Parker Duofold fountain pen, the iconic ink pen

iconic ink pen

Parker Duofold fountain pen is probably the most iconic ink pen in pen history.

Right from the start. Truly. Open any book or read any article. This iconic ink pen is mentioned in the top 5 or 10 at least. Off course at the time it was the color that did the trick. Parker gave quite a stir when he introduced the Parker Duofold fountain pen back in 1921.

iconic ink pen

(image from unknown author, Wikipedia Commons)

Around 1920 most pens were still manufactured in black (the alternative was precious metal) but Parker introduced a large pen with a striking orange-red color. It had a unusual name as well, supposedly so called because it came with a barrel extension for use as either a pocket and a desk pen. It was nicknamed the ‘Big pen’. The Parker Duofold fountain pen has had its up and down through the last century… but that has certainly not taken anything away from its ‘rank’.

Let’s start with the company behind this iconic ink pen

The story of George Safford Parker goes that he lost important business in the insurance business when a leaky pen ruined a document and he set out to find a better one. George Parker began his career selling insurance in New York, but like many insurance sales men then he sold pens too. He founded his company in 1888 and he patented his first pen one year later. His patent was called ‘Lucky curve’ and so were his first pens.

Back to the Parker Duofold

Its origins go back to the age of Art Deco & Jazz and this must be the reason why this iconic ink pen exuberates confidence (size) and creativity (color). The showy red and then a bit later the black version were the only Duofolds pens till 1926, five years after introduction.

But then Parker innovated again and introduced the unbreakable Permanite, a tradename for a Dupont plastic. More colors were then added: Jade Green, Lapis Lazuli Blue and Mandarin Yellow. Stunning names, it is a delight to see what an adjective can do. In 1930 the top became flat and even more varieties were added.

In the late 1920s, the Parker Duofold fountain pen was advertised as being ‘indestructible’. The material changed several times. The very first models were made of rubber, then an early ebonite and then a cellulite. I believe the celluloid and permanganate are responsible for the name ‘indestructible’.

iconic ink pen

(image from Parker Duofold Senior in black hard rubber, ca. 1924, Wikimedia Commons)

Who owned the Parker Duofold

When I searched on the internet for famous people using this iconic ink pen, General Douglas MacArthur came up. I then believed he signed the “Instrument of Surrender” ending World War II with Japan while using a Parker Duofold fountain pen ‘Big Red’ on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri. A kind and observative reader, David Watts Jr pointed out to me that General Dwight Eisenhower was a user of Parker “51” fountain pens, not the Duofold. He wrote to me

“Because of his friendship with Kenneth Parker, forged when Parker was touring the Philippines in the 1930s when Eisenhower was an aide to General MacArthur, Parker sent Eisenhower numerous “51” sets during the war. In turn, Eisenhower promised that if he was in a position to when the time came, he would make sure that the German surrender was signed with a “51”. He kept that promise, sending his “51”s in with General Walter Bedell Smith to sign the instrument of surrender for SHEAF. Afterward, he was photographed holding the two “51”s in a V-for-victory sign, a print of which was sent to Parker.”

iconic ink pen

(image of Senior Allied commanders celebrating at Rheims shortly after General Eisenhower had addressed the German mission who had just signed the unconditional surrender document. Present are (left to right): General Ivan Susloparov (Soviet Union), Lieutenant General Frederick E. Morgan (British Army), Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith (US Army), Captain Kay Summersby (US Army) (obscured), Harry C. Butcher (US Navy), General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower (US Army), Air Marshal Arthur Tedder (Royal Air Force)., 7 May 1945, author not given (from Army Signal Corps Collection), Wikimedia Commons)

But then according to this archive, the Modern Duofold served as the basis for several limited editions for Parker, commemorating Norman Rockwell, General MacArthur, and one done to celebrate the original Mandarin Yellow Duofold.

In the twenties it certainly was one of the more contemporary pens but also one of the most prestigious and expensive pens back then. It is still a timeless classic and so I called it the iconic ink pen. Parker celebrated the centennial of the company with a Parker Duofold fountain pen in mandarin Yellow one of the original colors of the hay day.

The iconic ink pen, Duofold, today

It is still today top of the Parker range, an honored piece at a great price. It is surprisingly lightweight (28g), and the nib tends to be a bit slightly broad. It comes standard medium, but you can have others at request. The nib is today 18K gold nib and highlighted with platinum. It is fitted with a deluxe piston but can be converted for international cartridges, Quink ink.

iconic ink pen

(Duofold from Avhell, Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Parker Duofold fountain pen, introduced in 1921, as a bold, innovative, expensive pen, is still today as exquisite and surprising if you go for one the striking colors and designs.

You can find more information, reviews and the price of this iconic ink pen, here.

2 responses

  1. In general, an interesting and informative article on the iconic Parker Duofold. The pen is one among a very select few over the history of the fountain pen that continues to influence pen design. There is, however, a major historical gaffe. General Dwight Eisenhower was a user of Parker “51” fountain pens, not the Duofold. Because of his friendship with Kenneth Parker, forged when Parker was touring the Philippines in the 1930s when Eisenhower was an aide to General MacArthur, Parker sent Eisenhower numerous “51” sets during the war. In turn, Eisenhower promised that if he was in a position to when the time came, he would make sure that the German surrender was signed with a “51”. He kept that promise, sending his “51”s in with General Walter Bedell Smith to sign the instrument of surrender for SHEAF. Afterward, he was photographed holding the two “51”s in a V-for-victory sign, a print of which was sent to Parker. Parker refused to use the image for publicity purposes due to the solemnity of the occasion.

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