When Howard Newman moved to Atlanta in 1999, he was already a knowledgeable pen collector. Newman had moved from Columbus, Ohio, where the pen club membership was closed to newcomers — not the welcoming, inclusive Southeast Pen Collectors Club he found in Atlanta. Newman soon became a very active member and is currently the club’s president.
Newman’s interest in pens began when he took an adult education calligraphy class at Ohio State University in the early 1990s. Fine calligraphy was originally accomplished with a dip pen and ink. Newman owns a magnificent calligraphic sample of Psalm 100, for example, which was given to him by his calligraphy teacher, Bill Lilly — a document that lost its market value when the calligrapher erroneously skipped a line of the psalm. Newman tried his hand at it, but asked, “Can’t we find a fountain pen [that doesn’t need to be dipped in ink] that can do an equally beautiful job?”
This query led him to the library, where he immersed himself in the world of pens. Newman learned about American classics — including Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Wahl-Eversharp — and studied pen styles and different pen nibs (points.) He found that, to this day, script calligraphy cannot be perfected with a fountain pen.
The fountain pen, which contains its own ink, was a significant writing innovation, notwithstanding a possible leak in a shirt pocket or the loss of the essential cap. Newman’s collection of fountain pens, both decorative and utilitarian, demonstrates the diversity of that genre. One example is the parade of Lady Sheaffer pens from the 1960s, which used disposable ink cartridges and have no pocket clip because they were carried in a purse.
While living in the Midwest, Newman began attending the Detroit Pen Show. His favorite dealer, Susan Wirth, had an attractive, cleverly organized booth, and they met again at the 2000 Atlanta pen show. Impressed with Newman’s outgoing personality and customer savvy, she hired him to help with other shows. A further inducement was that his pay was in pens. “I wanted to own an example of every pen,” Newman says, “and Susan helped me toward my goal!”
Everybody has pens at home; however, except for other collectors, most of us have never seen the types of pens Newman has in his collection. In the dip pen category, he displays an Esterbrook desk set from the Kennedy-Johnson years, with the pen hot-stamped “The President — The White House.” This represents the end of an era, as subsequent presidents would use newer fiber tips and ballpoint pens to quickly sign documents.
Newman’s collection also represents the progression of pen body materials: chased hard rubber, from the 1880s to 1920s; celluloid plastic, 1924 to 1930s; injection-molded plastic in solid colors, 1940s to 1980s; acrylic plastic, 1990s to the present. His pens are organized thematically. An etagere shelf holds an assortment of pens with a Jewish theme, while the lower shelves are devoted to desk pens and accessories. One hundred years ago, pens embellished with snake figures were all the rage, and Newman owns a nest of modern pens mimicking that craze.
Other collectibles include dozens of ink bottles and a clutch of sleek one-piece Parker pens (no separate nib). Three of these are titanium T-1s, commemorating the 1969 moon landing; the others are stainless steel Falcons.
Newman’s favorites are a bright blue pelican holding a German Pelikan M-800 fountain pen in its beak, engraved with his signature, and Michael’s Fat Boy rollerball pen. “Using either pen is like writing on silk ribbon,” Newman raves. He also treasures two Scrooge McDuck pens. One head retains its original gold, while its companion was hand-painted in Disney colors using a three-bristle brush.
Pens also brought Newman love in 2000, via Ahavath Achim’s former Impressions dating service. His bio included collecting and restoring fountain pens, a fact that intrigued his future wife, Sylvia, a Jewish educator. He recently endowed Hebrew school teacher awards in her memory, through the Atlanta Jewish Federation.
The Southeast Pen Collectors Club meets in Norcross on the third Sunday of each month and guests are welcome. The group supports The Atlanta Pen Show, which, after a three-year COVID hiatus, will take place from April 1 to 3 at the Sonesta Atlanta Northwest at I-285 and Powers Ferry Road. Daily admission is $10; children under 13 are free. Entrance includes a chance at multiple raffle prizes, including a valuable pen offered by Amy’s Holiday Party, which brings gifts to a community shelter. One dollar from each admission will be donated to the cause. Visitors will find journals, hard-to-find pen refills, inks, ephemera and new and vintage pens and pencils.
- Chana Shapiro
- Treasure Trove
- Howard Newman
- pen collector
- Southeast Pen Collectors Club
- Ohio State University
- Bill Lilly
- Detroit Pen Show
- 2000 Atlanta pen show
- Susan Wirth
- Atlanta Jewish Federation
- Amy's Holiday Party
- Southeast PenCollectors Club
- Atlanta Pen Show
- Michael’s Fat Boy roller ball
- Pelikan 1-800
- Titanium T-1
- 1969 moon-landing
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- Scrooge McDuck.