The company was opened in 1928, offering a line of stylograph pens under the name Tintenkuli Handels, the pen itself being the Tintenkuli. This name was meant to indicate its ability to carry a vast amount of ink, in the casually racist way of the time; “kuli” appears in English as “coolie.” Before anyone thinks to comment on this as a particularly German way of thinking at that time, I will invite an examination of the roles of Mantan Moreland in the 1930s and 1940s. One finds Tintenkuli now genteelly contracted to Tiku on the company’s website.
Rotring is German for “red ring”, and this trademark in the form of a red band appears on all the company’s models. It was not adopted as a name for the company itself until 1965.
For most of the company’s history, they seem to have concentrated more on technical instruments, drafting stylographs and mechanical pencils, than fountain pens. The first fountain pen the company’s site admits to is a calligraphy pen introduced in 1984, but this may be misleading. The company was absorbed by Newell-Rubbermaid in 1998, and since then it has been decided that Rotring should not compete with N-R’s other appendages, Parker and Waterman, in fountain pens, so an absence of evidence of fountain pens on their own site is not evidence of absence.
There is an seeming connection between Rotring and Koh-i-noor, but so far as I can tell that is a mere appearance. If I understand correctly, Rotring bought Koh-i-noor’s US holdings when the latter was a state-owned company of a technically inimical nation, and offers its Rapidograph line in North America under a Koh-i-noor rather than Rotring imprint.
The fountain pens Rotring made tend to be of extremely modernist design and of remarkably robust construction.
One last note about Rotring– a lot of people appear to feel driven to write the name as rOtring, or even rOtring, based upon the company logo. I’d say don’t bother; it’s like trying to write “Coca-Cola” with the scimitar-shaped flourishes.
Models I’ve examined: