Prints & Cards
by Jim Mamoulides 1/1/02 - Updated 12/29/02
The Quality Goes In When The Name Goes On
Wearever, "America's Largest Fountain Pen Manufacturer", was a big volume producer of cheap pens. Appearing in 1944 advertising as a new line, Wearever promoted the Zenith as a high value pen with a 14-karat gold nib, priced at US $1.95 and in a set with a matching pencil at US $2.75. Quality features at a price much lower than the market leaders, Eversharp, Sheaffer and Parker, along with advertising in major publications, such as the Saturday Evening Post, indicate that Wearever was trying to move up the food chain into high price and profit territory.
Wearever, like many companies, tied the pen to the war effort, as in a 1944 advertisement titled, "Be a war correspondent!". The Zenith was also pushed early as a high quality pen. Made with "telescope precision" one 1945 advertisement claimed. Later, in 1946, the Zenith advertising message shifted to school pens, with "Send them to school whistling!" and "Great gifts for graduation!", probably due to the great value they got in this two-dollar pen! Value was the selling point. Even the paper box, intended to be inexpensive and serve a dual role as a display, was called in advertisements "rich!"
The Zenith was a second line after the Pacemaker, and follows many of the same Parker design cues in terms of cap and barrel shape, trim and clip shape. Where the Pacemaker is typically a button filler that used striped and marbled plastics, the Zenith is a lever filler and a plain plastic pen, offered in maroon, coachman's green, navy blue and black. The matching pencil operates by twisting the point, rather than along the centerline as with most other pencils.
Like the Pacemaker, the Zenith is a low price point pen, selling for US $1.95, and is also fitted with what appears to be the same 14-karat gold nib and clear "C-Flow" feed. Based on Wearever's reputation for low cost, and that the pens were marketed at the same time and share many other traits, it's probable that the nib and feed units are the same in both pens. In some ways the Zenith is similar enough to the Pacemaker that it may actually be a variant.
The Zenith has a clear feed that allows the user to see that there is ink left in the pen, making it easy to see when the pen needs to be refilled. The clearer the feed in use, the more likely the pen is nearly empty. The Pacemaker also has this feed, and it was continued on the later Pennant model. This gimmicky feature was also marked in some advertisements as patent registered and offered instead of a visulated section.
The black Zenith featured in this article is fitted with a firm medium nib. It's a new old stock pen set, showing almost no signs of abuse. The pen and pencil are both fairly large, about 5 3/8 inches long with the pen capped and 6 3/8 inches posted. It's a fairly lightweight set, being all plastic, and the cap adds little weight when posted. The Zenith is well balanced, but is fussy and insecure posted, making one a little concerned about the cap coming off during writing.
The Zenith is actually well put together. The black plastic cap and barrel are nothing special, but don't look much different than other higher price black pens. The fit and finish is good to very good, with the clip tight to the cap and the red "jewels" at the cap and barrel ends tightly fitted. The trim ring on the cap is flush and bright as is all the trim plating. A little polish and the plastic has a nice warm shine.
The clip has some spring, but not enough for really thick material. The pen sits low in the pocket, given the Parker style clip. The Zenith fills easily with a single stroke of the lever.
The 14 karat nib on both the Zenith and it's higher priced sibling the Pacemaker write identically, as expected, seeing that they appear to be from the same parts bin. It has very little flex, and isn't really that smooth, and is a fairly dry writer. This is a utility pen, not one that are going to leap into your pocket every morning.
Basically this is a cheap pen, made more upscale than most of the Wearever pens to follow, and would be among the more "collectible" of that brand, in my opinion. Some work on the nib to smooth it would yield a more satisfying writer. Since they don't cost much, working that kink out is fairly low risk.
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Last Update 7/24/04