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Wearever

Wearever might be thought of as a poster-child for cheap pen making.  The company was started in Camden, New Jersey, by David Kahn, an emigre Russian Jew,  about the same time as the First World War was getting underway although the name was not applied until 1918 (it previously went along under “David Kahn, Inc.”).  The pattern of the company was set very early, in that they produced close copies of big-name pens, clearly marked as Wearever, with as little craftsmanship as could be gotten away with.

What this effort produced was a company that was in many ways surprisingly modern.  The urge to avoid expensive craftsmen led to early adoption of mechanization; some components were made of injection-molded plastics in the 1920s.  Kahn apparently saw the path to riches as being paved with vast volume sales rather than a regular modest turn-over of high-end merchandise, the paradigm embraced by most big-box stores today.

Wearever reached its high point during the time I refer to as the Golden Age of Pens, with pens that not only looked as good as the big names they were imitating, but which started to have a higher level of function, with gold rather than steel points; some Wearevers of earlier make had gold points, but so small and thin that they needed a supporting steel framework.  There were still strange side roads into cheapness, like blind caps which were reputedly also covers for tire valves, but for all that it was possible to say, “That’s a nice Wearever” in the 1940s with a straight face.  Despite this slight stepping away from the core principle of quantity over quality, Wearever continued to sell in vast heaps, frequently outdoing their more respectable competitors in terms of units sold, if not total value of sales.  They also chose to handicap the pens they made in this period, and beyond it, with a terrible clear injection-molded plastic feed revelling in the name “C-Flow”, the point of which was to let people know that the pen was out of ink visually without the costs associated with a window in the section as was by then common.  The fact that this let people know the pen was out of ink the very moment it stopped writing was apparently not a concern, nor was the fact that they offered extremely poor ink flow in general.

With the coming of the ball-point, Wearever called a halt to its excursion into making moderately good pens.  My first experience with Wearevers was with their production of 1950 and beyond, and I have to struggle mightily to overcome the dreadful first impression those pens make.  I cannot say that they are of substandard construction, but there is the least possible attention given to fit and finish, and the best that can generally be said of their writing qualities is “functional.”  Fountain pens were dropped entirely at some point in the 1970s, and the company itself was bought up by Dixon, the pencil makers, in 1987.  The label was apparently kept for a while, but a look at Dixon’s website shows no residue of them remaining.

Models I’ve examined:

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