Sometimes I dream that I’m in a fountain pen shop in the late thirties, last century. I look around and see display cases with brand new Parkers in the background. The ones with the familiar stripes that seem to be a silhouette of a modern apartment building. Full of expectation and a beating heart I walk in the direction of the fountain pens we have come to know as the Parker Vacumatic, but I never arrive at my destination. I always wake up just before I arrive at the display case.
Parker Vacumatic, feast for the eyes
One of the most beautiful fountain pens of all time (for me) is the Vacumatic by Parker. The fountain pens with the semi- colored / semi-transparent stripes in particular are still a feast for the eyes. An additional advantage is that you can see if there is still ink in the fountain pen. This does not apply to the fully colored or metal versions. There are Vacumatics in different shapes and colours. In its time it was a novelty, which further reduced the amount of tampering with ink. Vacumatic refers to a certain filling system, which allows fountain pens to be inked. By pushing a button on the back of the fountain pen, which is hidden under a cap, the rubber bag is flattened, creating a vacuum in the fountain pen. If you then put the fountain pen in a jar of ink and release the button, the fountain pen will suck itself full of ink. Parker later developed a different system for this. There are Vacumatics that resemble a Parker 51 or a Parker Sonnet and in the beginning some Vacumatics also resembled the Parker Duofold, they may be made of metal or other materials, but once again the finest ones are made of celluloid and have a cross-sectional pattern with transparent and colored bands.
Versions of the Parker Vacumatic
The Vacumatics have been in production for about 20 years, from 1932 to 1953. Like the popular car models of today, the Vacumatics were given a new look every now and then. This fountain pen was also made in different sizes and there were standard and luxurious versions available. The smaller models are relatively small in comparison to the fountain pens of 2017. The larger models are about the same as the current Parker Sonnet, but there were bigger versions made as well. These larger models were given beautiful adjectives such as Major, Senior and Maxima. The smaller models were designated as Junior or Debutant.
Desired fountain pen on the second-hand market
The Vacumatics are still being traded on Ebay and similar sites. The finest pens quickly change hands for 500 up to 1,000 euros. I once treated myself to a couple of cheaper versions, which unfortunately do not work. These have to be restored before ever writing again. The Vacumatic I own that still works is unfortunately very thin and quite small. It still writes extremely well, but as a real fountain pen of its time. The nib is very thin and pressure sensitive.
Why no new Vacumatics?
Although Parker knows very well that the Vacumatics are still very popular, they are not copied in contemporary versions like they did with the Parker Duofold. The Parker Urban and IM made of metal with the lateral stripes I can’t take seriously as an ode to the Vacumatics. It’s a pity that Parker doesn’t repeat her history and offers us the beauty of the 30s. The best proof that the design of the Vacumatic deserves a new career is provided by Visconti. With the Visconti Manhattan and the Visconti Divina Metropolitan, they have accurately imitated the design and these have become beautiful fountain pens. Unfortunately it is not really a Vacumatic, but I could see myself walking around with one of these.
A special thanks to David R. Isaacson, who made the photos for this article possible.