The History of Conway Stewart
1905, Mr. Frank Jarvis and Mr. Tommy Garner formed Conway Stewart
& Co. Limited at 13 Paternoster Row London EC1, next to St Paul's
Cathedral in London. Today, this area is known as Paternoster Square
having been redeveloped after its complete destruction during the
Blitz of World War II. Although there is much debate regarding the
origins of the Company's name, it is believed that the name "Conway
Stewart" derives from a popular vaudeville act of the day. Conway
and Stewart were supposedly a comedy double act who appeared at Collins
Music Hall in Islington.
Drawing from the knowledge and experience gained while
working for De La Rue, Garner and Jarvis, two entrepreneurs, took
a great risk in leaving their secured jobs to start a new enterprise
reselling fountain pens made by other manufacturers. They concentrated
their energies and invested in importing pens from the United States.
an arduous month of persistent selling of their stock, they reaped
the rewards of a rather healthy turnover of more than £13 and
9 shillings. This was a great accomplishment considering that the
rent for their business premises was only five shillings a week. Even
though this turnover would be pleasing to many new ventures, the strength
of De La Rue in the fountain pen market made it impossible for the
company to continue selling no-named fountain pens.
In the same year, De La Rue reportedly invested £50,000
in a promotion campaign for their new launch, the Onoto. However,
Garner and Jarvis soon recognized there was an audience desiring good,
reliable writing instruments that were also affordable. This is when
Conway Stewart began to capture a market amongst the English. Jarvis
and Garner developed a single aim, to produce elegant and beautiful,
yet functional writing instruments - a principle that Conway Stewart
holds true to this day.
The Golden Years
The 1920s was an excellent decade for the courageous owners. Not only
did they trademark the name of the business 'Conway Stewart', but also
their list of filling mechanisms available expanded to include eyedroppers,
lever fillers, pump fillers and safeties. While the first of these pens
were almost indistinguishable from others of that period, by 1925 Conway
Stewart was coming into their own in terms of design. A trademark for
the name "Dinkie" was registered in 1924, along with a patent
for a new locking lever mechanism. Conway Stewart was rapidly growing
in popularity and demand. So much so that they were taking away market
shares from other dominant pen manufacturers.
Another introduction around this time was the use
of brightly coloured celluloid. In the 1920s, Conway Stewart were offering
dozens of different colours in their various lines, and the customer
could choose from either the simple and conservative, the bright and
cheerful, or the downright flamboyant. The pens of this period were
very well made, and of high quality, yet remained affordable. The
wide range of models and materials allowed Conway Stewart to truly
offer "something for everyone" when it came to fountain
This reasonable pricing and successful marketing contributed
to the success of Conway Stewart for the next decade. They invested
in new premises in 1927, which became their headquarters for the next
two decades. As the depression of the 1930s hit, Conway Stewart was
in the enviable position of marketing pens that were considered
"good value". Although this decade proved to be a low point
for Conway Stewart in terms of profit, they were able to ride out the
Colourful plastics were soon becoming a signature for
Conway Stewart. It is interesting to note that they did not designate
titles for their designs. The names we recognize today have been adopted
by collectors over the years. As an example, Cracked Ice and Reversed
Cracked Ice, used for many of their models for over 25 years, and Tiger
Eye, another favourite.
By the middle of the decade, Conway Stewart was ready
to expand, and in 1935 they went public, with shares being offered to
raise capital. Advertising campaigns managed to keep the name Conway
Stewart in the forefront of the public mind, much the same way of advertising
from Sheaffer, Parker and De La Rue.
war years were no easier for Conway Stewart than any other manufacturer
in England. However, they managed to emerge more than ready to participate
in a post war boom. As the 1940s drew to an end, they were still offering
the public good, reliable pens at reasonable prices. They continued
to prosper accordingly. Their models were now sporting the famous diamond
clip in place of the old 'ball' clip and names of their models were
been phased out in favour of model numbers, except for the Dinkie.
The 1950s proved to be a continuation of the "golden
age" for Conway Stewart, with many of their materials from this
era being eagerly sought after today by collectors around the world.
The Herringbone pattern and many versions of marbled colours are very
popular today. Even more notable is the Number 22 Floral, with its
flowered design set on a cream background. Today, fifty years after
it's launch, there are still many discussions concerning the Floral.
