The 149 Pacific Railroad Mystery

I have a mystery.

I have three steel pens. One of them is marked 149 Pacific Railroad, one is marked 145 Pacific Railroad but the number is imprinted upside down to most manufacturers, and one is marked 0149 Monarch Railroad, which is also imprinted upside down. None of these are names of actual railroads that I’ve been able to find.

We know that there were pens marked as “railroad” which had nothing to do with actual railroads, like the Esterbrook Standard Railroad, which was made by Esterbrook but sold by Sears, Roebuck and Company.

All three of the “Railroad” nibs under discussion are extremely similar. They are a wider-bodied straight pen, medium flexibility and with three just slightly different grinds.

149 Pacific Railroad all three-3

149 Pacific Railroad all three-4

 

To confuse matters even more, both Esterbrook as well as Turner & Harrison made a 149 Pacific Railroad pen. Neither, that I’ve been able to find, made a 145 Pacific Railroad pen.

149 Pacific Railroad Pen Catalog comparison

After Gillott sued Esterbrook in 1872 pen makers, especially Esterbrook, were careful to not copy the name and especially the number of another pen maker if there was any chance that the two pens could be mistaken for each other. How to explain this, then?

One possibility to explain why one didn’t object to the other making a pen with the same name and number is that both Esterbrook and Turner & Harrison were copying a pen from someone else who had already gone out of business and so would not be in a position to sue.

This practice is not unknown. We know, for example, that Esterbrook produced a copy of a popular pen from a company that had gone out of business, namely the 505 Harrison and Bradford’s Bookkeeper’s Pen. (picture below is from the 1883 catalog) They made this for a very short time after Harrison and Bradford went out of business in 1881. So, it’s possible that both were producing a popular pen from someone else after that company had gone out of business.

1883 Esterbrook Harrison and Bradford 505 pen

I looked for evidence of Pacific Railroad pens as a separate brand. Unfortunately, what evidence I’ve found is not conclusive, and doesn’t make sense based on Esterbrook making the pen in 1883.

1884 Pacific Railroad Pen ad
The State of Nevada advertising for office supplies proposals in 1884. Sometimes these lists contained brands they had purchased in the past, but were no longer available. Was that the case here?

 

1895 ad for Pacific Railroad Pen no maker
An 1895 ad for Pacific Railroad pens but no “Esterbrook” or “Turner & Harrison” designated.
1902 Pacific Railroad Pens ad
1902 ad for unbranded pens, including the Pacific Railroad pen, listed like it’s a standard pen shape like Falcon and Bank.

Of course, that doesn’t explain the 145 Pacific Railroad pen. Nor the 0149 Monarch Railroad.

So, if anyone has one of these pens, has a reference to a non-Esterbrook or non-T&H Pacific Railroad (149, 145, or anything else), or anything related, I would love to see it to try and solve this mystery.

Leave a Reply