|The purpose of the
Project is to generate a complete list of dip pen nibs
The Esterbrook Company over the years. Contributions of
further this are greatly appreciated.
|Brief Outline of Esterbrook
best source of Esterbrook history comes from the Berol website.
this source just gives basic facts and few details. Secondary
websites usually echo the Berol and Wikipedia sites.
Many of these secondary websites also fail
to distinguish between dates and events for the American and the
English operations. These secondary website
sources also tend to concentrate on just
the Esterbrook fountain pens and pay scant attention to the dip
endeavor to do the reverse.
So here is what I have pieced together. Alas, I am as short on details as anyone else. There are probably plenty of errors and even more information to be provided. Feel free to e-mail me and give me your input.
1812 - Richard Esterbrook was born to a Quaker Family in Liskeard County, Cornwall, England. Esterbrook became a minister in the Society of Friends while still in England.
1822 - The Mitchell brothers develop a process for machine cutting steel pens. (Metal pen nibs were known as far back as Roman times, by the way.)
Richard Esterbrook worked in the stationery trade during the era when steel pen nibs were replacing the feather quill pens. Still new was the mechanical process invented by Mitchell for making steel pen nibs. In searching for opportunities, Esterbrook realized there were no steel pen manufacturers in the United States.
1856 - Esterbrook recruited five craftsmen from the Mitchell factory and came to the United States.
Esterbrook first located in Philadelphia. Initially, he called his company the United States Steel Pen Manufacturing Company. I would suspect that nibs with this imprint are relatively rare. (I have lost the reference source for this due to a computer crash. I know - back up - back up.)
1858 - Esterbrook renamed his company the Esterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Company when he relocated to Camden, New Jersey, building a factory at the intersection of Cooper street and Delaware Avenue.
1862 - Esterbrook opened a New York office and warehouse at 75 John Street, N.Y. A couple of years later, they moved to 49 Maiden Lane, N. Y. A couple of years after that, they moved to 26 John Street, N. Y., where they stayed for over 30 years.
The Esterbrook Company grew and became one of the largest pen manufacturers in the world, often competing with Perry & Co. for this honor.
The Esterbrook company used Sheffield steel from England. It was many years before they felt American made steel was of sufficient quality to match the Sheffield Steel. They were still using Sheffield steel as late as 1913. They probably made the change to American steel during World War I when the supply from England was diverted to war requirements.
Early on, the Esterbrook company bought a pen holder manufacturing company at or near Boston and thereafter made their own pen holders with the company name on them.
In Paul Hoban's wonderful book, it is stated that Esterbrook held the fifth trademark issued by the United Sates government.
1865 - The partnership between Richard Esterbrook Sr. and Joel Cadbury Jr. and James Bromsgrove was dissolved. The company was reformed under the partnership of Richard Easterbrook Sr. and Richard Esterbrook Jr.
- which leads one to wonder if this was related to the following -
1864 -1867 - Jos. Gillott of England sued the Esterbrook Company in New York for trademark infringement. Gillott claimed that Esterbrook copied their #303 Extra Fine pen name, title and design, and also the cardboard box coloring, decoration and wording. Gillott won on the issue of the pen but not the cardboard box. The descision was upheld on appeal by the New York State Supreme Court.
Feb 21, 1867 - The Esterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Company was incorporated by an act of the New Jersey State Legislature. Officers include: Richard Esterbrook Sr., Albert W. Markley, William H Gatzmer, Richard Esterbrook Jr. and Philip P. Dunn.
1879 - Esterbrook announced their first catalog to be printed.
1892 - Richard Esterbrook Jr. died at home in Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York. Francis "Frank" Wood, son-in-law of Richard Esterbrook Sr., is named to replace him as head of the New York office.
1893 - Richard Esterbrook Sr. became a naturalized citizen of the Unites States.
1895 - Richard Esterbrook Sr. died on October 12, at home in Camden, New Jersey. Some obituary notices claim he died in Atlanta, Georgia.
1896 - Francis "Frank" Wood elected president of the Esterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Company at a meeting of the Board of Directors.
1896 - Esterbrook introduced "Vertical Writers" as part of the proper-handwriting craze of the 1890's.
1896 - The Esterbrook Company launched a second manufacturing operation in Birmingham, England.
Some Esterbrook nibs bear the imprint of either "Made in the USA" or "Made in England". This nation imprint is something a nib collector might pursue to fill out a collection.
1909 - Esterbook moved the New York offices and warehouse to 95 John Street, N. Y., after over 30 years at 26 John Street,
1912 - A five story building is added at Camden, doubling the size of the factory.
1913 - The Radio Pen series is introduced.
1913 - Esterbrook moved its New York offices and warehouse to the Phelps-Dodge Building at 97 John Street, N. Y.
1915 - Esterbrook advertisements boasted they had over 250 styles of nibs.
1915 - Esterbrook introduced the Speedball line of lettering pens. It is unknown when Hunt took over the Speedball line.
1918 - Esterbrook advertising claimed production level of 200 milllions pens per year.
1918 - To help the war effort and at the request of the Government, Esterbrook reduced their offering to 30 styles of pens and 9 styles of Radio pens.
By the 1920s, Esterbrook advertisements boasted they had 26 styles of "Radio" nibs.
At its peak, Esterbrook employed over 450 workers. They manufactured 600 thousand pen nibs a day or over 220 million nibs a year, probably in the 1920s.
Many sources claim that Esterbrook actually increased their business during the Great Depression while most other companies saw decline or even closed their doors.
Beginning in the 1920s to 1930s, Esterbrook began research and development into fountain pens. Although others had introduced fountain pens earlier, Esterbrook was trying to solve the problems of design, materials and manufacture to their satisfaction. Iridium was already known as a tipping material used to reduce nib wear. Esterbrook developed a similar tipping alloy they called Durachrome. Esterbrook created several innovations in fountain pens. The most well-known innovation was the interchangeable, screw-in nib section. This feature was adopted by many others, even allowing the mix of nib section and pen bodies of different manufacturers.
From the 1930s through 1950, less emphasis was placed on dip pen nibs and more on fountain pens.
WWII - The Esterbrook factory in England was hit by a bomb. The factory was actually rebuilt during the war.
1947 - Esterbrook bought out the John Mitchell Company of England. This was the company that developed the manufacturing process for machine cut steel nibs in the 1820s.
1947 - Renamed Esterbrook Pen Company.
1953 - Esterbrook bought out Cushman & Dennison in the U.S. and began their product lines of felt tip and ball point pens.
1960 - Esterbrook bought out Cushman & Dennison in the U.K.
1964 - Esterbrook relocated their Camden, N. J., operations to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
The Camden factory was pretty much surrounded by the RCA plant. Several offers for the property by RCA were refused while Esterbrook operations were still there. Eventually RCA acquired the property and used the building (RCA Building 16) for a few years. They eventually tore down the building in January, 1971, and it is now a parking lot.
1967 - Esterbrook taken over by the Venus Pencil Company, becoming Venus Esterbrook.
1969 - Venus phased out the Cherry Hill operation.
1971 to 1972 - All Esterbrook operations have ceased.
1973 - Venus Esterbrook taken over by Faber-Castell.
This company was taken over by others and eventually the residue was swallowed by the Berol Corporation.
If you can correct or add to this brief history of the Esterbrook company, please e-mail me. Just remember that my interest is more about the dip pens than the fountain pens.