There was a time, mainly in the 1930s, when there was a strange popular fascination with doll-sized pens. This is something other than a mere bowing to the need for vest-pocket pens in an age of widespread vest pockets; it is very much as if pen-makers sat down, gazed thoughtfully into a middle distance, and pondered just how small a pen could be and still be in any way useable. The Conway-Stewart Dinkie was one manifestation of this odd fad, and the Wahl Bantam is another. Indeed, the Bantam is a more extreme expression of the phenomenon, although it falls shy of the lunacy of the Peter Pan, or some of Waterman’s really tiny offerings.
This pen is of much the same shape as the Oxford, and like any good doll furniture looks almost like a full-sized object if seen out of context. The only real giveaway is the extremely simple clip. Once in hand, if the fact that it gets lost inside the wrinkles of the palm weren’t a give-away, there is the unexpected presence of a bulb-filler hidden under the blind cap. This is a smart filler for such a tiny pen, as apart from the breather tube, there is nothing to take up space inside; anything inside would either be so big as to make ink impossible to fit in as well, or so flimsy it could never be made to draw any.
Apart from a wide variety of colours, there were two versions of this pen, the difference between them being the point. An upscale model was fitted with a gold point, while a low-end steel point was available for those pinched by the Depression and desperate for a tiny, easily-lost pen.
A surprising number of these pens, including my example, bear impressions connected with the “Century of Progress” World’s Fair which was hosted in Chicago between 27 May 1933 and 31 October 1934. As Chicago was the home of Wahl, this connection is not surprising, and the only evident effect this has is to give a reasonable sense of when the pen was made; they’re not worth any more than any other Bantam.
Production Run: c. 1933 – c. 1940.
Cost When New: I have not found a price for the pen alone, but the 1935 catalogue shows a set– yes, they made pencils to this scale, too– for $1.00 (for modern value, try this calculator).
Size: 9.5 cm long capped, 11.6 cm posted, 8.5 cm uncapped.
Point: Plated steel or 14k gold.
Filler: Bulb, capacity approx. 1.0 ml (which on a pen of this size is a lot).
If you are relying on the preceding information to win a bet or impress a teacher, you should read the site’s scholarly caveat. Remember, this is the internet, and it’s full of bad information.