Wearever De Luxe "Mother of Pearl" c1940-1944
by Jim Mamoulides, June 11, 2003, updated September 16, 2003
A pearl of a Wearever
Every now and then a really interesting pen finds its way onto my worktable. It's unusual when that eye-catching pen is a Wearever. I admit a fondness for Wearever pens, acknowledging their many foibles, not the least of which is that they are intended to be cheap. Wearevers are notorius for cheap plating and inconsistent fit and finish. In the wild they are often found in less than pristine condition, carelessly mixed in bags or boxes with other cheapies. These were the kings of the dime store pens after all, and were marketed to budget conscious consumers.
The Wearevers of the 1940s look as if many were designed as knock-offs of major brands. Pick up a striped Wearever Pacemaker and you'll think, "striped Parker Duofold," for example. Wearever's advertisements stressed value and features at a low price. I don't expect them to be great pens, and they don't disappoint me. Many Wearevers, when cleaned up and serviced, turn out to be solid workhorses.
Wearever De Luxe Mother of Pearl pattern c1940-1945,
alongside a Sheaffer Balance Ebonized Pearl
This "mother of pearl" pattern De Luxe is definitely more upscale and flashier than the typical early 1940s Wearever. Note that this is not the official name. Capped, the seamless pearl chip pattern is a definite take on the Sheaffer Ebonized Pearl, though it's much more geometric and orderly. The plastic is solid black and the "chips", which look like polished mother of pearl oyster shell inlays, appear to be molded into and through the plastic, as can be seen inside of the cap and cut through at the threads.
The pen has a blind cap covering a metal button filler, similar to the type in Parker button-fill pens, and which is upscale from the later Pacemaker's plain plastic button. The blind cap is the same "tire stem cap" design, as found on the button-fill Pacemaker, and is not a flush fit with the barrel. The clip is plain, sculpted, and visually similar to the Parker clip. The imprint is the large three-part Wearever imprint, with "MADE IN USA" left, "WEAREVER" over "DE LUXE" center in script, and "NORTH BERGEN N J" right.
Send in the reinforcements!
My first view of the nib immediately led to a strong double-take. The nib appears to be a 14 karat gold open nib overlaid by a steel brace frame with a diamond shaped opening. Wearever did put an overfeed on the early 1950s Pennant model, but that consisted of a center bar only and was intended to keep the nib channel moist while the pen was uncapped, much as on an eyedropper from the early 20th century.
This "overlay" or frame appears to act as a brace to reinforce a flimsy and small nib, much smaller than an open nib the size of the frame. This design allowed Wearever to use less 14 karat gold content in an open nib and with the overlay providing strength. This reduction in the gold used in the nib probably kept the cost of the pen down, allowing Wearever to position the De Luxe as a well appointed low cost pen with a real gold nib.
The frame design allows the nib to be flexible, even pleasantly soft, but the frame prevents the tines from spreading much, so the nib will not have the full line variation and vivid shading and expressiveness of a true flexible nib. It does have the soft feel of flex and allows a wet, even line. The section has a large visulated window to allow for quick checks of the ink remaining.
This reinforced nib design may have saved money on gold, but proved to be a poor design in practice and was dropped in favor of standard open nibs. Think rust. The design only lasted a few years. By 1945, Wearever advertisements only show standard open nibs.
My guess is that this Mother of Pearl pattern version of the De Luxe dates between the Depression era 1938 De Luxe model, which also appears to be the earliest Wearever with the frame nib, based on advertisements, and the post war De Luxe model in both price and design. Use of this nib design in the 1930s makes sense for the times. The De Luxe Mother of Pearl pen carries and bridges elements from both the early and late De Luxe, with the reinforced nib of the earlier model and the more upscale and decidedly Parker-like design of the postwar pens. I date the pen from about 1940 because the top mounted clip conforms to the military requirements introduced in 1940. Wearever no longer used the unique reinforced nib by 1945, thus the assumed 1944 end date.
From worst to first
Wearever was moving upmarket with higher grade appointments from the very low end pens they made in the 1930s. By 1937, Wearever was shifting its focus to better quality pens, still in the low-price range, and began to start advertising as a value leader. The De Luxe was always promoted as a low-cost quality pen, priced lower than the market leaders, Parker, Sheaffer, and Eversharp. The reinforced nib was introduced on the De Luxe model probably in 1938, as shown in the above September 10, 1938 Saturday Evening Post advertisement.
The De Luxe model was popular enough to allow Wearever to introduce better designs and raise prices on these improved models in the early 1940s. Wearever positioned the De Luxe in the market as "The Dollar Pen with the 14 karat Gold Point!". The pen alone was US $1.00 and the paperboard gift boxed pen and pencil set sold for US $1.50. In 1945, the Pacemaker retailed for US $2.75 and was fitted with a full 14 karat gold open nib. Better materials and strong sales allowed Wearever to approach the pricing of the major brands secondary lines.
Wearever advertisements in the late 1940s declared "America's Largest Fountain Pen Manufacturer", a true statement from the volume leader, built largely on the groundbreaking success made by pens like these early De Luxe models.
This Wearever De Luxe Mother of Pearl has a very soft and very wet writing fine nib. The pen only needed a new sac. It's the same basic size and shape as the Pacemaker, about 5 3/8 inches long capped and 6 3/8 inches posted. It's very lightweight, and the cap adds very little weight when posted. It's nicely balanced, capped or posted.
The "pearl chip" plastic is very attractive, but the orderly pattern has little depth, which really shows next a the Sheaffer Balance Ebonized Pearl. It definitely looks molded in, not as if mother of pearl chips were dropped into the pen's plastic, as if suspended in amber. The fit and finish is good, somewhat better than the Pacemaker, but not in Parker's class. The clip and cap ring show typical Wearever plating loss. The plating on these pens is a wash on, rather than real gold fill, and wears off easily. Completely brassed pens are not uncommon.
The clip has a little give, but not enough for really thick material. The pen sits low in the pocket, military style. The button filler works very well, better than the Pacemaker, and has more of a quality, "Parker" feel.
This was a very fun pen to try out. It's got more curb appeal than most Wearevers, though it does not rise far above them in quality. The nib is a treat to write with, but the frame inhibits any true flex, resulting in a nice soft writer, but no real expressiveness. A feeling similar to a Pelikan 1000.
The good thing about collecting Wearevers is they're generally not expensive. The fun is that every now and then you'll turn up a pearl.
I'd like to thank Frank Dubiel for his personal and publicly posted information on Wearever pens and identifying this particular nib style for me.
Thanks to John Cutcher for the 1938 Wearever advertisement scan.
Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Jim Mamoulides