Probably the second most common shape of a steel pen, besides the plain, straight pen, is the Falcon.
The origin of the Falcon, and how it got it’s name, is up for debate. But in the US, at least, it seems that the Esterbrook Steel Pen Co. was the King of the Falcons. The shape isn’t mentioned by name by any earlier US pen makers, but it was one of the first pens Esterbrook made. And for most of the company’s existence, the 048 Falcon was the top selling pen of any style for any US maker. It became the symbol of the company, second only to R. Esterbrook’s signature.
Everyone produced at least one model of Falcon pen. Most manufacturers had several. They would differ in stiffness, fine, extra-fine, or medium tip, or even stub Falcons. (a story for another post)
Most falcons come in a standard size well-represented by the Esterbrook 048 Falcon. The 048 is the only number of Esterbrook’s which includes (and always includes) a zero at the beginning of the number. It is not a #48, it is a #048.
Esterbrook, as well as others, also often made a “Ladies’ Falcon” in the form of a small falcon. The more delicate, and sometimes more flexible, falcon was deemed suitable for the delicate pens with which delicate ladies wrote delicate letters delicately.
At the other end of the spectrum is Esterbrook’s Mammoth Falcon. This behemoth requires a special holder and seems better suited to small-scale gardening than to writing.
Here’s a photo of the two most common sizes of Falcon plus the Mammoth Falcon. The Lady Falcon at the top was made by Leon Isaacs.
Esterbrook also made a medium sized Falcon that fell somewhere between the 048 and the Mammoth. This was called the #491 Madison Pen and was introduced in 1891, ten years after the Mammoth Falcon. I’ve never seen one, nor is one available on The Esterbrook Project. They only appear in one of the catalogs and may have been produced for only a limited time.
Some of the Falcons found in my collection (not counting stub falcons):
- Brooks & Co’s “Extra Falcon” (more falcon than then next guy’s?)
- De Haan 3, and 33
- Eagle E10, E12
- Esterbrook’s 048, 182 (lady falcon), 520, 905, 920
- Gillott’s 105, 1060, 1155
- Hunt 95, 97, 98, 514
- Leon Isaacs’s 1 and 6
- Samual Isaacs’s 3 1/2, and 23
- Miller Bros. 19, 87
- Spencerian 23, 30, 40, 50, 80
- Turner & Harrison 39, 239, 739
- A wide assortment of businesses wanted falcons among their special imprinted pens: Bell Systems, Burlington Route (Esterbrook 048’s), Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Esterbrook 048’s), Hotel Belmont, Lehigh Valley Rail Road, New York Central, Pennsylvania Railroad, Santa Fe Railroad and Western Union, to name a few.