This sleek, aerodynamic design with its recognisable hooded nib was the result of a research programme finished in 1939, and it was promoted as “a pen from another planet” and “ten years ahead of its time.” It was released to mark the Parker Company’s 51st anniversary in the United States and quickly rose to the top of the company’s best-selling models list (nearly 120 million units sold). The Parker 51, widely regarded as one of the best-designed consumer goods of the 20th century. It was discussed in Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s book Vision in Motion (1946). He was a major modernist and former Bauhaus instructor who had immigrated to the US in 1937 at Walter Gropius’ invitation. New York artist Joseph Platt created the renowned, classy, arrow-shaped clip for the Parker “Vacumatic” pen in 1933.
However, the Parker 51*️ included a number of technological advancements that had an impact on its performance in addition to being well-designed and having a decent aesthetic. The inside barrel was constructed from Lucite, a material exceedingly resistant to the corrosive effects of a new, quick-drying ink, and it was made with extremely high levels of precision (High Velocity 51). This ink, created by the Parker Company in the 1930s, made it possible to fold and stuff written content into envelopes without much delay or the usual smudging. The filling system itself was originally based on the extremely popular mechanism first made available to the public in the Parker Vacumatic, but in 1948 an aeromatic system, siphon-based and made of metal and Plexiglas, replaced it.
World War 2 Emerged as Design Icon
The total development programme of the Parker 51 is reputed to have cost over $250,000. Before its official release in the United States in 1941, at a retail price of $12.50, the pen was tested in Venezuela and Brazil over two years. The pen came of age commercially after the Second World War, in the concluding stages of which General Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Armistice to end the war on the European front with his Parker 51. In 1946 alone, over 5 million of them were manufactured.
The Parker 51 inspired a number of imitators, although few managed to capture the suave elegance of its design. An exception to this was Marcello Nizzoli’s “Aurora 88,” produced in Italy from 1947 onwards, with its striking gold-plated cap and black plastic reservoir.
Kras, R., Albus, V., & Woodham, J. M. (2004). Icons of Design: The 20th Century. Prestel.