Eagle Prestige c1939
by Jim Mamoulides, February 7, 2010
Eagle Prestige fountain pen in golden brown striped celluloid open, note the hole in the center of the barrel
According to the article, "That Common Pencil & the Eagle Pencil Company," by Sterling Picard, mass produced pencil manufacturing began in the USA near the end of the American Civil War. Four companies rose as the largest manufacturers of pencils, names that are all still familiar today, the Eagle Pencil Company, Eberhard Faber, the American Lead Pencil Company, and Joseph Dixon Crucible Company. The Eagle Pencil Company was founded in New York, NY, in 1856 by Heinrich Berolzheimer, a German immigrant experienced in pencil making. Eagle was an innovative company, credited with making the first eraser tipped pencil in 1872.
This innovative outlook extended to other writing instruments, as well. Eagle patented a glass cartridge fountain pen on April 29, 1890, the first true cartridge pen, and Eagle offered them as all metal cylindrical and hexagonal cap and barrel models. The glass cartridges were sealed with wax until ready to use and the open end was mated with the base of the nib section, which was then pushed back into the barrel for writing. Eagle marketed a button filling pen in 1906 called the "Flash," indicating how quickly it filled. Eagle offered fountain pens for at least the next fifty years, many were high quality, but never sold as well as the big four, Parker, Sheaffer, Waterman and Conklin.
Eagle Prestige fountain pen in brown web and marble striped celluloid open, note the hole in the center and end of the barrel
As there is very little primary material available on the Eagle Prestige fountain pen line, much of my research is limited to examining example pens and patent information, determining date information by their design, patent date, and feature elements. For example, there exist flat top lever-fill Eagle fountain pen examples that are stamped "Eagle Prestige Made in USA" on the barrel, and I have seen some fitted with a nib, also stamped, "Eagle Prestige 14K Made In U.S.A." with the word prestige in script. This would indicate that Eagle saw the Prestige name as a brand and reused the brand name on this particular pen.
In the 1930s, Eagle, like most other fountain pen manufacturers, began to offer streamlined pens, a design trend started by Sheaffer with the Balance pen line in 1929. One of these streamlined pens was a high quality lever actuated bulb filler marketed as the Prestige. The design was an improvement on bulb fill fountain pens such as the Postal Reservoir Pen. Eagle submitted Benjamin W. Hanle's patent for the design on March 11, 1938 and patent 2,170,242 was awarded on August 22, 1939, which indicates that the Prestige was probably introduced in the 1938 to 1939 timeframe. I have no corresponding catalog or advertisement information to indicate the introduction or run of the line, and so few of these pens exist, that it is possible that they may have only been produced for a few years.
Eagle Prestige fountain pen in golden brown striped celluloid showing filling lever detail
The patent describes the new pen as a vacuum type, using a rubber sac (bulb) and breather tube (called a vent tube in the patent) to create a vacuum in the ink chamber to fill the pen. The key element of the design is that it is based on a removable, transparent insulated self-contained filling unit inserted into into the barrel of the pen, where one end connects to the section and the other end has an ink sac. The filler unit is not flush with the sides of the barrel in the patent, with the claim that it insulates it from the barrel of the pen and avoids any heating that may occur by long term contact with warm hands that could result in the pen flooding.
The long breather tube extends from the back of the nib section out to the opening at the barrel end. A short pressure bar clips into the inside of the back end of the barrel and is operated by a stubby lever that sticks out of the base of the barrel, covered by a blind cap when not in use. The pen is filled by repeated strokes on the lever, much like a Parker Vacumatic or Waterman Ink-Vue, and filling progress is gauged by looking through the translucent or transparent barrel into the ink chamber.
The patent goes on to describe how the barrel is drilled with holes to prevent pressure in the barrel from rising and also causing flooding. The actual pens have two sets of oppositely drilled holes, one pair about halfway and the other near the blind cap. Eagle stamped the barrel, "EAGLE PRESTIGE THE INSULATED PEN PATS PEND." to indicate the patent on the filling system.
Eagle Prestige in golden brown striped celluloid open
On the few examples of this pen that I have seen, the visible ink chamber is about 50-60% of the barrel length and extends from where the barrel meets the section, similar to many other vacuum and rubber sac type pens. A black version of the pen I have seen has a transparent upper barrel in this manner with a wavy line pattern, where ink level would be easy to track. I have seen two of the golden brown striped celluloid versions, a very similar material used by Conklin, and one with the brown web and marble striped celluloid, which I have also seen on a Conklin Chicago era Glider. I have seen an advertisement for a silver web and olive marbled striped celluloid Prestige, so there must have been several color choices. Each of the pens shown here have translucent celluloid barrels and ink level could be seen, but only with a bright backlight.
The clip is also derives from a patented two-piece washer clip design by Benjamin W. Hanle, awarded on November 26, 1935, indicating an arrowhead style design that must have annoyed Parker. In this design, the washer element of the clip has a triangular shaped tab that inserts into a slot on the clip itself, locking in with the triangle tip into a triangular shaped slot on the face of the clip, giving the impression of an inlay on the clip face. The Eagle Prestige clip is derivative of that design.
Eagle Prestige fountain pen in brown web and marble striped celluloid closed
Finding the patent information on the filling system and clip was far easier than finding any advertisement or catalog information. I have not been able to find pricing, years offered, model numbers, finishes offered, so I can only indicate the actual examples that I have seen.
The Eagle Prestige brown web and marble striped celluloid shown here is a full length, yet very light weight pen, weighing 0.5 ounce and being 5 3/16 inches long with the cap on and a long 6 3/16inches with the cap posted on the end of the barrel. The pen does not post very deeply or securely so if I were to use it, I would leave the cap off to the side. It's fine in the hand with the cap not posted.
Eagle Prestige fountain pen in brown web and marble striped celluloid showing filling lever detail
This is the only Eagle Prestige I have seen with a number 4 nib and its cap band design is different than all the others I have seen, which have a repeating arrowhead design. The golden brown striped celluloid version was photographed quite a long time ago, and I no longer have measurements on the pen, but note that it and all the other Eagle Prestige pens have number 6 nibs. It may be, as with the Conklin Glider, that there are two sizes of Eagle Prestige, with the only difference being the girth of the cap and barrel, and thus the two nib sizes.
As neither of these two pens were mine, I did not fill them, as I did not want to contribute to any ink staining in the ink reservoir. Both had been restored and operating the lever unit dry indicates that it would be very similar to a Waterman Ink-Vue or Parker Vacumatic in use. If you have used a bulb filler, like the Postal Reservoir Pen or any of the many copies made in the 1930s, you would immediately know how this pen will work. Eagle just added the stubby lever.
Eagle Prestige fountain pen in brown web and marble striped celluloid cap and nib detail, note the triangle section on the clip
The 14 karat gold nib is large and impressive, stamped, "EAGLE 14K MADE IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" with the nib size number stamped below. Writing dry, the nib is quite smooth and firm and appears to be an extra fine or fine. I am sure, having used other Eagle models, that the nibs are nice quality and write well.
Collectors who have Eagle Prestige pens and know how they work prize them for being not only unusual in design but also uncommon in availability. Collecting these pens would present a challenge, as they are not common and command a higher price than a typical second tier brand. This is justified as the pens are very well made and Eagle put the effort into a patented design rather than create a simple "me, too" pen. Eagle also chose nice celluloids for these pens, which would make collecting them a treat.
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