Pen Profile: 1890 John Holland Eyedropper   1 comment

The John Holland Gold Pen Company was located in Cincinnati, Ohio, just down the street from where my office is today. Around the time of the Civil War, they were one of the leading producers of dip pens, but was slow to transition to fountain pens. The company folded in the Fifties, and the factory torn down, replaced with an office building.

1890 John Holland

My oldest pen is a circa 1890 John Holland eyedropper pen. I say “circa,” as I have no good basis for when this pen was produced. Stamped into the cap, it says:

John Holland
Cinti, O.
Patent 1887

The earliest it could have been made, therefore, is 1888. My house was made in 1890, so that seems to be a reasonable date. In my head, it signed the original deed to my house. Over the past century, it perhaps left with the owners, was lost, passed around, and found its way home in my briefcase, after a trade with another collector. It seems quite apt.

1890 John Holland NibThe pen is made of hard rubber, with a neat diamond pattern in the barrel–I can’t quite capture it in a photo. It is an eyedropper filler, meaning that ink is put directly into the barrel with an eyedropper. When I first started using it, some ink would seep out of the threads around the section. I was clued in to put a bit of silicone grease on the threads. This works well.

The nib is a very early example of a hooded nib, where part of the nib is covered with the section. The Parker 51 would later use this as a way to limit the evaporation of ink from the pen. This pen predates clips on pens being common. I think that’s a neat bit of trivia, though it is the main reason it rarely leaves the house.

It writes a smooth, fine line, though I still prefer my Lamys better. The nib is a bit on the flexible side, allowing for subtle variation in the lines’ width, giving it almost a calligraphic flair. When I first got it, the nib’s tines would rub a bit against each other. I adjusted how it sat on the feed. Now, I know of pens produced this century that are not nearly as smooth, and not just ballpoints.

The pen is very economical with ink, producing a line that dries quite quickly. I find older pens tend to be of that mold. They were tools in that era, and the goal was to minimize how often they needed to be filled (so you could write all date or more). Today, fountain pens are affectations, and, working in a paperless workplace, I doubt I could use all the ink in a fully loaded fountain pen in one month, much less one day.

1890 John Holland Writing Sample

Overall, this is a good writing pen, especially considering it is over 120 years old. It is not practical for my everyday use, for a number of reasons. However, it is nice to have a piece of history such as this that I still can use.

1890 John Holland Eyedropper

Posted 2014-02-03 by Mr. Guilt in Fountain Pens, Pen Profile

One response to “Pen Profile: 1890 John Holland Eyedropper

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  1. Very, very cool. Even if not practical for daily use, the fact that you have a pen from 1890 is SO AWESOME.

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