2 Dec 2007

Pulse of the Planet

Watermans Ideal Fountain Pen

A while ago I submitted some photos and general information to a competition run by USA science website Pulse of the Planet. And I won (!) with this picture of one of my personal favourites from Stoke Newington Church Street, N16. Interestingly one of the two runners up prizes went to another Stoke Newington sign and the other to Philadelphia-based Lawrence O’Toole. Anyway, you can see the full batch of entries here [Link since expired] and I can wait excitedly for my t-Shirt and CD. Great stuff, thanks!

PS. Since I wrote the text about this Fount Pen sign (see below) I came across a USA site peddling authentic Waterman’s pens. But, more interestingly, they have a series of old advertisements that allows this sign to be dated more accurately to somewhere between 1900 and 1930.

Fount Pens (Stoke Newington Church Street, N16)
This sign, crafted to fit with the limitations of the wall space, has three components:

  1. Horizontal banner stating that any make of fount pen can be repaired.
  2. Upper vertical banner with the company branding (Walker Bros).
  3. Lower vertical banner stating Walker Bros are agents for Watermans.

The sign features different typefaces and this is because the horizontal banner, which differs most from the rest, was amended at a later date. It is possible to see the remains of the original sign coming through, particularly near the end of the word ‘Repaired’. The vertical banner has not been tampered with.

It is likely that the original sign was paid for by Watermans. They would have done this in return for the use of Walker Bros’ wall space to promote their fountain pens. Walker Bros would have agreed to this arrangement because it gave their shop publicity in return for providing the wall space for the sign. This is quite a common feature of signs, with big manufacturers ‘borrowing’ retailers’ wall space to promote their own brands in return for including the retailer somewhere on the sign. Comparing the style of the Watermans branding to press advertising allows this sign to be dated to pre-1930.

The original sign had more consistency in terms of typefaces. It is likely that the amended sign was paid for by Walker Bros themselves and so they commissioned a cheaper sign writer to produce the wording with a much simpler typeface used.

The notion of getting a pen repaired would be alien to most people in today’s world of disposable biros but this sign is evidence that it was once common practice. Although Walker Bros are no more, they have been outlived by Watermans who are still manufacturing pens to this day. This would lead to the conclusion that Watermans got the better deal when they paid for this sign to be painted.

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