Whitefort, the place, looks to be mostly a road sign on a country road in Ireland near Thurles with no industry I can see. The length of the nave of the French cathedral of Saint Etienne of Bourges is 333 feet. Now you know the irrelevant information I discovered in a search about the pen I’m holding now: the Whitefort 333.
Not everyone loves a mystery and I would like to know more about this intriguing pen but that info seems lost in the sands of time. It’s an amazingly crafted piece precisely made from machined clear plastic like most mid-20th century display pens. All the parts have exacting tolerances and fit perfectly. Was this one of a few demonstrators made or one of a thousand production models? No idea. Nothing looks prototypical about it under close inspection. The only clues of identity is a clip engraved “W 333” and a nib and cap band engraved “Whitefort 333”. There are no markings on the barrel or other plastic parts.
The nib itself deserves some further comment. It’s marked “14ct” and is two-tone with a band of bright silver plating on the leading edges. Seeing “ct” instead of “kt” here indicates it wasn’t made in North America so that’s at least a bit of useful detail. This is a nicely made nib which reminds me of the similar two tone ones some vintage Onotos had on them.
Can we make any useful guess on this fountain pen’s provenance after this examination? Maybe a half-baked guess is the best we can do. The gold content marking and the name leads me to believe this pen was made in English speaking Europe somewhere. It seems to be made of Lucite (also known as plexiglass) which came into use for pens right before WWII. Lastly, the visual style of the pen is similar to British products from the 1950s. This leads to a very unsteady deduction that it is an UK pen made after WWII and before the flower power decade.
Enough now about the origin of this pen and on to the most interesting facet which is the filling system. This is the most complex bulb-filling system I’ve seen in person or in books. It’s usually a simple system not taken to an extreme like this and I’ve put together a little diagram help me explain the major sections of it (click it for a larger version):
The A section of the illustration is the rubber bulb itself. Pressing and releasing the bulb creates the pressure and vacuum that fills the pen. This fits through and then wraps under a collar which screws into the barrel. The threads for the blind cap are also here.
The B section is an area that I will call the vacuum chamber for no other reason then I have to call it something. The tube that enters this chamber from below allows for the air flow but also keeps this chamber dry. You can see the tube goes quite a ways up so no fluid will be able to get past it and into here theoretically. I don’t know if there is a benefit to this other than the bulb stays ink free so leaking from it would not be possible.
The C section is the ink chamber. There is a divider in the barrel between this and the previous chamber where two tubes come together. Air is evacuated through these and then out the tube connected to the section due to pressure from the bulb. Ink will then flow back through the section tube (if dipped into the bottle) due to the vacuum created by the release of the bulb. Repeat this action until the pen is filled. The height of this section tube marks the upper limit of the ink level in the chamber which it just about to the top. The reason the upper tube in this chamber hugs the side of barrel at the far end is a mystery to me. Possibly they felt that capillary action would pull any ink that got into this tube out again?
The D section is the nib, feed, and section of the pen.
How well does this filling system work? Well, I’m not going to fill this pen despite my usual lack of reluctance to using NOS or rare-ish pens. I have no idea how many of these are left and I like looking at it empty and clear. Using water I can tell you that the upper chamber can get liquid in it if you are over enthusiastic with your filling which would not be a good thing since it has no place to exit from up there. The system’s all a bit silly really. The rest of the pen should function normally since it has a standard construction.
So now you’ve seen this bit of history too and I hope you found it interesting. There’s always something out there that can befuddle and confound it seems.