Lewis Edison Waterman
Born November 20 1837 – Died May 1 1901
Patent No. 293,545
Lewis Waterman invented a superior fountain pen that made inkwells and dip
Waterman improved on earlier fountain pen designs by including a nib and
feed mechanism that produced a steady flow of ink. He founded the Ideal
Pen Company (later the L.E. Waterman Company) in New York in 1884, to
manufacture his pen while he continued to improve its design. In
addition to being functionally superior, Waterman pens were
well-balanced and aesthetically pleasing; some had gold and silver
overlays, others were studded with gems. A Waterman pen won the Medal of
Excellence at the Paris World Exposition in 1900.
By 1901, Waterman was selling 1,000 pens per day. They remained popular
until the Great Depression made them an impractical luxury for many.
After World War II, disposable ballpoint pens came to dominate the
industry. Nonetheless, high-quality Waterman fountain pens are still
made today in a wide variety of styles.
Waterman was born in Decatur, New York. With only five years of
schooling, he worked as a teacher, carpenter, and book salesman before
becoming an insurance agent. He is said to have vowed to invent a better
writing instrument when an inferior pen leaked on an important insurance
contract, delaying him long enough that he lost the client.