Jan 11 2009

Sheaffer Secretaries – Not Just Red Radite!

Somewhere around 1923 Sheaffer introduced a new line of pens – the “Secretary”. Sheaffer had always had a wide variety of pens and prices to choose from. The Lifetime pen had been introduced in 1920 as a workhorse that would make five copies and a manifold nib that would last a lifetime. The price was $8.75 and came with a #8 manifold nib. Sheaffer saw the need to have a pen that was not guaranteed that could be marketed at a lower price. The name Secretary also suggests that Sheaffer was addressing the need of secretaries to have a high quality pen that they could afford that would obviously be a workhorse, very much like the lifetime. To differentiate the Secretary from the lifetime it was introduced with a special sized nib as the pens themselves are identical in size. This nib was #7 in size and offered in a semi-manifold (or flexible) but, for a price of only $7. At first glance you are getting a lifetime pen at a 20% discount.

Black Hard Rubber
Closeup on cap

The first Sheaffer Secretaries was not red radite but, hard rubber with a radically new chase pattern. These have a patented design (D66,791) dated March 17, 1925 (applied for December 26, 1923 which corresponds closely with actual production). It is found in black hard rubber but, also exists in red hard rubber, though red may be a prototype only. This pen is virtually unknown due to the production period in which it falls. After the last black and white catalogue attributed to 1922 or 1923 and the first color catalogue of 1926. Finally, one advertisement of the period which covered these pens has been found (detail shown below). They were available in the same sizes that were later available in radite – the full sized clip, short clip and ring top.

Secretary HR.jpg
Enlargement of March 1924 ad

Another factor for the obscurity of hard rubber Secretaries is that Radite was introduced in 1924 just months after the design patent was issued. “Radite, akin to enduring rock but far lighter in weight and more lovely in color.” The first year saw Black and Jade as the available color stock. By the second year Red (Cardinal) was also introduced. I have located one advertisement (July 11, 1925) that also pictured the Secretary along with the fourth color Rubic (orange) radite. Point of fact, is that most Sheaffers identified as red hard rubber are actually orange radite (all 3-25’s are radite).

Red Radite

In the 1925 catalogue (not dated) we see the full range of Secretaries available (now called Cherry Red) – the full sized clip, short clip and ring top. Interestingly enough, each was priced at $7. The nib is described as “the special Sheaffer Secretary size”, which was designed to “stand up under excessive writing use.” It was available in; fine, medium, course, extra fine, posting or stub styles.

Blue Radite

There was also work at Sheaffer to introduce a third Secretary color – Royal Blue! There are at least two prototypes of this model in the full sized clip version. While there is little to go on I think we can safely assume that these were to be concurrent with the royal blue pygmies found in the 1928 catalogue but, not issued possibly due to the discontinuance of Secretaries in favor of the 7-30 models of that year, essentially a Secretary with a 30 year guarantee.

Secretary pens are most commonly found in red radite as the full sized clip version. The shorter red radite clip version is uncommon with the ring top being the most difficult to locate. The hard rubber Secretaries are also difficult to locate. The author would be glad to hear from anyone that may have a Royal Blue model.

Roger Wooten ([email protected]).

Pictures are of the authors pens along with those of Pat Mohan.

1 Comment

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