PenHero

 

Sager Vacuum Pen c1926-1940

by Jim Mamoulides, June 24, 2017

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen c1926-1940

Click the image above to see a full screen slideshow

The world's greatest fountain pen value!

We found this Sager Vacuum Pen in a New Bern, North Carolina antique store along with several other quite interesting pens. This pen was heavily used, but not abused. There are some light scuffs and dings. The chrome plated trim shows moderate to heavy brassing. The clear pyralin barrel that holds the ink has heavily ambered over the years, but still has some transparency in bright light. The silver color plating on the nib is wearing off. Sager was not a brand I was aware of and being a plunger filler of some type, I wanted to know more about it.

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen c1926-1940

Solomon M. Sager started the Sager Pen Corporation at least as early as November 1, 1926. There are three trademarks registered to the company March 13, 1928 that state the trademarks were in use effective on that date. The trademark registrations list the company's address as 36 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois, and that the company is incorporated in Delaware. A fourth trademark, registered on February 19, 1929, shows a logo of a barrel with a pen punching through it. The barrel has the words "A barrel of ink" on it and the word "sack-less" at the bottom. This barrel logo and tagline is used on the clip of the Sager Vacuum Pen. Sager's trademark registration states that the Barrel of Ink mark was in use since November 1, 1926, so it's conceivable these pens were marketed as early as that date.

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen Patent 1,868,257 granted on July 19, 1932

It's also possible the pen was introduced later. The patent for Sager's single stroke plunger fill mechanism, United States Patent 1,868,257, was filed on April 24, 1930 and granted on July 19, 1932. The patent appears to be an improvement on the plunger mechanism of the Dunn Pen, which required multiple strokes to fill. The patent explains that the design cleans the pen when the plunger is pulled out and fills on the downstroke. Sager's own advertisements state, "one stroke fills it."

PenHeroSager Ink 'O' Guard Patent 1,886,307 granted on November 1, 1932

Solomon Sager was an inventor and serial patent and trademark filer. The pen uses three if not four of his early patents. The trademarked Ink 'O' Guard section is an unusual collared nib section that is supposed to prevent excess ink from the nib and feed from bleeding onto the section and instead direct it back into the barrel. The trademark claim states that the first use of this feature was January 6, 1930. The patent for this feature, United States Patent 1,886,307, was awarded November 1, 1932. The design must not have been compelling as it was not reverse engineered by any other pen company we know of. Solomon Sager was proud enough of the design to have his signature molded in the collar with the Ink 'O' Guard trademark and an indication of patent pending.

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen c1926-1940 cap and nib section detail

The third patented feature was a special plated Monel metal nib, described in United States Patent 1,909,900, awarded May 16, 1933. Monel metal is a nickel-copper alloy with high tensile strength and resistance to corrosion. Sager's patent proposed 67% nickel, 28% copper, and about 5% of iron and manganese for the alloy. The patent describes creating the fountain pen nib using a Monel metal that is then plated with a non-corrosive metal such as chromium with the result being a low cost alternative to gold nibs. Sheaffer also tried making non-stainless steel gold alternative nibs starting in 1952 with the palladium silver alloy nibs made for the Sheaffer Snorkel line. The nib on this example pen is a plated white metal nib that is possibly an example of this Monel metal patent. The number 4 size nib is stamped PROCESSED GUARANTEE NON-CORROSIVE and clearly has a silver color plating that is wearing off.

PenHeroSager Clip Patent 1,681,954, granted on August 28, 1928

The final probable patented feature is the clip design, which has PAT. USA stamped on the face. Sager described an improved ball clip design in United States Patent 1,681,954, awarded August 28, 1928. This design is intended to improve and strengthen front mounted clips that are mounted through a slot in the cap face by securing the clip to a groove inside the cap, secured by a screw in cap top. The appearance of the clip design and the patent stamping indicate that this pen has the patented design.

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen advertisement, March, 1935

Identification guide and features:

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen c1926-1940

Sager Vacuum Pens were definitely sold in the 1930s. There is the possibility, given the in use dates of patent and trademark filings, that the pens appeared as early as 1926. The few advertisements I found are from the mid 1930s, so the pens may have been made from as early as 1926 to as late as 1938 or even later. The trademark for the Sager Inkmaster shows an in use date of April 1, 1941, for example. The Sager advertisements I've found show this version of the Vacuum Pen with black caps and end caps with clear barrels. At the $1 selling price, I would not expect these pens to have gold nibs. There is a different model of the pen that is balance shaped as well as a pen/pencil combination, both have gold trim and gold nib versions.

