"Lewis E Waterman is widely acknowledged as the father of the modern fountain pen. He patented and introduced his 'ideal' fountain pen in 1883. in fact, by the early 1880s working fountain pens had been introduced by pen makers such as A.T. Cross, Eagle, Mable Todd and others. Although an improvement over earlier dip pens, the problem with these early fountain pens was a lack of reliability. They were prone to discharging ink onto the paper in large blobs. It was Lewis Edson Waterman who devised the means to enable ink to flow smoothly and reliably from the nib to the paper.
Waterman was born in 1837 in Decatur in New York State. After receiving a basic education he moved to Illinois with his parents in 1853. initially he found it difficult to find a settled occupation. He worked as a stenography teacher.
He then became an insurance broker in New York and began selling insurance contracts and writing them using steel nibs and an ink well. It is all too easy to imaging the problems a traveling salesman might encounter with leakage from ink wells staining clothes, cases or documents. Despite this, Waterman was not an early adopter of the newly releases fountain pens.
While this story has since been largely debunked, 1930s Waterman company legend has it that Waterman was in a position to secure a very substantial insurance contract and so he decided to finally purchase a fountain pen. He wrote up the contract with his new pen and took it to the client to be signed. Waterman handed the contract and his new pen to the client for signing and nothing happened – no ink flowed to the nib. The client then shook the pen, tried again to sign and once more no ink appeared. The client shook the pen again and suddenly a huge puddle of ink spread over the contract, rendering it unusable. Waterman returned to his office, prepared a new contract and took it back to his client only to find that a competitor had got there ahead of him and secured the contract.
At this point Waterman decided there was clearly a need for a reliable fountain pen that would deliver ink in a steady and even flow. After examining many of the models of fountain pens then available, he concluded that none offered a satisfactory solution to the problem of regulating the flow of ink and undertook to solve the problem himself.
It is very interesting to note that there was nothing in Lewis Waterman's background to indicate that he would succeed in this Endeavour where so many before him had failed. Yes succeed he did. He quickly grasped the principle of capillary attraction and how it combined with the effects of atmospheric pressure and concluded that the solution to the ink flow problem lay in providing slender tubes through which both air and ink could pass to the nib. Having established his ideas, Lewis turned to his brother Elijah to help him manufacture his prototypes.
After several disappointing attempts, they finally succeeded in building a working model. This pen used two thin grooves channeled into a square cross-section at the bottom of the cylinder. These two grooves enabled the principle of capillary action to function but Waterman later added a third groove to perfect his system. Finally satisfied, he registered his patent on 12 February, 1884. "