As a pen-maker, Sheaffer was generally quite innovative. There are a number of firsts in the company’s history, which other makers strove to emulate, and on those few occasions that they didn’t get there first, they generally got there better; I am here thinking of the “sacless” pen contest started by the Vacumatic and Sheaffer’s response. Parker’s “51″ was another example of the older maker getting to the innovation first, and while the Sheaffer reply was an extremely pleasant family of pens, I think it’s safe to say that it’s only different rather than better.
That response was the Triumph line, which in the initial advertising Sheaffer emulated Parker’s use of quotation marks and even capitalized the name. Happily, the habit in pen-fanciers is to not follow this, and so I am not driven to type “TRIUMPH” every time I mention it. The same advertising declares that the name had been chosen prior to the US becoming involved in the Second World War, and rather was meant “to symbolize an outstanding achievement of Sheaffer engineers and craftsmen.”
Also found in those early ads is a failure to interchangeably apply the name to both pen and point; the latter was consistently called “the Feathertouch Sheath-Point and FLO-RITE feed” which is a bit of a mouthful. Sheaffer themselves adopted the shorthand “Triumph point” no later than 1949′s catalogues, which makes it a more or less official usage. The “Feathertouch” aspect of the formal name refers to the platinum mask, which was reputed to enhance the flow of ink to the tip.
Rather than encapsulate the point in the Parker manner, Sheaffer chose to wrap the entire front end of the pen in the point, developing an annular design. Like the tubular point hidden away in the “51″, this shape of point was extremely strong, and the encasement of most of the feed gave a similarly good resistance to drying out as Parker’s design. Unlike the Parker design, this new point required a lot of metal to achieve, although since that metal was gold it didn’t offend any wartime restrictions. The body of the new pen was not markedly different from the preceding Balance line, having a slightly more rounded outline; if there were ever an example of evolution in a made thing, this transition from Balance to Triumph is it.
This style of point, with some adjustments of length and diameter, continued to be used by Sheaffer long after the model line disappeared; it can be found in Touchdowns thick and thin, Snorkels, Imperials, Stylists and some other models I don’t have pages for yet including the Crest (a reproduction of the Thin Models of the 1950s, which ran from 1989-1999).
Sheaffer also devoted a certain amount of advertsing cash to the new feed, which they called the “fluid control” when not forcing “FLO-RITE feed” upon it; it would, one was told, prevent dribbling resulting from agitation of the pen or air pressure imbalances, and return ink held in its convolutions readily to the reservoir when the pen was stowed point upwards. My own use of these pens suggests that there are some limitations on its powers in all these departments, but in regular use it is at least as reliable as the complexity of parts doing the same job in the “51″.
There are two sub-eras to the Triumph line. Up to 1945, Triumph can almost be thought of as a single model with a few variants, with some Balance models still creeping about in the line-up. These earlier Triumphs have rather broad cap-bands, while the later models (unofficial Triumphs, if you will) had diverse bands running from a mere bit of wire up to something nearly as broad as the early versions. Lever and vacuum-filling models continue to be available. The later vacuum fillers had a substantial change in their internal anatomy, as a separate ink-chamber was added to the back of the section, rather than just filling the barrel itself with ink. While this reduced the maximum ink capacity substantially (and increased the difficulty of repair), the extra insulation provided helped to further deal with any overabundance of ink through thermal expansion.
There were, of course, still pens in Sheaffer’s line-up with traditional open points, and a pedant may question my inclusion of them under the same head. This accusation is even harder to defend in the early days when the Balances were still present, but those models were eventually subsumed into something that was extremely hard to tell from a Triumph proper if the cap were on; unlike the situation in the Balance regime, there was a high degree of uniformity in barrel size. I may be guilty of intellectual laziness in this lumping together, but I prefer to think of it as making a tidy website.
While the early pens of this line appear in the same striated celluloids as the late Balances offered, towards the end of the run they switched over to monochrome plastics. The last couple of years of production were made in Forticel, which was somewhat easier for production than celluloid, but which was a good deal less festive.
The style of point, with some adjustments of length and diameter, continued to be used by Sheaffer long after the model line disappeared; it can be found in Touchdowns thick and thin, Snorkels, Imperials, Stylists and some other models I don’t have pages for yet including the Crest (a reproduction of the Thin Models of the 1950s, which ran from 1989-1999).
On a personal note; the old, fat triumph-pointed pens are just about my favorites, in terms of looks. I don’t insist that anyone share this point of view, as I’m aware of how much weight subjectivity has in the realm of absolute good or bad, nor can I defend it as it lies somewhere near the level of instinct. They are, to me, what an old pen should look like. You may, if so inclined, call this evidence of past lives, or of a repressed childhood memory. All I know is that I really like ‘em.
Models I’ve Examined, in ascending order of original cost: