|The purpose of the
Esterbrook Project is to generate a complete list of dip pen
nibs manufactured by The Esterbrook Company over the years.
Contributions of information to further this are greatly
Natural, and Modified
has many pen styles with such names attached.
Just what is that all about?
From the 1880s through to nearly WWI, with some residue lingering after even that, one of the big fads of that time was penmanship. Apparently, handwriting was bad in those olden times. So an industrious few decided to campaign to improve handwriting, or penmanship. Primarily the main efforts were directed from merely improving the basic handwriting all the way through to florid decoration with side forays into doing basic line drawing using ink pens.
Schools, colleges, and the business office were targeted as needing improved penmanship. Public endorsement was sought from politicians and other dignitaries to more easily push penmanship curriculum into schools and colleges.
Careers were launched, fortunes made, penmanship schools were founded, correspondence courses were launched, trade magazines were published, and fame gained. The best known example of this was C. P. Zaner, who founded the Zanerian School of Penmanship. There were many others.
These penmanship entrepreneurs competed. To make themselves stand out from the crowd, they invented their own patented styles of writing and teaching penmanship. Competition was fierce and charlatans followed in the wake of the legitimate. The type of pen used, the way the penholder was held, and the way one moved hand or arm all became overridingly important.
Ready to accommodate these entrepreneurs were the pen manufacturers, including Esterbrook. The pen companies readily turned out pens embossed with someone's name or school or writing style. They saw this as a golden marketing opportunity and jumped on the bandwagon with both feet for all it was worth. (Sorry, I can't think of another metaphor to mix in here)
Labeling pen nibs for marketing purposes was nothing new. You can find many nibs labeled "School", "Judge", "Scholar", "Ladies'", "Probate", Accountant", and "Ledger" to name a few. Some pens were labeled with the names of famous people such as "Jackson", Franklin", "Blackstone", and others. The use of an evocative name, or the association with an admired celebrity, was not new then and it is still heavily used today. In general now, the manufacturer must pay to be able to use the name of a famous celebrity. (Break - check your tennis shoe time)
Psychology enters into the picture as well. Humans remember names much better than numbers. We need the numbers to better organize inventory and in placing orders. But we need the names more when using the products. You can still see this effect today with computers and the Internet. You surf from website to website using site names. But underneath, in the background, all those web pages are sorted, searched, and accessed using numerical addresses, or even hexadecimal addresses in IpV6. (Don't ask - I could tell you what hexadecimal is but then I would have to take a quart of tequila to recover)
Anyway, that's why we have pens labeled "Vertical Writer", Modified Slant", and "Natural Slant". They were marketing names for penmanship styles in the late 1880s to early 1900s. Maybe there was some "secret special" manufacturing process done to the pen, but most of it was just marketing.
Now you know. You may sleep easier.
Oh wait. No you can't. Have you seen kids' handwriting today? Go back to worrying.