|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
WELCOME TO THE ESTERBROOK PROJECT
PURPOSE of The
Esterbrook Project is to create as complete of a list as
possible of all the Esterbrook dip pen nibs that have been
manufactured over the years. I decided to generate
this list of the dip pen nibs manufactured by the Esterbrook Pen
Company and enlist the help of the Internet in adding to this
If you have ever used dip pen nibs, you realize that Esterbrook produced excellent quality nibs that are a joy to use. Most all were produced for writing use. However, pen and ink artists and calligraphers have found some nibs that they love to use in their craft. There have been hundreds of pen manufacturers over the years and Esterbrook held a place of eminence as the leading manufacturer of dip pen nibs in the United States.
When searching the Internet for information, I could find no comprehensive list of all the dip pen nibs ever manufactured by Esterbrook. A few web sites have lists of dip pen nibs, but only for those they have in stock to sell. A few nib collections were found on the Internet, but are sadly incomplete. Kudos to the enthusiasts though.
In fact, the history of the Esterbrook Steel Pen Company isn't to be found on the Internet except as blurbs copying Wikipedia and a very few scattered fragments of information. I have not found any archives for the Esterbrook company on the Internet to see if it could be mined for information. The history of the Esterbrook company seems almost gone.
And let's face it, doing a Google search is about the most boring way to waste endless hours that could better be used to enjoy something else. Right?
Equally as boring, I was trying to build a personal wiki of all the data I was encountering on the Internet. After trying several utility type programs for personal wikis and databases, I became frustrated with encountering problems almost all of them have. I suffered through a couple of computer crashes where I lost all the data I had typed into these utility programs. This pointed up the flaws of many of these utility programs. They use a proprietary file system that nothing else can read, they save the file where you can't find it, and they don't let you export the file to any other format - or at all.
It occured to me that if I wanted the features that I couldn't get in these utility programs, I could have all that in a webpage environment. Then it occurred to me that I might as well put these web pages out on the Internet for everyone else to enjoy.
So I'm trying to make this website an ongoing project to see how much information about Esterbrook dip pen nibs can be collected in one place.
Here is a short overview of the Esterbrook History.
Richard Esterbrook (1812 - 1895) opened his company in 1856 in Philadelphia as the United States Steel Pen Manufacturing Company. By 1858, Esterbrook had moved to Camden, New Jersey, and renamed his company the Esterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Company.
Shortly after Richard Esterbrook's death in 1895, the Esterbrook Company began a second manufacturing operation in England. For that reason, you can find nibs that carry either a "Made in USA" or "Made in England" imprint.
The peak for dip pen nibs was probably in the 1920s or 1930s. This period showed the amazing business strength of the Esterbrook company in facing three challenges during this era. First, the company rebounded from severe production cutbacks and fewer pen style offerings during WWI. Second, Esterbrook was also trying to reinvent itself in the face of competition from the new-fangled fountain pens by developing their own models. Not appreciated at the time, Esterbrook fountain pens are very collectible today. The third great challenge Esterbrook faced during this era was from the Great Depression of the 1930's. Esterbrook was one of the few American companies that survived the Great Depression well.
One report has Esterbrook's dip pen nib production at over 200 million dip pen nibs per year, probably in the 1920-1930s. Esterbrook advertising from the early 1900's boasted they had over 250 different types of dip pen nibs. There were probably many more nib styles than that.
After 1940, the catalogs offered fewer dip pen nibs and more fountain pens.
Esterbrook was bought by the Venus Company in 1967. Dip nib pen production is believed to have ended at this time, though one Internet comment claimed it was 1971.
Why so many nib numbers?
Many fault Esterbrook for offering the same nibs under many different pen numbers.
Sometimes this was due to improvements or changes in manufacturing, such as the nickel or chrome plating used in later production.
Sometimes this was in response to the marketplace such as when they offered Vertical Writers, Natural Slant, and Modified Slant styles in response to the penmanship fads of the late 1800 and early 1900s.
Sometimes it was just marketing. So Esterbrook probably made minor changes in a pen style, stamped on a new number, and - Voila! - they had a new model to sell to the public. (If you think this is dishonest, consider the General Motors offerings of Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and others that often overlapped. They had models with similar body styles and often the same parts underneath. Then they would do it again the next year. It's just marketing.)
Customers always want the newest, best, and latest offering while turning their nose up at the old, tried and true. It's just human nature. It's just marketing pandering to what the customer wants.
I could use help.
If you know of nibs not on the list, errors in the list, links or sources of further information, or just have general comments, please send an E-MAIL.
If you could loan nibs for photographing, that would be hugely appreciated.
If you have high quality, sharp focus, well-lit photographs you would like to contribute, please e-mail them. I am able to process the photo for the file size I am using on this web site.
I do not sell nibs. I do not price nibs. See the REFERENCES for places to buy nibs. By no means am I an expert on dip pen nibs, just an enthusiastic amateur.
I'm going to limit this Project to the nibs with the Esterbrook imprint and not the nibs they made under contract with someone else's imprint.
Here's hoping this Project will answer the question of how many different kinds of dip nibs Esterbrook produced.