Conklin Glider c1938-c1949
by Jim Mamoulides, May 25, 2002
Conklin Glider Advertisement c1945
Roy Conklin and the Toledo, Ohio pen company that bore his name are probably most strongly associated with the first successful self-filling pen, the Conklin Crescent Filler. Conklin invented the pen in 1897 and it was very successful, propelling the company into the majors of pen manufacturing. Conklin continued producing Crescent Filler pens into the 1920s, eventually converting to lever-fill pens. This lateness to the game foreshadowed Conklin's decline, which accelerated during the depression, finishing with the company being sold to a Chicago company in 1938, along with all of it's tooling and inventory.
Conklin pens from the late 1930s can be found obviously made with Toledo parts and Chicago imprints, indicating that the new owners were interested in maximizing their investment. Several sources indicate that the new company did not attempt to continue production of the higher line Toledo pens in Chicago, but instead introduced a new line with many Conklin features, but clearly a lower price point product.
This new pen, the Glider, was probably introduced in 1939 or 1940, and though wartime production was reportedly very small, was continued in production until the late 1940s. Conklin introduced an even cheaper line of twist fillers and lever fillers in the 1940s. The company shuttered in the mid 1950s.
Conklin Glider Blue Stripe Pen Posted c1945
The Glider has a strong resemblance to the streamlined Endura Symetriks. It's a streamlined shaped pen made in black, marble, and with a striated plastic body that appears to be turned rather than a wrap. The ends taper to a noticeable point, rather than the more rounded ends on the streamlined Endura Symetrik and Nozac pens.
The Glider has an ink-view "Vision-Guage" section, which is actually transparent with the inner wall painted black, leaving the base 1/4 inch open to view the ink. Gliders were fitted with the very good quality large "Cushon" Point 14 karat gold nib, probably the only really first rate feature of the pen. "Cushon" is the Conklin trade name for these nibs, as common use words such as "cushion" are very difficult to trade mark. The nib is actually engraved "Cushon Point", leaving out the "i". The same Cushon Point nib can be found on later Endura Symetriks and Nozacs, and though the Conklin Crescent logo appears on the nib, it is engraved, rather than cut through as a vent.
Although the clip, with the Conklin name engraved, and single wide cap band are gold plated, the plating was very thin and many examples have the plating worn off to the base metal. The clip is a more cheaply made crimp-on type instead of the spring loaded clip found on Toledo made Endura Symetriks. The lever is a plainer and straighter type, a flat bar with a rounded end, instead of the imprinted levers with the large ball end and "stays", legs that held it in place in the lever slot, as on Toledo Conklins.
Conklin Glider Blue Imprint
Gliders are imprinted "THE Conklin PEN CO. - CHICAGO ILL. U.S.A. - REG.US.PAT.OFF". Gliders came in solid black, green marble, and red marble. Green, blue, burgundy and brown striped plastic are the most common plastics. The marble colors are much less commonly found and appear to be earlier pens, as later advertisements show only striped pens. It's possible that as the Chicago syndicate consumed the leftovers from Conklin's stock, they consumed whatever was available before settling on the four stripe colors. The pens sold for US $2.75. A matching pencil was also offered, but it is decidedly inferior in quality to the pencils that matched the earlier Endura Symetrik models.
Conklin Glider Color Palette
There is some debate as to the collectibility of Gliders, which are definitely lower grade pens than earlier, Toledo made pens. I would place them above Wearevers, but below all of the "first line" makers of the 1940s, such as Parker, Sheaffer and Eversharp. The nib is probably the pen's saving grace, being well made and worthy of a better pen.
Conklin Glider Red Stripe Pen and Pencil Set c1948
The blue stripe Glider reviewed in this article suffers from all of the typical quality problems one would expect to find including significant wear on the gold plated parts, loose cap band, ripples in the plastic and the striations aren't straight lines. The pens is 5 1/8 inches long capped and 6 1/4 inches posted.
After some restoration work, including a new bladder and polishing, the plastic is actually quite attractive. Many earlier Conklins are notable for having exciting plastic patterns, and this one attempts to continue that trait. The plastic has a good bit of depth in a bright light as the pen is turned in the hand.
The pen is well enough made, but not from the highest quality parts. Better gold plating alone would have made the pen more appealing, but it is a mid 1930s design competing with 1940s designs from Parker, Sheaffer, and Eversharp. The pen had to look dated at best to potential buyers. The cap screws on securely, indicating that the taps and dies from Toledo still work well. The clip is a crimp on and has almost no give, so this pen needs to go in a thin shirt pocket. It will ride high, making it not sellable to the military in the early 1940s, probably a bad thing for Conklin.
Conklin Glider Red Stripe Pen and Pencil Set c1948 Showing Golden Jubilee Box
The Chicago firm omitted the very nice locking feature Conklin devised for its lever filler pens, where two "feet" protrude from the end of the lever to hold it tight to the body of the pen when not being used to fill. The lever on the Glider is ordinary, but a quick pull fills the pen well and the pen holds a lot of ink. The ink-view section is a nice touch.
The Cushon Point nib is the best feature of the pen and it writes a very smooth, very wet bold line and has a nice bit of flex. This is a very nice writer, something the quality of the rest of the pen hides.
A Pair of Conklin Chicago Made Pens: Blue Glider and Black Symetrik c1939
Gliders used to be relegated to the cheapie tables and the bargain price region of on-line auctions. With more knowledge of Conklin and the fact that these pens have good quality nibs, prices on Gliders have been rising. One should take some caution when considering one of these pens. Without the Cushon Point nib, this is a very ordinary lower end pen. Even with a good nib, this pen will cost more to restore than a new bladder and polish. Many are not well turned, which you should be able to feel with your fingers. Cap bands will often be loose. Almost all of them will need a lot of re-plating work, and considering their value, unless you are a very focused Conklin collector, investing in that level of restoration will make the pen cost more than its worth.