Fountain Pen Restoration

Esterbrook Bowling Pen

The Story behind this restoration takes place in Camden, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In the mid 1800s Esterbrook Pens began in Camden and stayed there until the 1960s.  I have also written about other Esterbrook Pens in the following posts ~

Fountain Pen Restoration 101 – dated May 8, 2008

Esterbrook Pastels – dated July 5, 2011

Esterbrook Nurses Pen – dated August 5, 2011

As you can see below, the Nurses Pen looking pen came to me in quite a state of disrepair and was very dirty.  As discussed in the past, these probably date to the 1950s and are larger in size to the standard pastel pens.  The previous nurses pen that I restored (August 5, 2011 post) had black jewels.  This pen comes with red jewels, similar to some nurses pens, presumably to hold red ink.  This one is a bit different as we will see below.

First for the cleanup and restoration.  As mentioned, this pen came with many purple ink stains (inside and out) and many caked on dirt/grime stains.  This is a bit more problematic with a white pen, obviously, but nothing that a bit of elbow grease can’t solve.  I started by soaking the barrel, cap and nib unit in an ultrasonic cleaner.  Make sure to do each separately, as the ink from each can stain the outside of the barrel and cap and make the job that much harder.  After the ultrasonic clean, I scrubbed the outside and inside of the barrel and cap with scratch remover and a dremel at low speed.  This did a remarkable job on the outside of cleaning things up.  The inside of the cap was caked with ink and required repeated doses of water and q tip as well as small toothbrush.  Cleaning the entire cap inside is necessary to prevent the barrel and barrel threads of getting dirty again.  I use a toothbrush and ink nix on the barrel threads and it does a great job of cleaning them thoroughly, even when white.

The nib unit cleaned up well with a combination of the ultrasonic and a jewelers cloth.

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The finished result is below.  It measures 4 7/8 inches closed and 5 7/8 inches posted.

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The interesting facets of this pen are the two imprints.  First is an impression of the Corporate logo of RCA Victor A.A. (A.A. = Athletic Association).  The second is “200 Bowling Club”.

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RCA Victor, a merger of RCA and the Victor Talking Machine Company had a large Corporate presence in Camden, New Jersey at the same time that Esterbrook did.  The RCA Victor Athletic Association provided the employees of RCA in the Camden area an organized outlet for a wide variety of sports activities.  Please read this link for a few newspaper articles regarding the organization and some of its endeavors.

My guess is that this pen, conveniently purchased or provided by its local neighbor Esterbrook, was given to bowlers who achieved a 200 average, or score.  I have not seen others, but I wonder if they were all white, or if other colors were used as well.  Given the production period of these pens, this would have occurred in the 50s in Camden.

Another interesting side note that ties the two companies together is that when Esterbrook moved out of Camden in 1964, they sold their old factory buildings to RCA.

Here is a closeup of the red cap end.

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Finally, this pen (top) next to the black ended nurses pen from my collection.

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Esterbrooks are very common and highly collectible pens that are quite easy to restore.  Even more interesting are the variants that pop up from time to time.  As I have mentioned in the past, please visit Esterbrook.net  for more expert information on this brand.

8-25-12 Edit: Please note this excellent post form Jon Veley’s Pencil Blog – Right Next Door – which includes an Esterbrook / RCA “Bowling” pencil.

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September 13, 2011 - Posted by | Esterbrook, Esterbrook Fountain Pens | , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Lovely work! I’m always amazed that you can restore something that looks beyond hope to the state shown in the “after” pictures. I’m a big fan of Esterbrooks myself, although I’ve only ever bought restored ones – maybe it’s time to try a sac replacement…

    Comment by John the Monkey | September 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. I have found cleaning the inside of caps to be a snap when using a Nipple Brush. They aren’t quite as easy to find as they were years ago; but, stores that carry a variety of baby bottles and supplies will likely have them. Gerber is the brand I use and, when I found them, I bought several. If you are not familiar with nipple brushes, take a look at http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/11llU4oIx3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg.

    Comment by L. Allin | September 16, 2011 | Reply

  3. Wow. Great work. That’s an amazing item. The design (especially seen in the close-up of the cap) isn’t too far from a 50’s (maybe 60’s) model American car.

    Comment by m42martin | October 8, 2011 | Reply


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