Walter A Sheaffer was, above all else, an inventor. In 1907, after being inspired by the success of other self-filling fountain pens, he came up with a lever-filling system of his own. His experience working in his father’s jewellery shop, and then opening his own jewellers, meant he was uniquely placed to understand how precious metals and fine workmanship come together. He received the patent for his first lever-filling mechanism in 1908 and put it into production in 1912.
Always a grafter, he put his employees to work in the back room of his jewellers making and selling the gadget. He wanted his customers to be able to fill their pens more easily, more cleanly and with a system that was more aesthetically pleasing. His ingenious invention added a lever, slotted into the barrel of the pen, that could be lifted, causing the internal pressure bar to depress the rubber ink sac inside the pen and so fill it up. It was a great success. By 1913, the company was incorporated and, within 10 years, was one of America’s top pen manufacturers. The lever-filling system was marketed as the pen that "fills instantly from any ink-well, with one touch of a finger. Cleans automatically when filling."
The company didn’t stop there. Innovation and invention is a thread that runs through the Sheaffer DNA – whether it was transparent ink reservoirs or bi-directional nibs, the company kept reinventing the category. In 1929, the streamlined, torpedo-shaped Balance pen was introduced. With its centred weight, it didn’t tip backwards away from the paper and put less strain on the writer’s hand than traditional pens (plus, of course, it looked good). It proved so popular, that the term ‘balance’ became synonymous with this shape of fountain pen, no matter which company made it.
In 1952, it introduced the snorkel pen line, with a filling tube to eliminate the need to immerse the point and feed when filling. Then, in 1958, it introduced the Lady Sheaffer, clipless and slimline, so it fitted snugly into a purse, and (in 1959) its counterpart, the PFM (Pen For Men). With a large diameter, it was the first pen to have the nib inlaid directly into the grip. In 1963, the Safeguard ‘Reminder’ clip was introduced, preventing ink-stained shirts across America’s executive workplaces by making it impossible to clip the pen in a shirt or pocket when the writing tip was extended.
Today, the range includes heritage lines with precious metals and filigree nibs as well as futuristic new creations. Whichever you choose, you know it comes with a backstory of innovative fine-writing genius behind it.