When I first read that the Fountain pen Hospital (FPH) had a limited release of Mabie Todd pens I was pretty excited as they are very popular collectables and pricey. At the time I did not know much about Mabie Todd pens but read nothing but great reviews.
To find out that the pens through FPH were not originals but new I was disappointed, but the price point was reasonable, so I thought what the hell let’s give it a go and buy one.
Mabie Todd started in the 1860s making pen and pencil cases / holders in the USA. In 1873 the company became Mabie, Todd and Bard when the Bard Brothers, nib makers joined the company. The first patent for a fountain pen was 1878 and the first Swan fountain pen arrived in 1884
In 1884 an office was opened in London, and by the early 1900s Swan pens were synonymous with fountain pens. Bard was dropped from the company name in 1906.
In 1907 production began in the UK with nibs being supplied from New York. Due to greater competition in the USA sales dropped so that by 1915 manufacturing was occurring in the UK and the US based company sold all of its European rights to Mabie, Todd and Co Ltd England, and thus there were two companies.
Production in the USA continued until the late 1930s while it boomed in the UK until the introduction of the ballpoint pen. In 1952 the UK company became Biro Swan and by 1956 stopped manufacturing just like its American cousin had approximately 20 years previously.
Someone owns the name in Europe and there have been mutterings that production will start again. In the USA the name is owned by FPH, they sell Mabie Todd but remain very tight lipped about where the pens are actually manufactured.
The original Mabie Todd Eternal was released in 1924 and by all accounts was a very popular and successful fountain pen. In 2017 FPH released their Mabie Todd Eternal – 100 pens were available. This year due to the success of the 2017 release they released 100 Eternal II pens. Both Eternal I and II are handcrafted from abalone (Paua shell in my part of the world) , “ making the design of each pen exquisite and unique”. The cap and barrel end are ruthenium plated and the nib gold plated. The difference between Eternal I and II is that II has an art nouveau design on the cap (see following pictures). The name Mabie Todd is engraved on the cap.
First up the packaging is uninspiring but you don’t buy pens for the packaging. The pen came in a plain black pen box with Mabie Todd and Co written on the outside and this was contained within a plain black cardboard sleeve.
On opening the box the pen does look pretty – they are quite correct about the look of the abalone.
If you don’t like a big pen then this is not for you.
The length of the pen is 145mm overall and it weighs 45gm. Uncapped the length is 128mm and weight 30gm, posted 170mm in length and back to the full 45gm weight. I like big pens with some weight behind them but even I find this on the heavy side and I never write with it posted. I don’t usually post my pens but with this it just became too long, the balance of the pen was still ok but a long heavy pen isn’t for me and I was happy with out the cap posted. The body is 15mm and 10mm at the pen grip.
Looks wise the pen is not pretty unless it is in the light. The cap and barrel end are a dull grey. It is the abalone that makes the pen special and this is at its best in the light.
Overall I was satisfied with the way the pen wrote on any paper, Tomoe River, Rhodia, copy paper etc. It has a very easy / quick start, no priming was required, ink was at the nib within three lines drawn on paper. It lays down a reasonable amount of ink, this is definitely not a dry pen. There is some flex in the nib so with a little pressure some line variation is possible.
It is a shame this pen writes so well because it is not something I would use a lot. It is pretty to look at especially in the light, but even for a big pen lover I find this on the bulky side. The biggest problem though, is not the weight but that the screws for the cap are on the pen grip making it uncomfortable to hold for a long period.
I bought the pen directly form the Fountain pen Hospital in New York. It’s not my first purchase from them and I am sure it won’t be the last as service is always very good. They just have the worst web site – it is so unappealing and not easy to navigate. The pens retail at $US149 and postage to NZ was $US25.
And my final musing – a pretty pen but I am not sure the original Mabie and Todd would consider this a worthy successor to their name.