Fountain Pen Restoration

Houston Pen Company

One of my favorite vintage pen companies is the Houston Pen Company. Founded in Tracy, Minnesota in around 1908 by William A. Houston, it has an interesting history, much of which still remains uncovered. Mr. Houston was at one time a successful barber in Tracy, who decided to change professions and hit the road as a salesman. Fountain pens were one of the products that he sold and took an interest in. In 1908 he successfully patented his first pen and began production. In or around 1912, he picked up and moved to Sioux City, IA and formed a relationship with the General Manufacturing Company. Pens were produced under the names Houston and Snapfil during this time. Eventually, Mr. Houston produced a Jiffy brand of pens, and this may have been separate from the General Manufacturing relationship. In 1926, he surfaces in Los Angeles and files a patent for a plunger-fill fountain pen with Dillman Charles Houston.

This sketchy history aside, I am an avid collector of these pens and am always on the lookout, especially for the Houston branded pens. I recently came across this Houston (Sioux City) pen. It is unique in two ways. First, most of the pens that I have from Houston / Snapfil / Jiffy have smaller No. 2 or 4 size nibs. This pen is quite a bit larger and has a very large No. 7 nib with the Houston imprint. Secondly, this pen came with complete box and instruction pamphlet. I have included a picture of the pen, instructions, and box lid below.

Many of these pens came with a chatelaine hook (or “safety device”) on the end of a chain which is explained in the brochure. This was a way to fasten the pen to one’s clothing for easy access. It is a very distinctive addition to many of the Houston and Snapfil pens.




Here is a nice closeup of the large No. 7 nib after cleaning up the section, feed, and nib. As this is an eyedropper fill, there is little maintenance to be done, other than knocking out these and cleaning gently. The BCHR has not discolored very much and, as I mention in earlier posts, I do not like to re-blacken BCHR.


Finally, a closeup of the Houston imprint and the finished pen. Closed, this pen is a large 6 1/4 inches long. Note the fairly clean gold decorative band. This pen has survived quite well. In future posts, I will discuss a Snapfil and Jiffy restoration.



Houston pens produced in Tracy, Minnesota do exist, though I do not have one in my collection. I am always on the lookout for one of these early examples of Mr. Houston’s work prior to moving to Iowa.


April 10, 2008 - Posted by | Hard Rubber Pen, Houston Pen Company, Jiffy Fountain Pens, Sioux City, Snapfil |


  1. Interested in info about a lead pencil having a lever-advance for the lead…. inscribed
    The General Manufacturing Co
    Pat. Kaligraf June 8, 1920
    Sioux City, Iowa
    5 inches long

    Comment by Arthur Miller | October 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. I live just a bridge apart from sioux city iowa. I have purchased many fountain pens. I would really like to see a photo of a Jiffy fountain pen. Who knows i may have one and don’t know it. Thanks!

    Comment by Annie | May 30, 2011 | Reply

  3. My dads great uncle was w. a. houston. His grandmother was Jenny Houston. I have one of these pens that was left to me. Please contact me by email.thank you

    Comment by sherry lane | May 29, 2014 | Reply

    • Hi Sherry;

      I have collected Houston pens for many years as they were a Great Minnesota made pen. I live in St. Paul, and like pens made here in our state. I even wrote an article about them years ago for Pen World magazine.
      Call me if you wish sometime to exchange information. I’m at 612-849-4263

      Best Regards, Steve Nelson

      Comment by Steve Nelson | December 30, 2019 | Reply

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