin in script and Toledo on the Endura Symetrik nib, and All American on the All American nib. The Endura Symetrik nib will also have the Conklin crescent on it.
Conklin All American Streamline Nib
All Americans will not
have an inlaid gold crescent on the pen cap (which can be
above or below the clip), which appears on some Endura
All Americans have "The All American Pen" and "A Conklin Product" as imprints, Endura Symetriks have "Trade Conklin (in script) Mark" and "Toledo Ohio USA" as imprints.
All Americans have straight levers (on the lever fill pens) where Endura Symetriks have round end levers.
Plunger fillers only appear as All Americans.
Don't look for clips as an identifier, as Conklin clips were notorious for rusting off, so you may find examples with any of the various clips used in the 1920s and 1930s.
Conklin All American Streamline Plunger Fill Showing Plunger Mechanism
The plunger fill system used on the All American pen is similar to the Vacuum Fill system used on Sheaffer Triumphs in the 1940s. The All American plunger filler is also sacless pen. The pen has a body colored blind cap, that when removed reveals a metal capped plunger. As with the Sheaffer pen, a quick downstroke of the plunger rod creates a vacuum that sucks ink into the pen body.
Conklin All American Streamline Plunger Fill Brown Web Pencil c1932
Conklin Endura Symetrik pencils were very large, similar in length to the pen, and substantial. The All American pencil was essentially the same pencil as the more expensive model, save some trim.
The two All American pens in this article were both originally fitted with All American medium nibs. The nib on the Candy Stripe pen had a crack and was replaced with a correct period 14k warranted replacement nib. Both pens are right at 5 inches long capped and 6 1/8 inches posted.
Both of these pens are very eye-catching. Many Conklins from this period use some of the most exciting patterns of the period. Both the web and the candy stripe patterns have a lot of depth in the light as the pen is turned in the hand.
Both pens appear to be well made. The caps screw on securely. The spring clips hold the pen tightly in the pocket and would work on thicker shirts or on a coat pocket, which was a common pen pocket when these pens were new.
I always liked the locking feature Conklin devised for its lever filler pens. When you pull up the lever you notice that it has two "feet" protruding from it. These feet have tabs on their ends that snap into the lever slot on the inside of the pen and hold the lever tight to the body of the pen when not being used to fill. Anyone who has used, say, a Sheaffer flattop, for example, has probably seen a pen with a loose or dangly lever. This won't happen on the Conklin pens, where the lever sits neat with the body of the pen. The straight lever on the All American is not as nice to delicate fingertips as the rounded levers of the Endura Symetriks, though.
The plunger filler is nice and straight forward to use. I like it better than the later Sheaffer Vacuum Filler as the plunger on the Conklin is a metal cap securely fastened to the large rod, where the end cap on the Sheaffer is the plunger cap. I've had these come off in my hand in use. Not a good thing. The pen fills very nicely with a quick downstroke. The plastic is not as transparent as a Vacumatic, but on this pen, it could be due to ambering. This one is being sent of to be restored.
The All American nib is smooth, with some flex. Similar to the later Cushion Point nibs. The Warranted nib is not original equipment. Suffice it to say that it is butter smooth. These can be very good writing pens, with some work. The size and shape of the pen make them comfortable to write with. I'm not happy with how the caps post, though the plunger pen posts a little more snugly. The patterns make the pens fun to use.
I've noticed that All American streamline pens are starting to command higher prices, in some cases similar to Endura Symetriks. They don't appear to be particularly commonplace, as is with 1930s Conklin pens in general.
In spite of the fact that these were intended as economy pens, the All Americans are well made, serviceable, and seem durable enough to be daily users. Beware that the plastics may be fragile. I've seen hairline cap cracks on these pens. Post with care. Also take care to check out the clips on Conklin pens in general. The spring steel used to make the clip work similar to a clothespin was also highly susceptible to rusting. You may find these pens with sprung clips, also. The good news is that many repair people can fix that problem.
A very interesting an eye-catching collection can be made from the All American.