Pens by E. Ayers
Being an avid reader, means I read a lot! Unfortunately, I don't have as much time to read as I once did, but I will buy a friend's book as well as occasionally do a content read for another author. So when I was asked if I wanted to trade manuscripts with a particular author, I said yes! This author sells gobs of books so I figured I was going to have a wonderful read. Her book was set in the post-Civil War period of 1865. Thrilled when the manuscript arrived, I immediately began to read with my editing software turned on so that notes, etc. were easy to tuck into the document. It didn't take me long to spot a historical error. I continued to read and the historical mistakes only got worse. But when the heroine was being held prisoner in the house of a wealthy bad guy, she made her way to his desk and wrote a letter, using a quill pen that the author had richly described as being pure white, including the quill tip - obviously an ostrich plume, from the description, without saying ostrich. But when the heroine was finished with the pen, she carefully wiped the quill tip on her hankie until it returned to its pure white color. Okay, I lost it. For a historical novel, it was hysterical. Had I simply been a reader, I would have tossed the book aside. I forced myself to finish reading and kept pointing out all her errors. But I doubt I will ever forget that scene with the quill pen. I can imagine the hankie and her fingers stained in India ink that she would simply wash away as though they were never discolored.
My love of pens sent me looking up information years ago. But with the advent of today's Internet, we have access to information that hadn't been available through normal channels. I've been working for years on a historical diary, and I needed to know more about pens, stationery, and postal information. So I began digging through the Internet. With many companies proudly showing off their patents, famous nibs and pens, advertisements, founders, and much more, the information is easier to obtain.
Now you are wondering what this has to do with the West. Well, what sort of pen would my heroine have taken with her as she went west to the Wyoming territory in the 1840's? She was not
Enter the metal nib pen, also a dip pen. They had been around seemly forever but not in continuous use, because jewelers handcrafted them out of silver, gold, or bronze. I can't figure out why they were not more abundant, other than the cost of such an implement. But the early 1800's saw dozens of patents for metal nib pens. And in the 1830's, an Englishman William Joseph Gillot figured out how to manufacture a stainless steel nib. It didn't take him long to create a fortune.
|MY CHILDHOOD NIB PEN WITH MY BALLPOINT PEN|
These simple pens could make very fine lines, were extremely cheap, and were in common use through the 1950's. It was what was used in school. As a pre-school child, I can still remember my older sister coming home from school with the tip of one braid looking rather blue. Seems Peter dipped that braid in his ink well. By the time I entered school, the round cup holder in our desks no longer contained a bottle of ink. We all carried pens with cartridges of ink inside them.
Fountain pens with disposable, click-in cartridges are available today. Expensive and beautiful, they are still considered to be the finest writing instruments. Barely needing to touch the page, they create beautiful lines, responding to the curves of the letters and pressure of the user to create those letters.
We also take today's fountain pen for granted that it will continue to produce a lovely fine line every time we uncap it. But in the 1800's such was not the case. Several dozen patents were obtained on the continuous flowing fountain pens that did not need to be dipped every few letters. The ink bladder was not easy to refill. They had a terrible habit of letting loose and depositing more ink on the page than desired. They were also expensive. It was 1889 when George S. Parker patented a fountain pen that really was relatively leak proof.
|NIB PRESSED HARD AGAINST PAPER|
Pens have evolved considerably since 1800, but quill pens are still fun. I wouldn't say they are easy to make, but a little practice will produce a usable pen. I didn't say fabulous pen, just something that will allow us to scratch a few ink letters on something. The point on a quill pen is split and that is what holds the ink and allows it to flow onto the page. The more pressure on the point, the more ink that flows, making a thicker line. Pressure on the point opens the split wider. Open the split too much and you have a blob of ink. A well-crafted quill pen in continuous use will last approximately a week. But it often needs a little tidying during that week, meaning reshaped or re-cut. So a quill pen user always carried a small, handy, pen knife. A good penknife contained a second blade used for scraping ink off a piece of paper AKA an eraser.
So my heroine would have left her family carrying an inexpensive metal nib pen and a bottle of ink. And chances are she had a few extra nibs with her. But if anything were to happen to her pen and ink, she'd know how to cut a usable quill from a feather. And she would be resourceful enough to use the juice from some berries or anything that was capable of creating a stain as ink until another bottle of ink could be obtained. Because the odds were any female who knew how to dress a goose for cooking, also knew which feathers to keep for quills.
E. Ayers enjoys writing about the real west and tangling a love story into it. A firm believer in true love, because she knows what it is to love so intensely, she likes to bring those feelings into what she writes. And when she's not writing books, she's often found with a camera in her hand, capturing images she will use later for her drawings. She relaxes by creating pen and ink drawings usually for close friends or family members. Her favorite subjects appear to be chickens or flowers by the number of drawings that decorate her pre-Civil War home.