It would prove to be one of the most remarkable events to fall into the lap of England
in the 1930’s. Even Sir Thomas Cartridge, the infamous historian, essayist, and reputed hawker of odious innuendo was aghast when he said, “Everyone familiar with this tragic and despicable crime certainly expected him to be found guilty. But even judicial scholars were non plus: no one had an inkling that an incidental consequence caused by an accidentally stowed and unfortunately uncapped fountain pen
which predictably bleeds if it touches any absorbent material, would influence the most harrowing murder trial in fifty years. The Daily Telegraph
and The Guardian immediately blamed the pen makers asserting through editorials that the fountain pen design had remained literally unchanged since Nicolas Bion
first described them in 1807. The pen makers quickly accused ink firms of altering their inks’ characteristic by employing diluted formulas that produced inks lacking gelatinous properties. If needed, pen makers would blame their customers, insisting that a consistent discharge of ink by a nib pushed absent-mindedly into textile is an accepted (if destructive) characteristic which sensible owners attempt to avoid. Therefore, it is my opinion that the barrister’s distraction caused by the importance of his closing argument overshadowed his gentleman’s grooming, without malevolence pocketed the fountain pen which immediately enjoyed a degree of notoriety (and sales) normally bestowed upon articles belonging to aristocracy. It’s as if he’d dropped a jet plane into his pocket!”
To what was Sir Cartridge referring? An extravagant and utterly preposterous event of the 1930’s: The common ink pen
was borne on the heels of a legal decree: The Royal Courts of Justice
abolished the use of fountain pens
in every courtroom in Great Britain
. Parliament added that the newly invented practical and
leak-proof pen would be the only writing instrument sanctioned for official use in every governmental building of Great Britain.
The calamity started just after the lunch recess of an infamous murder trial and the sudden appearance of an embarrassing stain which continued its growth like an algae bloom beneath the front pocket of an expensively tailored white cotton shirt belonging to and draped upon a notorious barrister from London. The barrister who, it is told (in hushed tones lest you be accused of slander), that the verdict of guilt had nothing to do with his impressive (and lengthy) closing argument which meticulously and repeatedly outlined the precise order of events. The barrister’s timeline was so thorough that whatever doubt lingered in the far corners of the courtroom had been swept away like cobwebs.
The shameful guilt could almost be seen atop the plump, rounded shoulders of the torturous, adulterous, and maniacal MP who, it was alleged, kidnapped a prominent debutante from a society ball, trussed her up like a common farm animal ready for slaughter, bludgeoned her to unconsciousness, then drove her to a vermin-infested garret atop a saloon on the East End. She remained imprisoned for a fortnight and each afternoon the MP would appear in the pub and with gluttonous abandon, he ate and drank himself into a repulsive and monstrous stupor, and dragged himself up the back alley stairs, unlocked the bolt, and repeatedly forced the delicate young woman to participate with or perform for him heinous, bestial, and inhumane acts which included demonic rituals, chanting, and minutes before he strangled her with the sash from his MP gown, he branded the young woman’s breast with a mark which closely, was almost identical to the stain on the barrister’s front pocket.
Jury members were quoted after the trials conclusion that the increasing stain resembled an apparition of the brand suffered by the victim, and that it was impossible to ignore, for even a brief time, or explain its appearance as a leaky fountain pen, when the leak didn’t appear until the very moment the barrister mentioned the brutality, causing the MP to leap from his chair. As police subdued and removed the wailing MP, the barrister turned back to the jury who, at the same time, uttered an audible gasp, followed by a scream, then a shout as a dozen arms flew into the air and pointed at the haunting image displayed upon the barrister’s shirt. The courtroom quickly dissolved into utter chaos as jurors ran from the courtroom and some incredulous men leapt over the railing and attempted to strip the barrister of his shirt, optimistic that it would fetch a tidy sum from someone indulgent in such macabre items.
From that day fountain pens were banned from courtrooms across England and the first stationer able to manufacture a pen whose ink was safely sealed in a chamber and distributed in incremental volume only when in use, was sure to win the patent and the incredible wealth which would quickly follow.
As the anniversary of the fountain pen’s exodus approached, rumors began to circulate that the Judiciary acted beyond its dominion when it issued the restriction, and continues to defend its authority successfully whenever a challenge is brought before the High Court. England’s De La Rue and Conway-Stewart pen companies, as well as France’s Cartier and ST Du Pont, Germany’s Pelikan and Montblanc, and Italy’s Omas and Visconti all concluded that the solution required a combination of distinct and precise components: a cartridge, ink, and a system by which the ink could be laid upon the writing surface at the exact volume to ensure a consistent line. These accomplished, fastidious and resplendent pen manufacturers were perplexed: never before in the history of handwriting were the makers of pens required to reconsider the importance of ink and its transference to the paper as their conundrum. Ink had always been considered declasse, pedestrian and hackneyed. Suddenly they’ve acquired relevance and attention and thusly required the world’s greatest maker’s of pens to invite them to participate in this befuddled exercise.
The common and convenient ballpoint pen emerged from an unlikely location, a small town on Cornwall’s North Coast that hugged the jagged cliffs carved by the Celtic Sea. Citizens of Bawhl Point (between Boscastle and St. Gennys) were stout, good-humored, and straightforward Englishmen. Hardened by their generational resolve to survive the harrowing conditions of England’s southern tip, an isolated peninsula which stretches three hundred kilometers out to sea, and constantly exposed to the full force of the Atlantic’s prevailing winds.
John Gahter IV, the eldest of five brothers and sisters, and assumed heir to the Gahter and Sons Ball, Valve and Pipe Manufacturing Company had recently been contacted by a local chemist, F.H. Inkes. While conducting his business, Dr. Inkes used a technology which required small, spherical particles to be integrated into an easily replaceable plastic ball-check valve which, while under incredible pressure, would release a steady and predictable volume of fluid onto a row of glass slides placed on a rotating table which turned clockwise every six seconds. Dr. Inkes wanted to know if Mr. Gahter and his manufacturing company could develop such a valve, and if so, could they manufacture a consistent quantity per month? Mr. Gahter was intrigued and would discuss its possibility with his engineers and plant manager. He promised to contact Dr. Inkes within a few days to inform him of his company’s decision. If Mr. Gahter and his employees were absolutely sure they could manufacture the valve then he and Dr. Inkes could further discuss all the business particulars.
Dr. Inkes was an analytical chemist whose expertise was well-known throughout England’s small number of chemists who utilized an uncommon technology, High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to separate and identify compounds suspended in common liquids. The information discovered during these tests were extremely useful to chemists, especially those conducting research involving complex and indistinguishable compounds. Until recently when high-ranking officials at Scotland Yard and a few football executives learned that urine samples subjected to HPLC would separate and identify individual elements (of which may or may not interest them).
It took Mr. Gahter and his company two months to perfect the valve which Dr. Inkes requested. But in the process, the two men made a startling discovery: fluid can be distributed at a consistent rate when pressure is applied, and the margin between the sphere and outlet must be perfectly calibrated to the viscosity of the ink. Mr. Gahter and Dr. Inkes were awarded the patent for the steel ink pen and, of course, shocked most of Europe, and as Parliament promised, their ink pen was quickly distributed to all governmental buildings throughout the Empire.
A reporter from The Guardian reputedly asked Mr. Gahter and Dr. Inkes what name was given to their invention? Mr. Gahter replied, “It’s called the Bahwl Point Pen,” and Dr. Inkes quickly added, “And the first model is named after my good friend, John Gahter; “the Gahter” pronounced J-A-H-T-E-R.”