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History of A. A. Waterman
L. Michael Fultz


Much of the history of this company and its successors remains to be discovered and documented. A. A. Waterman started in business before 1900, experienced a number of transformations and successors and ceased production about 1930. Most of the pens the company produced are collectible.

Key Persons, Key Dates, Key Events...

All dates and even some of the names recited here are subject to revision. Arthur A. Waterman founded the company in or near Boston, Massachusetts before 1900. He produced eyedropper filled pens with a conventional joint near the nib. Soon the firm was also producing so called middle joint pens. These were eyedropper filled but had a joint near the middle of the pen. Although more expensive to manufacture, the middle joint pens were less likely to leak and soil the writer’s fingers.

Shortly after 1900 Arthur Waterman entered into a partnership arrangement with William G. Frazer and Hobart W. Geyer of New York City and the manufacture of pens was transferred to New York. Frazer and Geyer were already in the fountain pen manufacturing business and made the Lincoln and New Lincoln brands. In 1902 or 1903 Waterman, Frazer and Geyer acquired the rights to U. S. Patent number 744,642, issued to Harry W. Stone, for a fountain pen which filled by twisting the sac.

About 1907, a dispute arose between Arthur Waterman and Frazer and Geyer. Litigation ensued and Waterman was forced from the company. Frazer and Geyer retained the right to use the A. A. Waterman name and all of the Arthur A. Waterman Patents and the business continued to be called A. A. Waterman & Co.

In 1912, the L. E. Waterman Company (at that time the world’s most successful maker of fountain pens) brought suit against A. A. Waterman & Co. for trademark infringement over the use of the “Waterman” name. The L. E. Waterman Company prevailed and A. A. Waterman was compelled to mark each of its pens with the full name “Arthur A. Waterman” and also the caption “Not Connected with the L. E. Waterman Company”.

Around 1913, the firm was incorporated in West Virginia as The Modern Pen Company. Even with its history of litigation, the company continued as a successful manufacturer and marketer of fountain pens. About this same time, the firm began to make limited numbers of lever filling pens but also continued to make twist filling pens as well.

Some time after 1920, the company experienced financial difficulties and the assets were sold to investors in Chicago, who moved the operation of that city. Later in the 1920s, the firm was renamed Chicago Safety Pen Company but the product line remained very similar to the earlier A. A. Waterman and Modern Pen Company products. Near the end of the 1920s, the company again experienced financial problems and was apparently placed in receivership. The brand name imprinted on the pens was again changed to “Resevo”. The Great Depression seems to have finally ended manufacturing, but a large quantity of pens bearing all the trademarks was found in the estate of Fannie Friedman who owned the Good Service Pen Company which operated in Minnesota until the 1970s and currently operates in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Most Collected Pens.....

Almost all of the pens made by Arthur A. Waterman, A. A. Waterman, Modern Pen Company, Chicago Safety Pen Company, and Resevo are collectible. Pens range in size from relative small examples to ‘giants’. All the early pans are made of black or mottled hard rubber as are the twist filling pens. At least a few of the later, lever filling pens are made of plastic.

The firm made many overlay and filigree pens and some of the metalwork is quite intricate and attractive.

Rare Pens....

Some of the very early eyedropper filling pens feature exquisite spiral overlays which are very rare and valuable. A. A. Waterman also marketed a pen decorated in a serpent motif (it is thought the metal overlays for the snake pens were purchased from the Heath Jewelry Company) and pens of this pattern always seem to be scarce and valuable. A. A. Waterman pens decorated in high relief repousse in floral and shell patterns are among the most attractive ever made.

Finding treasure in a neglected desk drawer....

Since many collectors seem unaware that the Chicago Safety and Resevo brands are direct successors to A. A. Waterman, pens of these brands are sometimes overlooked.

More information...

The author seeks any additional information and especially copies of documents relating to the history of this company.

The author thanks pen collectors and historians Pier Gustafson, Lynn Sorgatz, Pat Lotfi, David Nishimura, Otto Yang and other for their contributions.

Good Hunting!
Written by L. Michael Fultz, Editorial Director,

©2001, Inc.