Parker No. 60 Awanyu "Aztec" c1911-1916

by Jim Mamoulides, February 10, 2010

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu cap detail, showing the "front" Indian Chief and "back" mystical symbol triskelion design elements

Every so often I am contacted by a collector who has a most interesting pen. The Parker No. 60 Awanyu "Aztec" fountain pen shown here belonged to the owner's great grandfather. When he first saw the pen, he thought that it was interesting, yet not immediately compelling, so it got put it away in a drawer. Four years later, he ran across the pen again and decided to do some research. He contacted collectors and Parker in order to find out more about the pen, had it examined by jewelers, and had it photographed. He was pleased to find out how rare it was and has graciously allowed me to show some of the photographs and share the story of this pen.

In the August, 1911 issue of Side Talks, the internal Parker Pen Company magazine, George S. Parker tells a story of how during the previous winter he traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, visited the museum of the Archeological Institute of America and saw, "the most wonderful collection of Indian and Aztec relics." During his tour of the museum, Parker saw what he was told was an Aztec design called, "Awanyu," which he was told was the, "Emblem of Mystic Power," "The preserver of life," and "the guardian of springs and streams." Parker obtained permission to copy the design and set one of his jewelers to adapt it to a line of pens.

It is my belief that the mystical symbol design Parker was attracted to was the three armed triskelion design, similar to a swastika, that made its way onto the pen. Parker also introduced in 1911 a four arm swastika design on the No. 52 and No. 53 pens, similar to the design adopted later by the Nazis, so the use of a swastika-like design as a design element is not unique to the Awanyu pen, and both may have been influenced by the Native American designs Parker saw. The swastika was used by the Navajo in pottery and basket designs, indicating a whirling log, and representing a legend that was used in healing rituals. Parker may have seen this design on Navajo artifacts at the museum, as the Native American tribe's homeland extends through Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

As to Awanyu itself, according to Wikipedia, "Awanyu (also Avanyu), is a Tewa deity, the guardian of water. Represented as a horned or plumed serpent with curves suggestive of flowing water or the zig-zag of lightning, Awanyu appears on the walls of caves located high above canyon rivers in New Mexico and Arizona. Awanyu may be related to the feathered serpent of Mexico— Quetzalcoatl. In some tribes Awanyu is believed to be a companion to the Kokopelli. Awanyu is a frequent motif on Native American pottery of the Southwestern United States." If you look closely, you can see the snake element on the pen just below the Indian Chief's head, almost as if it is a necklace. The snake is actually forming a figure eight, with the mouth biting the tail. Parker first introduced a snake design in 1907 on the No. 37 and No. 38 Snake pens. At least having the snake correlates to the Awanyu legend. One could speculate that the Awanyu pen is a combination of American Indian, snake and swastika-like designs that were liked by George Parker. The lack of actual Aztec design elements leads some collectors to believe that Parker fancifully projected the Aztec idea onto a compilation of Native American designs.

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu cap and barrel top detail, showing the Indian chief detail, note snake design below the Chief's head

Of course, now that the design is on an expensive pen, Parker embellishes the mystique of the design as one that is not only strange and beautiful, but is reputed to bring good luck and long life! And not only that, "everyone who sees the pen with the strange, mythical characters becomes interested in it at once. It's a wonderful pen to have in stock as an advertisement alone to interest possible buyers." Of course if Parker could get every dealer to spring for a $20.00 pen for advertising purposes, it wouldn't be too bad for Parker's luck and long life!

It's hard to say if very many dealers, much less customers sprung for one of these pens. The write up from the Parker Archives states that, "A total of only four to six Aztecs are known to exist." This would make the pen rare, indeed. The author has seen exactly three, personally. The Parker Archives write up also notes about the sterling silver model, "In January 2000 a Sterling Silver Aztec identical to the example supplied was sold for £54,300 at Bonhams in London to an Italian collector." Not only rare, but valuable. In Glen Bowen's Collectible Fountain Pens, published in 1982, he estimates the value of both the No. 59 and No. 60 Awanyu pens at $1,500.00 to $2,500.00 each. That is a significant appreciation in value!