Was production limited due to the complexity of the material or was
the market not ready to accept such an exotic plastic? Either way,
whenever a mint No.22 Floral is found for sale today, there is always
a demanding audience of pen collectors.
Unfortunately, the 1950s also ushered in the era
of injection molding for the manufacture of pens. This led to the
utilization of solid coloured plastics in place of the wonderful patterned
celluloids. By 1957, the Conway Stewart line was represented with
pens that, while still very well made, and reliable writers, were
not in the same league in terms of appearance. It was at this time
that the first ballpoint pens were offered by Conway Stewart.
The End of an Era
1950s provided the last of the great Conway Stewart models. The company
began to stagnate through the 1960s as the market turned relentlessly
towards the disposable ballpoint. Conway Stewart persevered in trying
to keep up with the market trends with their ball pen and also by launching
the 106, a cartridge pen mounted with a semi-hooded nib. In the 1960's
the company was sold and relocated to Wales, where the last pen rolled
of their production floor in 1975.
Following a significant investment in research and
development, a new era began with a focus on making pens for those
who appreciate traditional craftsmanship, objects of timeless beauty
and utility, and the pleasure of using a fine pen. Not to mention
the ever growing number of pen collectors around the world who treasure
the Conway Stewart name and all that it stood for as Britain's greatest
pen maker. Thus a new era of Conway Stewart was born.
The Second Golden Age
In the 1990's, the company launched a range of pens
made from solid gold; "the Gold Collection" to showcase the
work of English master craftsmen in various fields, including hand painting,
enamelling and engraving. These fantastic pieces which can sell for
£10,000 ($18,000) and more continued Conway Stewart's tradition
of excellence and are fitting companions to the pens of earlier generations.
After significant research Conway Stewart was also
the first modern day pen maker to reintroduce the use of casein as
a material for making pens. Casein made from milk protein particles
(confusingly known as nibs) are dyed and then laid down under high
pressure to form slabs from which the components are eventually formed.
Each slab has to be cured in preservative for five to six months before
"weathering" for a further two months before any parts can
be made. This lengthy period rewards the eventual owner with a material
that has warmth and lustre that cannot be achieved in any other material.
In 1996 the Churchill model was introduced to celebrate the life of
Sir Winston Churchill and his prolific interest in writing and literature
throughout his lifetime.
celebrate the company's Centenary in 2005 the new One Hundred Series
was launched, produced in various handmade resins. Accompanying the
100, the stunning Silver Duro pens arrived on the market. Made from
pure English sterling silver over-laid with resin veneer, the sterling
silver Duro echoes the great designs of the Edwardian era. Also launched
to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Conway Stewart were several
limited editions, detailed on our limited editions page.
Owners of modern Conway Stewarts are in excellent
company, as Conway Stewart pens have always been the preferred choice
of the most discerning and famous people from around the world and
this tradition continues to this day.
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh were presented
with two Conway Stewart pens from "the Gold Collection"
to commemorate their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Recently Prime Minister
Blair presented Russian President Putin a Conway Stewart Churchill
Burgundy Fountain pen on a state visit to Russia and French President
Jacques Chirac was given a Brown Marble Churchill to celebrate his
Conway Stewart was the official pen chosen by the
British Government for the G8 Summit at which Prime Minister Blair
presented a Conway Stewart No 58 set to each of the G8 world leaders.
We are suppliers to No 10 Downing Street, the official residence of
the British Prime Minister as well as the British Royal Palaces.
President Bush and President Clinton both own a Conway
Stewart creates exclusive pens for many prestigious corporate and
government accounts, including the Royal Air Force, the Red Arrows,
Rolls Royce, Mensa, as well as numerous other high profile corporate
current celebrities also enjoy our pens including Rick Wakeman, rock
star and pen enthusiast, who has a large collection of Conway Stewart
pens of which he is justifiably proud.
Handcrafted by master pen makers, the rich heritage
of Conway Stewart rests in your hand every time you use one of our
beautiful British pens. We strive to continue our past practices,
our goal to make the most beautiful and elegant British pens and to
give pleasure to those who appreciate the art of fine writing or who
wish to give or receive a gift that will provide a life time of pleasure.
In 1905 when Conway Stewart was started Jarvis and
Garner had a single aim, to produce elegant, timelessly beautiful,
yet functional writing instruments, today one hundred years later
we still hold true to these original goals.
Luxury, history and enchantment combined - we hope
you will agree.
Vintage Conway Stewart Pens
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