Pen History, 1840’s: Mark Levy and Brothers

In the 1830’s we saw Mark Felt, a prosperous stationer, try his hand at making pens. We’ve also seen Sampson Mordan over in England also start to make his own pens, as well as create innovations. This was not an isolated phenomenon.

The 1840’s saw more stationers try and make their own pens. They had been selling the British pens and demand was growing. Already, by the 1830’s, it’s just accepted  by most that the steel pen is the superior writing tool.

1830s steel pens better

In the 1840’s steel pens become big business for the stationers, and it’s not just the pens.  There’s a proliferation of ads touting this paper or that ink as suitable for, or even designed for the steel pen.

1840 Preston ink

So, the stationers were well aware of how much money was being spent on steel pens, and how the market was growing. It’s no wonder a few of them try and get into the business. One of them who did, and succeeded for a bit, was Mark Levy and his brothers Henry and Lewis.

By 1841, Mark, Henry and Lewis had formed Mark Levy & Brothers, selling stationery out of their “Cheap Stationery Warehouse” at 40 Maiden Lane, upstairs. They were also making and selling their own pens under the Mark Levy name.

1841 mark levy ad

The Levy brothers used one of the standard practices of the day and sent samples of their pens to busy newspaper reporters and editors in the hopes that they might get a small bit of newsprint praising their pens. Well, it seems to have worked. By 1843 they had quite a collection of testimonials from newspapers around New York.

1843 mark levy testimonials

The pens themselves came in fine and broad. But they only made the pens until about 1845. The stationery store lasted a bit longer. In 1853 Henry left the business. And Mark left in 1856, leaving just Lewis, still at 49 Maiden Lane selling “fancy goods.”

One note about the picture of the pen at the top of this post. This may be the oldest pen in my collection, or at least one of the oldest. It came to me in a small assorted group of pens, none seemed to be newer than 1860’s. Many were in not so great shape, like the Levy pen, but considering their age, I kept every one. It’s not often you come across a 172-year-old steel pen.

This is the one with the oldest verifiable date. You’ll be seeing a few more of them as we talk about the makers.


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