This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Forgotten Fountain Pen: The historical significance of the fountain pen in twentieth-century American society




Busby, Charles

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis




This thesis addresses the adoption, popularity, decline, and revival of the fountain pen in American culture and society over the twentieth century. It examines how the World Wars and Great Depression interacted to influence fountain pen design and production; how the ballpoint and characteristics of convenience and disposability threatened the fountain pen’s continued survival; how the act of writing changed with new writing implements, like ballpoints, typewriters, and computers; and how the “analog revolution” of the late 1980s helped revitalize fountain pen collecting, use, and manufacturing. It concludes that the fountain pen operated variously over the twentieth century as a writing tool, a status icon, and a collectible, adapting to new contexts and competing with newer writing instruments. The fountain pen’s continued manufacture in the twenty first century illustrates that its appeal and writing properties are uniquely valued despite its more efficient competitors.