Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Winston Churchill and his Pens. From the Archives.

In the world of pen aficionados, Winston Churchill will forever be one of the most famous users of Conway Stewart pens. Indeed, Conway Stewart have produced a pen to commemorate the British statesman:

The Churchill is made from either black or coloured resin, or ebonite with a traditional carved pattern or rippled effect. Trim rings are 18ct gold as is the extra large nib. All pens are made to order, individually numbered and supplied in a large gift box with cigar and book of Churchill’s quotations.
(Photo and text from The Writing Desk)

When recently the Churchill Archive Trust agreed to allow the public to access more than 700,000 entries of the Churchill Papers catalogue online, I was able to get a glimpse of the man’s history of pen use.

Swan Pens

Mabie Todd, originally established in New York City, opened a London office in 1884 and eventually established a British Mabie Todd firm in 1914. They started producing Swan fountain pens around 1890 and went on to advertise the Swan as “the pen of the British Empire.” At the time when Frank Jarvis and Thomas Garner formed Conway Stewart & Co. Ltd at 13 Paternoster Row, near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Winston Churchill purchases a Swan pen for 10s 6d. It was in February 1905. The following year, in March 1906, another same purchase is recorded.

Red Dwarf Pens

Churchill had been using Red Dwarf pens (stylos or stylographs) made by J. Kearny & Co. Liverpool for years. From 1931 to 1939, two purchases of Red Dwarf mottled stylos are recorded (he paid £1 10s for six). The price remained stable throughout that time! But in 1939 three pens were sent back for repair “noting that Winston Churchill had been using this type of pen for many years, and had recently noticed a deterioration.”

Conway Stewart Pens

When Churchill made Conway Stewart pens his writing instrument of choice, I do not know. His correspondence during the war reveals his preference for a particular Conway Stewart “self-filling stylo” which his supplier R. Horsley (Grand Arcade Pen Shop, Trafalgar Square) declares himself in 1943 “impossible to obtain.”

But who could refuse the Prime Minister his favourite pen? Although out of production for several years, Conway Stewart managed to provide Winston in March 1945 with three self-filling stylos which “had been put together with parts as we could find available.” An unsigned portrait of the Prime Minister was sent to Conway Stewart as a note of thanks.

On March 1945 Conway Stewart returns to Winston Churchill a repaired Ink Pencil. Maybe similar to that 
shown in the Vintage Conway Stewart website.

Miles-Martin Pens

Having acquired the Biro manufacturing rights outside the U.S., English businessman George Martin and Miles Aircraft owner, Frederick Miles formed the Miles-Martin Co. Ltd and in 1945 produced their first Biro. During the same year, in October 1945, Norman Holden apparently praised the Miles-Martin pens to Winston Churchill and made him a gift of one. Winston liked them and ordered six more writing to Holden that “I will not take them unless you let me pay for them.”

Photo: Science and Society

Frederick Miles seized the opportunity to have the British Prime Minister on the list of the company’s fans. On 26 November 1945, he sent Churchill 6 ball point pens “as ordered” regretting that “the pens had to be put into clumsy utility cases, a hang-over from the strength-through-misery movement.” A nicer case, he writes, would have carried 100% tax. However, Miles put in the parcel a presentation case as gift and charged the PM only for 5 pens “hoping that restrictions and red tape could be overcome and that the pens would have a large export value.”

But reviewing the pens’ performance on December 1945 it was reported that “the pens were inclined to stop writing when they became extremely cold, and would then require warming.” Not a good present for Christmas then...


Churchill Papers at the Churchill College Cambridge, Archive Centre


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