Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Oh, patents! Fessenden’s fountain marking pen

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Not all fountain pens were designed as fine writing instruments at the end of the 19th century! For example, Fessenden’s fountain marking pen, was designed with a single ball bearing sphere cooperating with a felt disk for fine marking or "addressing of  boxes, bales or packages of merchandise for shipment or the like”.

Fessenden’s invention, disclosed in US555763, in 1896, consists in providing a marking pen with a reservoir of marking fluid also functioning as the handle of the marking pen (in contrast to a dipping well). The invention further consists of a marking sphere with a single ball bearing, designed to ensure a continuous and uniform line, independently from  the pressure exerted on the pen, and thus to provide clearer markings on a package, box, or bale for shipment.

Finally, and most importantly, a felt disk, inserted inside the semi-spherical encasement of the ball bearing marking sphere, in contact with the periphery of the marking sphere, cooperates both to deliver the marking fluid in a uniform manner to the surface of the sphere, and to wipe it clean of any accumulations of dirt, grit or dust, picked up on the surface of a package, bale or box. The patent further discloses that the felt disk, receiving marking fluid through the contracted neck and nipple of the reservoir, dispenses with expensive fountain pen valves, regulating the flow of ink, while ensuring high efficiency and durability.

Thus, once the marking pen was filled with marking fluid through the top of the pen, the fluid flowed through the contracted and perfectly angled neck of the reservoir, soaking the felt located inside the semi-spherical hood encasing the sphere, in turn evenly distributing marking fluid on the marking sphere, and by the same token wiping the sphere clean of any debris picked up from the surface. 

Interestingly, and with much hindsight, the scope of the invention, as envisioned in 1868, clearly extends the functions of the disclosed fountain marking pen, well beyond packaging (L 43-51, page 2). Perhaps then, that here lies the felt of "felt-tip markers", even if the spherical writing ball has migrated to "stylographs", and the felt now cooperates elsewhere.👠
Below the extracted figure drawing of the fountain marking pen disclosed in US555763, where I have again added and layered a key for ease of comprehension and translation. 

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