In the early 1960s, Parker launched the world’s first cartridge pen. The Parker 45. This pen took the world by storm, and over the next 20-years, Parker continued to refine the design of their pen. While the Parker 45 was properly discontinued in the mid-2000s, the pen is still used worldwide. It was one of the best pens that Parker ever produced, and people still love to use them.
On this page, we want to do a dive into the history of the Parker 45. Do bear in mind that the Parker 45 has a long history. There were a ton of revisions to the pen and a ton of LImited Edition models that were launched. We are going to cover the highlights. Don’t worry. The history of the Parker 45 is much more interesting than you may think!
The History Of The Parker 45
Our story doesn’t begin with the Parker 45. Instead, it begins with a little-known pen called the Eversharp 10,000.
The Eversharp 10,000
At several points on this page, we will refer to the Parker 45 as the world’s first cartridge pen. While it is seen that way today, it isn’t strictly true.
In 1957, Parker purchased the Eversharp company (they shut them down in 1968). Around this time, Eversharp was developing a cartridge pen. This pen was the Eversharp 10,000.
The Eversharp 10,000 was a short-lived pen. It was only on the market for a couple of years. It didn’t have a great design (the barrel was too long), and it didn’t feel great to hold. However, the Eversharp 10,000 kick-started a revolution. It made Parker realize that there may be a market out there for a cartridge pen…and they were going to do their best to tap into it.
The Development Of The Parker 45
In the early 1960s, Parker realized that it needed to do something to compete with the rise of ballpoint pens on the market. While they were making a ton of cash, the convenience of ballpoint would likely kill them off in the future. After all, who wants to be dipping a pen into ink when you can just click a button and out pops a ready-inked pen nib?
Parker looked at their design with the Eversharp 10,000, and Don Doman was put to work. His mission was to create a cartridge pen that felt great to write with.
Don didn’t change up much of the Eversharp 10,000 design. He took the nib and feed section from the Eversharp 10,000’s design and incorporated it right into the pen he was making. It was a system that was working. While there are a couple of differences between the way in which the Eversharp 10,000 fed nib and the Parker 45 fed the nib, it wasn’t anything too crazy.
Because Parker wanted to guarantee the sales of this new pen, they didn’t want to come up with a new and crazy design. The Eversharp 10,000 had done that, and it hadn’t sold anywhere near as well as it should have done, considering the cartridge system had the potential to shake up the world of pens.
Luckily, Parker had success elsewhere in the business. The Parker 51 was selling like hotcakes at the time, and it was probably one of the most popular pens in the world.
The Parker 45 was based upon this design. In fact, at first glance, the Parker 51 and the 45 look like the same pen. Well, the 45 is slightly more tapered. The only way that you can tell that you are looking at a 45 (other than the fact that it uses a cartridge system) is that the 45 has a slightly different clip. Don opted to take the clip design that was on the other popular Parker model, the Parker 21.
So, Parker had their design. It was make or break time. The Parker 45 needed to be introduced to the world, and it was.
The Launch Of The Parker 45
The Parker 45 was a runaway success. People absolutely fell in love with the design. They loved the convenience of the new ink-feeding system, and it wasn’t long before Parker started to update older models in their range with the new cartridge design. Of course, at the same time, Parker was working hard to refine the system to ensure that it would be even more effective.
Around the same time, Parker put the ‘Eversharp’ brand name to use for the very last time. This was the Eversharp Challenger, which was, essentially, the same as the Parker 45, just in plastic with the Eversharp logo on it.
Somewhat surprisingly, during the early days of the Parker 45, it was nothing more than a school pen. It wasn’t designed for business professionals, writers, or anything like that. It was a cheaper pen that children could use for their education. Everything about the Parker 45 production was focused on producing the pen as cheaply as possible. Parker started to dedicate huge parts of their manufacturing process purely to this pen, which resulted in them introducing the Parker 45 CT in 1962, their cheapest pen yet.
Eventually, in 1963, some bright person had Parker hit upon the idea that maybe, just maybe, business professionals would probably love the convenience of a cartridge pen too. Sure, Parker could continue to produce the cheaper Parker 45s for the school market. However, there was a whole untapped market full of rich people, and they could produce some higher-quality pens for them. In 1963, a couple of decades of Parker 45 designs kicked off.