The full overlay Awanyu, or as it is more commonly known, Aztec, may be one of the rarest Parker straight holder style eyedropper pen models. There were many types of jewelry maker overlays on eyedropper pens in the early 1900s, but this design was unique to Parker. There are three principal design elements on the overlay: the head of an American Indian Chief in full headdress, the three armed symbol of mystic power, and the "chalice" shape. All of the designs are in very high relief on both the cap and barrel. Close inspection shows a great deal of hand detail and tooling work on each of the design elements, which are then framed with fine hammer work, and then broad hammering done to add texture to the remaining smooth, open areas on the cap and barrel.

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu closed, "front" side showing Chief and chalice design elements

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu open,"front" side showing Chief and chalice design elements

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu 1911 drawing in Parker Side Talks showing the "front" side with the cap posted on the end of the barrel

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 58 Awanyu 1911 advertisement drawing showing the "front" side with the cap posted on the end of the barrel

There are four Awanyu "Aztec" models:

No. 57 Awanyu "Aztec" Sterling Silver half-overlay with cap crown, retailed for US $10.00
No. 58 Awanyu "Aztec" 18 karat gold filled half-overlay with cap crown, retailed for US $12.00
No. 59 Awanyu "Aztec" full Sterling Silver overlay, retailed for US $16.00
No. 60 Awanyu "Aztec" full 18 karat gold filled overlay, retailed for US $20.00

Interestingly, in the author's research, some of the full overlay Awanyu pens have a slightly different overall design. The No. 60 shown here has only the chalice shape element centered at the base of the front side of the barrel. The No. 60 shown in the 1911 Parker Side Talks shows the chalice element above one of the three armed mystical symbols at the base of the barrel, as can be seen above. The No. 59 shown in the Parker Archives photograph shows only the three armed mystical symbol centered at the base of the barrel. The No. 60 shown on Tony Fischier's article, Parker Lucky Curve and other Parker Pre Duofolds 1894-1929 shows yet another variation, with only the chalice shape element and it is placed immediately next to the cartouche, instead of centered. Fountain Pens of the World, by Andreas Lambrou, shows a No. 59 identical to the one shown by the Parker Archives and a No. 60 identical to the design in the 1911 Parker Side Talks. These differences lead me to believe that each pen was individually made, based on a design template, rather than being a manufactured product.

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu closed, "back" side showing "mystical symbol" triskelion design elements

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu open, "back" side showing "mystical symbol" triskelion design elements

How were these pens made? Careful examination of the work on the pen could suggest that the work starts as repoussé, a method of creating a relief design by hammering or pressing the reverse side of a metal surface. Repoussé is French for, "to push back". With this method the sterling silver or gold filled sheet is first worked from the back, supported by sand or a similar base. Once the design is pushed into the sheet and shows correctly on the outward facing side, the sheet can then be turned over so that finishing detail using chasing tools and hammering can be worked into the front face. The sheet can finally be cut and rolled into the overlay and mounted onto the base hard rubber barrel.

Although the No. 57 Awanyu Sterling Silver half-overlay and the No. 58 Awanyu 18 karat gold filled half-overlay can be seen in Parker advertisements dating from 1911, 1912, and 1913, the author has found no advertisements showing the full overlay models. The No. 57 and No. 58 pens are shown in the 1914 Parker Catalog. There is a No. 58L gold filled half-overlay shown in the 1918 catalog and listed as a self-filling pen, presumably a button-filler, though this is not mentioned. As the full overlay pen is introduced in the August, 1911 Parker Side Talks, I would give the initial year for the pen as 1911, and the pen is also shown in the March, 1912, and November, 1912 Parker Side Talks. The No. 59 Awanyu full Sterling Silver overlay and the No. 60 Awanyu full 18 karat gold filled overlay are in the 1914 Parker Catalog and are last shown in the 1916 Parker Catalog.

