When Lewis Edson Waterman, a 45 year old insurance broker, was getting ready to sign an important contract, thinking it would be more practical and stylish than the dip pen and pocket inkwell which he usually carried, he bought a new fountain pen just for the occasion. However, when the time came to sign, the fountain pen refused to write. After the third attempt, Waterman rushed back to his office for another copy, but when he returned, the customer had signed another contract with a rival broker who had beaten him to it. Disgusted with the behavior of his pen, Lewis Waterman determined to devise a “real” fountain pen—one that he could depend upon at all times.

Before setting up his first “factory” in 1883, Waterman analyzed the air/ink exchange of the fountain pen in his brother's workshop. It was here he discovered that the problem lay in the function of the “feed,” through which the ink flowed to the nib. In order for the feed to be successful, one or more channels had to conduct the ink to the pen point, but also had to permit an intake of air to control the ink flow. After numerous experiments, he developed the “Three Fissure Feed”, a structure based on the principle of capillary attraction. This system was soon adopted by all manufacturers of fountain pens, and Waterman's slogan quickly became “the Daddy of Them All”. A new era of reliable fountain pens had dawned.

The first Waterman fountain pen was baptized the Regular in Waterman's workplace at 136 Fulton Street in New York City. In the course of one year, six dozen pens were handmade, to which Waterman personally signed a five year guarantee against any defects. In June, Waterman applied for a US patent on his invention, which was granted on February 12, 1884. During that same year, Waterman's friend, E.T. Howard who was an experienced marketing agent, counselled him to advertise regularly in a magazine. Success of the ad soon led all of Waterman's friends to contribute to the opening of the first true factory. An agreement was signed with a company in New York which made gold nibs, and the Ideal Pen Company was created, Mr. Waterman producing 200 pens over the next three-plus years.

In 1888, the firm was renamed L.E. Waterman Company. In the following year, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Waterman was awarded a bronze medal—the highest honor awarded to a fountain pen designer and manufacturer. In 1890, Waterman continued experimenting, and creating new designs for his pens. The cap became longer, rings were added, and various new pen finishes appeared, such as barleycorn in gold and silver. Waterman pens became more than just reliable writing instruments; they were now objets d'art.

In the year 1901, at age 64, Lewis Waterman passed away. Up to the very end he very closely monitored every detail of the manufacturing process, defining the shape, working out the right proportions, and inventing new styles. In the eulogy at his funeral it was said,

If every man who had been blessed by the use of one of the Waterman pens should put a rose on his grave, there would be a mountain of roses.

Annual production rose to and astounding 326,000 fountain pens. Success followed upon success, and by 1903 Waterman pens were sold throughout the United States and Canada. Frank D. Waterman, Lewis Waterman's nephew, decided to carry on and extend the Waterman name by crossing the Atlantic to conquer Europe. During the early 1900s, other innovations continued pouring out into the market, such as the “Sleeve Self-Filler,” the first model to contain a rubber ink sack that filled by pressing and releasing a metal bar which appeared when the sleeve on the barrel was pulled down. Another innovation, the “Coin Self-Filler,” was developed, in which the ink sack was compressed by inserting a coin in a slit on the side of the barrel.

After these series of “self-fillers”, the “Lever-and-Sac” filling system was introduced in 1913. A lever set in a metal housing, and inlaid in the pen barrel, was raised, thus compressing a flat bar on top of the sack. Over the next 30 years, this mechanism was to be found on numerous and extremely diverse models, from virtually all brands. In 1921, William I. Ferris, who had joined the company 36 years before, was named vice-president; contributing significantly to the Company's mission to achieve worldwide leadership, he was instrumental in developing a pump-type filling system. It was one of the first models to fill by a piston operating at the end of the holder.

In 1926, a Waterman rep by the name of Jules Fagard established a quasi-independent French subsidiary called JiF-Waterman, to manufacture Waterman pens in France. In the following year, Monsieur Perraud, a research worker for JiF-Waterman, invented the ink cartridge. It consisted of a small glass tube with a cork-stopper. This invention was not patented until 1936, but remained a JiF-Waterman exclusive for twenty years.

In the many years to come, Waterman managed to overcome struggles and boundaries which led to more inventions and pens that constantly impressed the world of fine writing. Here are just few of the pens that continued the Waterman chapter:

1953: The famous CF pen was born.
1978: Goutte was launched.
1992: The Edson Collection debuted.
1994: The Hemisphere Collection was introduced.
1996: L'Etalon entered the world of luxury writing instruments.

After well over a hundred years, Waterman is one of the world's largest writing instrument manufacturers. In a variety of materials, colors, designs, and styles, each Waterman pen provides a high quality of performance that allows the personality of the owner to shine through. Current collections include, but are not limited to Phileas, Expert II, Carene, and Exception. Renowned for its manufacturing quality and the beauty of its product range, Waterman is committed to pursuing its role as the creator of dreams and of writing pleasure. Most recent is the Serenite Collection: Continuing Waterman’s tradition of presenting the world with singular designs, the Serenite literally bends all the rules—not enough to break, but enough to expand the pen lover’s perception of what a writing instrument should be.

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