The Age Of The Parker 45
By 1964, Parker was producing versions of the Parker 45 for the market’s lower end and the upper end.
We must stress at this point that throughout its lifespan, the design of the Parker 45 never changed. Well, for the most part. The clip design changed on some of the cheaper models. However, the overall design of the pen remained the same. Whether you were getting a cheap Parker 45 or an expensive one aimed at the business market, you were going to be holding a quality pen.
What did change was the material used in the design of the pen.
The Parker 45 CT (now known as the Arrow) was an all-plastic pen. It was the most affordable pen in the Parker range. The Flighter (which launched shortly after) was all steel, and the Insignia was Gold Plated.
The largest change started to happen in 1967 when Parker started to launch pens in a whole host of different colors, metal finishes, etc. This is probably the time when it was guaranteed that the Parker 45 would become a long-term success. Even now, people are clambering to get their hands on certain designs and finishes of the pen.
The End Of The Parker 45
To be honest, the Parker 45 isn’t completely over. People still buy them today, even though Parker is no longer producing them.
The last design change of the Parker 45 happened in 2001. The pen’s clip became more rounded. All Parker 45 models had the gold trim finish, even the budget ones.
By 2008, the pen was quietly discontinued. This was around 45-years after launch, which isn’t really a bad run for a pen design, right? Remember, this is a pen that managed to survive multiple new Parker models (some of which used a better system), and even the early parts of the digital age where people were ditching pens en-masse.
Why The Parker 45 Is So Popular
Back in the day, the Parker 45 took the world by storm. It was the first cartridge pen, and people loved its convenience. Sure, Parker (and other companies) rapidly introduced a whole host of brand-new cartridge pens, but the Parker 45 continued to be the strongest seller. People just fell in love with the original.
It certainly helped that Parker was introducing a lot of Parker 45 models to the market too. There was a Parker 45 to suit every budget and personality. You had the bargain-basement Parker 45 pens that had a basic plastic finish. You had beautiful brushed-metal models. You had models with gold decals. There were dozens and dozens of colors too. While other companies were introducing pens with basic black and blue cases, Parker introduced yellow, reds, polka dots, gold, and greens.
We think the main reason why the Parker 45 became so popular, however, is how it felt in the hand. It doesn’t matter whether you opted for a basic Parker 45 or bought one of the pens with the gold nibs and decals. It just felt so great to write with. The rounded body resulted in a fantastic grip that you could keep up all day. The writing nib moved so effortlessly over the paper.
If that wasn’t enough, because the design of the Parker 45 barely changed over the years, all of the components are interchangeable. You may run into a couple of issues with the clips on the pen launched in 2001. However, for all the models prior, you could swap out parts wherever you saw fit. So, if you managed to get hold of one of the famed gold nibs for the Parker 45, you could slot it right into your steel nib model.
Even though the Parker 45 is no longer produced, the models that were launched in the 1950s still feel fantastic to write with. in fact, they feel better to write with than many of the newer pens from other manufacturers. It is fair to say that Parker nailed the pen design…and it only took one attempt!
Can You Still Buy The Parker 45?
Sadly, the Parker 45 has been long discontinued. This means that you won’t be picking up a brand-new Parker 45 any time soon. However, don’t fret. Millions of these pens were sold. Because Parker produced these pens, they were designed to an incredibly high standard. Many of the pens released in the 1960s are still writing perfectly to this day.
The Parker 45 has become somewhat of a collector’s item, and you will be able to find a wealth of Parker 45 models being resold on auction websites or even in secondhand stores. They shouldn’t be too expensive either. The basic pens sell for about $20, although the rarer pens may sell for upwards of $100-$200. Although, in the latter case, the pens certainly will be worth it!
The Parker 45 is a pen that has gone down in history. It was the pen that started the trend toward cartridge pens. This pen was so popular it lasted on the market for over 40-years with minimal refreshes. If you can get your hands on one, it will be one of the finest pens that you have ever used.
Featured image By Joe Haupt from USA – Vintage Parker 45 Fountain Pen, Made In USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69986631