A Vintage W.S.Hicks Dip Pen.
W.S. Hicks Dip Pen Review.
William S. Hicks was born in 1818 in New York and, after an apprenticeship as a pen and pencil maker, set up the 'Hicks, Larcombe and Mitchell' pen company. His colleagues, R.J. Larcombe and Henry Mitchell soon left the enterprise and it was renamed 'W. S. Hicks' in 1848. Premises were set up in London and Paris in 1863 and 1875 respectively.
The first factory was on Maiden Lane, New York but in 1887 the company moved to a much grander building in Greenwich St. Hicks died in 1890 and the company was taken over by his son and renamed 'Wm. S. Hicks and Sons'.
Hicks was a highly skilled engineer and must have been an astute businessman as his company rapidly became recognized the internationally as a producer of high quality Gold pens and pencils. This is a Hicks 'Magic Pencil', a beautiful example from my collection. The design of these pencils is deserving of the adjective 'magic', If the pen is in the closed configuration and the finial is pulled outwards extending the pencil the other end also moves outwards, resulting in a very long and attractive instrument. Very counterintuitive and, well, magic.
The Parker pen Company in Janesville must have used some of the later Hicks parts, particularly nibs but, as the cutting from the Janesville Daily gazette dated 1907 shows the relationship was not always a happy one.
It would appear that Parker bought a number of nibs from Hicks for $300, installed them in pens, then decided not to pay for them citing their inferior quality. It is not known whether the ever paid in full for the goods as the jury was out as the paper went to press.
The dip pen shown above, also from my collection, is stamped 'W. S. Hicks, before the name change in 1890, but it is, very probably, much earlier. The nib, though not a Hicks, is an interesting one in that it was made by John Mitchell of Birmingham, England. John Mitchell was one of many nib manufacturers in the area but he was the first one to produce a machine fabricated nib, the beginning of mass production, in 1822.
What is particularly interesting is that he sold nibs in boxes stamped 'Pen Maker to the King'. George lV was on the throne from 1820-1830, William lV from 1830-1837, followed by Victoria. This strongly suggests a date of between 1820 and 1837 for the nib ( reference to King not Queen) and also the pen.
The holder is made from ebony, it is in good condition with a few very light dentition marks at the end which I have left alone, I wonder who had a little chew on this pen possibly two hundred years or so ago.
The pen is stamped W. S. Hicks and appears to be made of Gold but I believe it to be Gold plated. It is nicely decorated but has a hairline crack, only visible with a loupe, otherwise it is in good condition.
The nib, of yellow metal is clearly stamped 'John Mitchell's, B'Ham, Eng.' and the number '770'. It does not have a breather hole, this was a later refinement, and is very straight and ding free.
I have made several attempts to write with the pen but to no avail. It has a decent amount of flex but only holds a tiny amount of ink, it needs to be dipped every few characters. Perhaps antique ink is more viscous and would 'stick' to the nib more efficiently.
It is, however, a very attractive and tactile item with a long history, a true antique.