Phooey to the ballpoint pens! | Webster Kirkwood Times
You may be surprised to learn that SLAPME insists on recording all of its meeting minutes in fountain pen. That is, until you find out that St. Louis Area Pen Meetup and Eats (SLAPME) members are crazy about fountain pens.
The club meets monthly at CJ Muggs in Webster Groves. During the pandemic, meetups have gone virtual and have drawn fountain pen enthusiasts around the world from Britain, New Zealand, the Philippines and more.
Local fountain pen enthusiasts are happy to put the Gateway City on the world map. These cursive pen fanatics are now gearing up for their annual international exposition, the St. Louis Pen Show, to be held at the Sheraton Westport June 23-26.
“There will be a lot to do. We’ll have sessions on calligraphy, cursive writing, inks, journaling and more,” said Intrepid Fountain Pen Leader Anne Morgan. “We will have around 1,500 people attending our show.
“Our hotel site allows us to have 110 vendors using 185 tables, which makes us one of the top three feather parlors in the country across 17 annual events,” Morgan said. “Our central location attracts vendors and visitors from all coasts, as well as Asia and Europe.”
Morgan, a virtual fountain of classic pen information, said there were no slackers in SLAPME. Members pledge to tell the whole truth about classic pens and spill the beans on how to write with a fountain pen.
“Everyone is a volunteer and brings some expertise,” Morgan said. “David Oscarson designs pens here and has them made in Sussex, England. Its fountain pens are sold in London, Stockholm, Paris, Houston, San Francisco, New York and St. Louis exclusively at Clarkson Jewelers.
“Our media guru, Ken Crooker, is an ink expert and designs all of our websites,” she added. “The late Kent Leichliter of Kirkwood started our shows. Mike Antkowiak is also an expert on inks and their use.
Antkowiak draws with Sailor Ink from Itoya, originally from Japan. He posted his photos on Instagram and Sailor Ink picked them up to sign them exclusively for a collection. The images will be collected in a coffee table book for worldwide promotion.
Fountain versus ballpoint pen
Fountain pens are easier to write than ballpoint pens because the ink flows more easily, allowing you to write faster and easier, according to SLAPME members. Ballpoint pens are also prone to clogged nibs, even if the nib is protected as retractable.
“One of my favorite fountain pens is a retractable,” Morgan noted. “Most modern fountain pens have waterproof caps and many inks are now washable. With ballpoint pens, you only have a few ink colors to choose from.
Ballpoint pens are mainly in red, blue and black. With fountain pens, there are thousands of choices. SLAPME has a special ink color made every year for its show, as well as ink test tables for 200 different colors.
The inks for the show are from KWZ in Warsaw, Poland. Colors from past exhibits have included teal, butterscotch, purple, and green. This year’s color is a deep marinara red.
“You can put any color of ink in the cartridges now with no mess,” Morgan said. “And with older vintage pens, you can fill the ink directly into the pen using a lever on the side.”
Fountain pen enthusiasts lament that the introduction of computers and tablets has drastically reduced the number of people who can read and write in cursive. Schools now only teach children how to write their signature, with little time to practice cursive. As a result, people under the age of 25 are often unable to use cursive writing.
At the same time, some colleges are banning tablets in lecture halls, forcing students to take notes by hand. Students are much slower to take notes in block letters than in cursive. Morgan thinks cursive writing with fountain pens could make a comeback.
“Studies show that writing in cursive helps you remember content. When typing on a computer or tablet, you only remember the location of the keys, not the content,” she said “Our group’s mission is to teach people to read and write in cursive.
“The limitation of cursive writing in the classroom is also a direct blow to our historical institutions,” Morgan added. “History museums struggle to find people who can read the ancient manuscripts in their collections.
St. Louis Tradition pen
Lipic Pen Store, once located at Eighth and Olive streets in downtown St. Louis, was once the premier pen store (fountain, of course) in the Midwest. Lipic is now present at Fran Ann Engraving in Crestwood.
Joseph Lipic, grandson of the store’s founder, showed SLAPME members his treasured WWII photo with people waiting in a long line outside the downtown store.
The store could only accommodate 25 people at a time, but the demand for pens, ink and paper was high. Ballpoint pens did not exist, so the only way to communicate with the military overseas was by letter using a fountain pen.
“Eventually the ballpoint pens came along and killed the fountain pens,” said pen show board member Mark Sableman. “Lipic changed its business by going into wholesale giftware. For a long time this included pens, mainly the dastardly ball point pens. Fast forward to four years ago when we had our first St. Louis Pen Show. Lipic was the tote bag vendor for all attendees. Pen Show organizers learned that Lipic still had old fountain pen parts, including nibs.
Many of these Lipic artifacts were donated for pen display and then eagerly picked up by buyers and collectors. They included gold nibs and other pen parts that are now hard to find.
“Lipic saw things come full circle,” Sableman said. “It started by selling fountain pens to everyone; it changed its business model when cheaper ballpoint pens took over. Today, as fountain pens are increasingly popular with collectors, Lipic is still in the game, in a different way.
Dedicated SLAPME members like David and Anne Morgan are determined to bring fountain pens back to their former glory. They will continue this mission with David Morgan’s vintage collection at the 2022 St. Louis Pen Show.
“A lot of great American documents were signed with a fountain pen,” Anne Morgan said. “And the founding fathers used pens, even if they were quill pens dipped in ink.
“We plan to offer a Harry Potter quill pen writing course in the future,” Morgan added. “Our teacher for the class fell ill this year, but we hope to offer him for the 2023 pen show.”
For more details on this year’s St. Louis Pen Show, visit stlpenshow.com.