The Parker Pen Company is a manufacturer of luxury pens, founded in 1888 by George Safford Parker in Janesville, Wisconsin, United States. In 2011 the Parker factory at Newhaven, East Sussex, England, was closed, and its production transferred to Nantes, France.
George Safford Parker, the founder, had previously been a sales agent for the John Holland Gold Pen Company. He received his first fountain pen related patent in 1889. In 1894 Parker received a patent on his “Lucky Curve” fountain pen feed, which was claimed to draw excess ink back into the pen barrel when the pen was not in use. The company’s first successful pen, released in 1899, was the Parker Jointless. The Lucky Curve feed was used in various forms until 1928. From the 1920s to the 1960s, before the development of the ballpoint pen, Parker was either number one or number two in worldwide writing instrument sales. In 1931 Parker created Quink (quick drying ink), which eliminated the need for blotting. In 1941 the company developed the most widely used model of fountain pen in history (over $400 million worth of sales in its 30-year history), the Parker 51. Manufacturing facilities were set up over the years in Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Mexico, USA, Pakistan, India, Germany (Osmia-Parker), Brazil and Argentina. In 1955, the company introduced its Liquid Lead pencil which used liquid graphite to write like a pen. Unfortunately, the Scripto company had introduced a similar product called Fluidlead a few months previously. To avoid a costly patent fight the companies agreed to share their formulas with each other. The company bought retailer and catalog company Norm Thompson in 1973, and then sold it in 1981. In 1976 Parker acquired Manpower just as the temporary staffing market was surging. In time Manpower provided more revenue than the pen business. A 1982 spinoff, Sintered Specialties, Inc., became SSI Technologies, a manufacturer of automotive sensors. A management buyout in 1987 moved the company’s headquarters to Newhaven, East Sussex, England, which was the original location of the Valentine Pen Company previously acquired by Parker. In 1993 Parker was purchased by the Gillette Company, which already owned the Paper Mate brand – the best-selling disposable ballpoint. In 2000 Gillette sold its writing instruments division to the company Newell Rubbermaid, whose Sanford Stationery Division became the largest writing instrument manufacturers in the world at that time, simultaneously owning such brand names as Rotring, Sharpie, Reynolds as well as Parker, PaperMate, Waterman, and Liquid Paper. With commercial competition increasing upon the Parker jotter’s classic metal ink refill cartridge design from low cost generic copies produced in China, as Parker’s unique design patent for the cartridge expired, Parker’s sales began to be drastically adversely affected. In July 2009 Newell Rubbermaid Inc. in response announced that it had decided to close down the Parker production factory at Newhaven in England with the dismissal of 180 employees from the facility, and relocate production to France. The following month, Newell Rubbermaid Inc. announced that the factory in Janesville, Wisconsin, was also to close the remaining operation there producing Parker Pens (which eliminated a further 153 manufacturing jobs). The company press release stated: “This decision is a response to structural issues accelerated by market trends and is in no way a reflection on the highly valued work performed by our Janesville employees over the years.” Newell Rubbermaid offered ‘transitional employment services’ along with severance pay in compensation to the dismissed workforce. Subsequently, Parker has abandoned its traditional retail outlets in North America. While some of its former staple Jotter pens may be found in retailers such as Office Depot, the Parker line has been moved to upscale “luxury” retailers in an abandonment of its former business model of quality manufacture combined with mass market appeal and pricing. With this commercial strategic move Parker also altered its traditional product warranty on its high end pens, changing the former lifetime guarantee to a two-year warranty limitation.
Parker Jotters are said to have been a favorite choice of President John F. Kennedy for signing legislation and to give as gifts.
Key models in the company’s history include: <div style=”-moz-column-count:3; column-count:3;”>
The precursor to the Parker Vector was introduced in 1981. It was a simple cylindrical plastic cap and barrel roller-ball pen called the “Parker RB1”. In 1984, Parker added the FP1 (“Fountain Pen 1”), with essentially the same design. The RB1 and FP1 models were produced until 1986, at which time Parker revised the pen by lengthening the cap and shortening the barrel and renaming the new pen the “Vector Standard”. Presently, there are four models available (in plastic and steel): the fountain pen, capped rollerball, pushbuttonballpoint, and pushbutton pencil.