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu nib unit detail, note number 3 size nib

The final bit is the nib unit, the heart of the pen. The Awanyu pens were fitted with a number three nib mounted on Parker's Lucky Curve front end. The Lucky Curve feed was a clever design that drained ink from the feed when the pen was in the upright position, preventing leakage into the cap and onto the section when the cap was removed. The design worked by curving the end of the feed to where it touches the inside edge of the barrel and through capillary action, drains the feed. Parker was given patent number 512319 for the initial, overfeed Lucky Curve on January 9, 1894, and then on June 28, 1898, Parker was awarded patent number 606231 for an improved Lucky Curve feed with the nib over the feed, as with most modern pens.

Parker offered nine nib styles: fine, medium, coarse (broad), stub, manifold, oblique, stenographer, bookkeeper or ballpoint.

Parker Aztec
Parker No. 60 Awanyu nib unit detail, showing the lucky curve feed

Since I did not have the pen in order to test it, I won't be indicating anything about the writing quality. I can say that early Lucky Curve eyedropper pens write well enough, though they are from time to time subject to blotting, even with the improved spear feed, as seen on this pen. Eyedropper pens are among the simplest designs, as the barrel itself is the inkwell for the pen and is filled with a long bulb syringe usually supplied with the pen. The owner would pull off the cap (Parker did not introduce screw on caps until 1912), unscrew the nib unit, and drop ink into the barrel until it was filled. A mistake in this process could lead to an ink spill, which is why pen makers at the time were all busy working out self filling pen designs. Perhaps at a later date I will get a chance to test the pen and provide more information.


Acknowledgement

All photographs in this article are © copyright 2010 by the owner of the pen and are used with permission. If you have specific information or questions regarding this pen, feel free to email the owner of the pen at parkeraztec@yahoo.com.

The owner of the pen would like to thank Tony Fischier of parkercollector.com, Jim Mamoulides, and the Parker Archives for their expert guidance and assistance in researching this fountain pen.

Selected References

"Awanyu," Wikipedia

Collectible Fountain Pens, Glen Benton Bowen, Copyright © 1982, L-W Book Sales, Gas City, IN, USA

Fountain Pens, Johnathan Steinberg, Copyright © 1994, Quintet Publishing Limited, London, England

Fountain Pens of the World, Andreas Lambrou, Copyright © 1995, Zwemmer, London, England

Fountain Pens: United States and United Kingdom, Andreas Lambrou, Copyright © 2000, Phillip Wilson Publishers Ltd, London, England

"Navajo Nation," Wikipedia

Parker c1910 Full Awanyu Aztec overlay of Sterling silver on Black Hard Rubber eyedropper filler pen, Parker Archives, Parker Pen Company, Newhaven, UK

Parker Calendar, Cheryl Hayes, Copyright © 2002, Product Quality & Development Dept, Parker Pen Company, Newhaven, UK

Parker Catalog, 1914, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

Parker Catalog, 1916, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

Parker Catalog, 1918, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

"Parker Lucky Curve and other Parker Pre Duofolds 1894-1929," Copyright © 1995-2010 Tony Fischier and The Parker Pen Company®/Sanford Ecriture

"Repoussé and chasing," Wikipedia

Side Talks, No. 7, January, 1911, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

Side Talks, No. 8, August, 1911, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

Side Talks, No. 9, December, 1911, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

Side Talks, No. 10, March, 1912, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

Side Talks, No. 11, November, 1912, Parker Pen Company, Janesville, WI, USA

"Swastika," Wikipedia

United States Patent number 512319, Google Patents

United States Patent number 606231, Google Patents

Discuss / Recommend what you read on PenHero.com

Facebook Twitter Stumble Digg

Follow us on Twitter: PenHero

Add a link to PenHero.com on your blog:
(Copy & paste code)
Please only use the photo provided. Use of other photos requires permission.
The provided link photo will change as we update the site.

Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Jim Mamoulides
PenHero.com Bibliography