It’s tax season all around the United States. For those who overpaid it’s a time of joy, an occasion to expectantly check the mail or log into our bank accounts. For everyone else…it’s just tax season.
As Americans, we started paying a federal income tax in 1861 and 1862 to pay for the Civil War. During this storied time of civil unrest, young men on both sides were using smooth-bore, long-barreled muskets and keen-edged sabers to solve the nation’s differences on the field of battle. But, off the battle field they were using quills and dip pens to write letters of their experience and re-connect with their friends and family back home. Quills had a short life span and were easily breakable, especially in the pockets of young soldiers tramping around the countryside from skirmish to skirmish. Metal tipped dip pens were more durable, but also more expensive and rare. But, even though the typical soldier of the Civil War era relied heavily on quills, dip pens and even pencils, it doesn’t mean the fountain pen didn’t exist in America.
Peregrin Williamson, a Baltimore shoemaker, received the first American patent for a fountain pen in 1809. Later, in 1831, John Jacob Parker patented the first self-filling fountain pen. However, these early fountain pen models were fraught with mechanical problems that led to ink spills and other inadequacies that left them impractical for the average user and thus hard to sell. All that would change, however, after the Civil War. As the war ended and the healing process began, the nation once again turned it’s eyes on innovation and technology. During this period the fountain pen in America would begin to take shape as we know it today with the addition of what many consider the first practical fountain pen produced by Lewis Waterman. Countless others followed.
Modern fountain pens have changed drastically from their civil war era counterparts, as has the tax code that initially sprung up to help fund the war. But, what hasn’t changed is our connection to our written language and the instruments we use to lay our thoughts out on paper. As collectors we still yearn for that perfect writing instrument to pen the great American novel, draft that world-renowned play or simply write a letter back home. At the very least we’ll need something to sign our taxes with this season.
Which reminds me, if you need any help figuring out what to do with your return this year, might I suggest something along these lines?