The Waterman pen 22, used by Einstein for his Theory of Relativity, one of the great vintage fountain pens

vintage fountain pens

Albert Einstein and the Waterman pen

Looking for great vintage fountain pens? Well, you are at the right place. Albert Einstein used both a Pelikan 100 N and a Waterman Taper-cap Fountain Pen. He used the second one to develop the Theory of Relativity. So this entry is off course about the second pen, the Taper-cap. We know for sure he used it. We have Ehrenfest to thank for historical evidence. Einstein gave this historic Waterman pen he had used to write down his research on general relativity in 1921 to Paul Ehrenfest, his dear and longtime friend and theoretical physicist.

Einstein and Ehrenfest are to the left of the board. They were very close and knew each other throughout their lives. They even played music together, Einstein his violin and Ehrenfest the piano. Einstein became Professor Emeritus thanks to Ehrenfest and they became close because Einstein came to Leiden 3-4 weeks per year. He visited many times Ehrenfest in Leiden where he lived.

This Waterman pen, 22, a royal specimen of vintage fountain pens, is now on display in the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden.

vintage fountain pens

(image from Boerhaave Museum, Leiden)

The website of Boerhaave museum cites Ehrenfest who claims that Einstein used this historic pen from 1912 till 1921 which covers the period of the Theory of Relativity. According to the, it is a Waterman pen 22 taper-cap.

The beginnings of this Waterman pen, royalty in vintage fountain pens

Just like George Parker, Lewis Edson Waterman began his career selling insurance in New York. Just like George Parker he sold pens too. His patent for an improved ink feed paved the way for the modern fountain pen. Waterman was slow to introduce plastic pens and by the end of the 1920’s they lagged behind other makers in terms of style. Their first ‘plastic’ (celluloid) pen, the ‘Patrician’, was only made in 1930. So we understand better why the Waterman pen 22 was still made of hard black rubber and not yet of plastic.

This pen was also an ‘eyedropper’. I know that for most collectors eyedroppers are primarily of historical or maybe even an aesthetic interest, but they can also be very functional writing instruments. Eye dropping is a term used by collectors. It is a filling mechanism, where filling is like using an eyedropper. Although self-filling fountain pens were around in small numbers, eyedroppers were the norm until the teens of the 20th century. Below a photograph for a Waterman pen patent in 1884, the advertisement for the pen in 1919 and the famous Waterman pen 22 itself.

vintage fountain pens

(image from Newell Rubbermaid; zasoby własne, Wikimedia Commons)

vintage fountain pens

(uncredited, Wikimedia Commons)

vintage fountain pens

(image from El Club de Estilogràficas de Espana)

Vintage fountain pens

So no, disappointingly this historic Waterman pen can not be bought any more but I like this pen for the stories and for its heritage. So, it is one of those great vintage fountain pens. It also defines further Waterman pens, vintage fountain pens or not. It would be quite interesting to re-introduce the eye dropping system and writing with a hard rubber pen seems quite modern from a recycling point of view. Anyway, as a consolation prize for my dear readers who do not want vintage fountain pens, there is the Waterman Hemisphere, my favourite modern Waterman pen.

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