There is not much to tell about this pen maker that isn’t essentially speculation. The word, offered by none other than Dame Rumour herself, is that this is a company set up in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, and that the production was aimed at sales to the occupying forces.
I have no evidence for nor against this. However, it doesn’t sit quite right, for a few reasons. First, there’s the very notion of a new business setting itself up in wartime Holland. Amsterdam, unlike Rotterdam, was not particularly worked over in the invasion, so it’s not an impossible prospect, but it seems likely that anyone doing so would be apt to be tarred with suspicion of collaboration even if they were not collaborating with the invaders. That would make it hard to hire much of a workforce, if my father’s stories of the social forces in the Netherlands at the time are valid.
With an eye specifically on pens, established makers in Germany like Pelikan and Montblanc were rather oppressed by the demands of the wartime economy, and it seems out of character for the Reich to smile upon an effort to set up new enterprises which weren’t given to at least nominally military goods. If the target market were the Dutch population itself, it might be a little more likely, but since the Dutch population was having trouble getting enough to eat, the pen market was probably not so big.
Then there’s the name– “espero” is Spanish for “I hope”, on the face of it a likely name for a company set up under the shadow of the Nazi eagle, and the sort of thing the Dutch have gotten up to since at least the time of Napoleon when very unlikely family names were offered to tax collectors. Spanish is a very odd choice, though, as if there’s any nation the Dutch have a historical grudge against, it’s Spain– the yuletide threat against naughty Dutch children is the prospect of being spirited off to Spain by the helper of St. Nicholas. Now, this may have been a way to disguise subversion, and the same word is used in Portuguese, so this may be another front of speculation that can’t stand up to scrutiny, but I still harbour doubts.
There is, however, evidence that Espero is an actual Dutch company. The image to the right is, according to the scanty information provided at the source, from March of 1949, so if the brand wasn’t wartime it might be a post-war employment builder like Merlin. The slogan is a bit of a slag upon other Dutch pens, because the examples I’ve seen prompt one to ask, “Better than what, exactly?” One may usefully compare Espero to Wearever made at the same time; an exterior of perhaps slightly better than average attractiveness, filled with works that aspire to nearly being adequate.
There being so little actual evidence regarding these pens, it’s impossible to say how long they remained in production– perhaps as late as the 1950s, or perhaps that image is of a pen whose maker was already out of business when it was taken.
Models I’ve examined: