You’ve probably got dozens of them in drawers or countertop containers, though not all of them may work. Five hundred years ago, you could grab a handful of them in the barnyard. Since the 19th century, they’ve been used as retirement gifts, status symbols, and artist’s tools, but they’re being replaced by the tools of modern technology, and they’re getting rarer – and more expensive.
We’re talking about fountain pens, good ones, that is. Commercialized in England in the 1850s, the fountain pen quickly replaced the older dip pens (goose-feather quills, frequently) that had to be refreshed constantly from a bottle of ink. With a fountain pen, it became possible to let your writing flow as quickly and smoothly as your thoughts, and the pens became widely used in education, business, and at home. However, the age of plastic saw the rise of the ballpoint pen, which replaced the disposable ink cartridge by making the entire pen disposable, and now it’s hard to find a fountain pen anywhere but in a specialist’s shop. The German company Montblanc, which started in the early 20th century, still continues to make their signature pens (the company is now owned by another organization). These aren’t ones that you want to lose in your desk drawer, either – most of the fountain pens sell for between $400 and $4,000 each.
As we turn more and more to the computer keyboard or laptop touchscreen for our communication needs, it’s hard to remember that not so long ago all letters were written with ink on paper. It’s even harder to remember that there are times when a handwritten note or letter is better than a quick e-mail. Take the time that you save by your touch typing skills and use them to pick up a pen, and write a note to someone you love or a friend you’ve been thinking of. Even if you’re using a 69-cent plastic pen, sometimes the personal touch is worth a million dollars.
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