  • DuPont Jet (black) pyralin cap and barrel end cap
  • DuPont transparent pyralin barrel
  • Chrome plated trim
  • Clip face stamped SAGER over SACKLESS with A BARREL OF INK logo over PAT. USA on the face
  • Cap unscrews
  • Open plated nib, either stainless steel or Monel metal, 67% nickel / 28% copper alloy, plating is probably chrome
  • Number 4 size nib is stamped PROCESSED over GUARANTEE over NON-CORROSIVE
  • Unknown number of nib grades, advertisements don't indicate choices, example pen is a fine nib
  • About 4 15/16 inches long with the cap on and 5 3/4 inches with the cap posted on the end of the barrel
  • Single stroke plunger filling mechanism
  • Fountain pen sold for $1.00
  • Matching pencils were available, which, interestingly enough, also have the Barrel of Ink logo on the clips

Performance

I was hopeful that the pen would be in working condition, at least for a water test, when we brought it home from our antiquing trip. Unfortunately, the seals are shot, so it does not generate enough vacuum to fill at all. Operationally, this pen would fill similarly to a Sheaffer or Conklin single stroke vacuum fill pen, though the filling unit is designed differently. Sager's advertisements show the pen being filled with the nib immersed in an ink bottle, the owner's hands positioned to downstroke the plunger (with a helpful directional arrow), and text saying a single downward stroke fills the pen.

Sager must have been proud or protective of his patents as the pen has markings on the clip and section collar indicate patented or applied for. The nib declares that it is guaranteed non-corrosive, and other than plating loss, appears to be true. Overall, the fit and finish is really quite good. These are well made pens for only a dollar each.

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen c1926-1940

The nib is a medium. It's very pencil like in feel, but smooth enough to write nicely with a little singing. The pen is average size for its period, about 4 15/16 inches long with the cap on and about 5 3/4 inches with the cap posted on the end of the barrel. It is big enough to write without posting the cap, but the cap does post snugly on the end of the barrel.

Not having a working filling system limits what one can say about the pen. The plunger appears well constructed and operates smoothly, so I intend to send it off to get serviced and expect it to work as advertised.

PenHeroSager Vacuum Pen undated blotter, image provided by Len Provisor

Sager pens are quite uncommon. The build quality and complex filling system place the brand just below the major manufacturers in my mind. Solomon Sager was trying to make high quality, value priced pens, not mass market cheap pens like Wearever. He protected his work with patents and trademarks and sold them by mail order. As uncommon and interesting as the Sager Vacuum Pen is, I would expect working, restored excellent condition examples to attract a premium price.


Acknowledgment

Thanks to Len Provisor for providing the Sager ink blotter image.

References

Another Barrel of Lead by Jonathan A. Veley, © 2011-2016

Fountain Pens: The Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration by Frank Dubiel, © 2002 United States

Glossopedia of Pen Terms by Richard Binder, © 2016 RichardsPens.com

Sager Trademark "A Barrel of Ink" United States Patent Office 252,938, registered February 19, 1929

Sager Trademark "Co-Ed" United States Patent Office 239,890, registered March 13, 1928

Sager Trademark "Colonel" United States Patent Office 239,892, registered March 13, 1928

Sager Trademark "Ink 'O' Guard" United States Patent Office 278,576, registered December 23, 1930

Sager Trademark "Lady" United States Patent Office 239,891, registered March 13, 1928

Sager Trademark "Inkmaker" United States Patent Office 412,466, registered March 6, 1945

Sager Vacuum Pen Company Advertisement, Popular Mechanics, March, 1935

Sager Vacuum Pen Company, blotter, undated

The Little Red Pump-Handle, Number One, © 1921 The Dunn-Pen Company

United States Patent Office Patent 1,681,954, registered August 28, 1928

United States Patent Office Patent 1,868,257, registered July 19, 1932

United States Patent Office Patent 1,886,307, registered November 1, 1932

United States Patent Office Patent 1,909,900, registered May 16, 1933

 

Interact

Comments on this article may be sent to the editor, Jim Mamoulides

PenHero.com Bibliography

Pen Clubs

PCA
WES

PenHero on Social Media

Facebook Twitter Tumblr Instagram

Pen Forums

Facebook Twitter