Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
Early patents (in 15th century Europe) were called Letters Patent, which means “Open Letter” (from the Latin term “patens”, a form of the verb “patere”, meaning “to uncover, expose or open”), in contrast to sealed letters). Thus, in general, Letters Patent were akin to Decrees, officially signed by the highest authorities and addressed to “whom it may concern”.
Early US patents were also called Letters Patent, and US 68445 titled Fountain pen, and granted on Sept. 3, 1867 to M. Klein and H.W. Wynne, is no exception. Addressed “To all whom it may concern”, in Decree style "Be it known that...", these Letters Patent disclose a “new and useful improvement to fountain pens”.
The invention improvement consisted in a small air opening (C) at the top of the ink reservoir (A), with a valve (B) and a spring (D), connected to a rod (E) enclosed within the body of the holder, the bent tip of which was designed to be actuated by the writer to release a flow of ink through a tiny hole L, above the nib (K). Thus, opening the valve (B), using the rod tip (F), to let some air into the ink reservoir caused the ink to flow to the nib, whereas closing the valve, actuating the rod tip anew, prevented air from entering for the purposes of releasing ink to the nib.
The original drawing, included as part of the US 68445 Letters Patent, appears here to the right.
Relying on the principles of atmospheric pressure, this invention disclosed a way to improve ink flow to the nib, thus presumably facilitating the physical process of writing.
Considering the next 150 years of patenting activing in the domain of fountain pen leak-prevention, one might legitimately wonder whether the Klein & Wynne fountain pen leaked.
However, this matter is unspecified and un-addressed in the US 68445 Letters Patent, where the point was simply to get the ink to flow.