The 1940s was an oddly disappointing decade for Wahl-Eversharp. The Skyline had been a reasonable commercial success, but there was an air of “attractive bridesmaid” about it; it sold better than the Parker “51”, but that was mainly because the “51” was rationed. Both the Parker and the Triumph-point Sheaffers had a somewhat more modern profile to them, the smooth sweep from point to tail, while the Skyline was lumbered with a rather traditional section. The first attempt to bring the new look to the company’s roster was one of the legion of hangers-on the “51” spawned, the Fifth Avenue, and it was one of the first to prove that just having a hooded point was insufficient to bring fortune to your door. Since the company’s last great success had been founded in bringing in a big-deal industrial designer to shape a pen, they went back to the well with an even bigger-deal designer: Raymond Loewy.
Looking at what he produced, I have a sense that Raymond Loewy was shaking down Wahl-Eversharp a little. I have seen this pen described as “sleekly minimalist”, which is true, but it might also be called “somewhat undistinguished”. The one real element of design that holds this pen apart from the great mass of other pens of a similar shape was a chromed metal cap with a step at the end; when held in profile with the clip upwards, it might be viewed as looking like a streamlined locomotive, a tilting helm, or Pete Puma from the Warner Brothers cartoons depending on the viewer’s inclination. One had to look closely to see the design element, it was somewhat expensive to produce, and it concealed almost exactly the same points, sections, and filling mechanisms as the Skyline had been using.
The Symphony went through three distinct phases in its short run. The introductory phase had rather bright, festive colours to accompany the new design, and appeared with a traditional and a smaller conical section at a reduced price; the difference was not apparent with the cap on. This was succeeded by a what might be properly called a Symphony line-up, with variations in trim running from a relatively simple unbanded cap to an all-gold body. The second phase also did away with a set of metal threads mounted on the section, returning to a Skyline-style set of cap-threads cut into the barrel. The final phase sees the Loewy cap abandoned entirely in favour of a symmetrical profile, and also sees the name “Symphony” quietly retired from both advertising and barrel impressions. The last run for this pen also included an economy-grade plastic-capped model.
I mention previously with a somewhat dismissive tone that the running gear of the Symphony was essentially the same as the Skyline’s, and this tone is incorrect. While somewhat stodgy-looking compared to the sleeker competitors’ pens, there was nothing wrong with the performance of either the points or the fillers, although I repeat my concern about the potential for injury to the nail-bed offered by the design of the lever and the fact that it wants several cycles to fully fill the pen. It’s not exciting to look at, especially in the post-Loewy form, but it is fun to use.
There is a set of model numbers attached to this line, but I don’t have enough data to lay them out entirely. The initial model was the 500 (possibly a price code, in the manner of Sheaffer), while the later iterations had possibly meaningful three-digit codes: 701 appears to have been a standard model with chrome cap and gold trim, 703 for a deluxe broad-banded model, 705 for the all-gold top-end item, 707 for the “Luxury” low-cost second iteration variant, and 713, 913, and 917 have been seen attached to the low-end, small-pointed variants in the late production. 9XX seems to relate to chrome trim. Matching pencils have a four-digit number, the first digit being a 1 and the rest reflecting whatever pen the pencil accompanies.
Production Run: 1948 to 1952.
Cost When New: $5.00 for the original model, going in the third iteration to $4.75 to $12.75 depending on trim (for modern values, try this calculator).
Size: 13.6 cm long capped, 15.2 cm posted, 11.9 cm uncapped.
Point: 14k gold.
Filler: Lever , capacity approx. 1.1 ml.
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.