In 1636 William and Mary Parker left England to start a new life in America. 227 years later in 1863 George Safford Parker was born in Wisconsin.
As a young man he worked as a teacher at the Valentine School of Telegraphy and, to earn extra cash acted as an agent for the 'John Holland Gold Pen Company. He did quite well selling fountain pens to the students at the college. The pens were not very good, they leaked and the ink supply to the nib varied between no ink at all and a catastrophic flood. So what did young George do? He invented and patented a new ink feed system which he manufactured himself and then persuaded some local manufacturers to produce the other components to make a pen. He assembled the pens in his hotel bedroom, Parker Pens was born. Bill Gates did a similar thing about a hundred years later with a different technology.
George Parker formed a partnership with a W.F. Palmer who bought into the new venture with a cheque for $1000 made out to 'The Parker Pen Company'. George was a prolific inventor and engineer and patented many designs over the following decades. By the end of the first world war the sales figures for Parker Pens exceeded one million dollars.
Parker's inventiveness and ability to respond to changes in requirements for a fountain pen paid massive dividends and, at the time of Parker's death in 1937 the company was a hugely successful international business although there had been massive swings in the company's fortunes in the thirties. After some teething problems a successful U.K. branch was established which was later to take over the operations of the American parent company.
I f you were at school in the U.K. in the 1950s and 1960s you would probably have been given a fountain pen at some time, possibly as a birthday or Christmas present. Children from families with a modest income would probably get a 'Platignum' pen but the more affluent kids had Parkers. I remember some very well off children at my school getting a very classy Parker 51.
The huge range of Parker pen models and the comparative ease in finding them make them an ideal brand for collecting. Many collectors concentrate on a particular model Parker, for instance U.K. Duofolds, Vacumatics, 75s, and, of course, the Parker 51. A more frugal but equally rewarding approach might involve collecting the more affordable Parker pens such as the Lady, 45, 17, Slimfold, or the cheaper 51 lookalike, the Parker 21.