The Swan from Mabie Todd / Mhatre Pens flies again
I stumbled upon Saji Kumar S in the net. He is from the world of finance (and highly qualified at that) someone who has given up his lucrative job as a pen pusher, to take up pushing pens to another level (May his tribe increase)! Yes, Saji is a prime example of that elusive breed who give up everything to follow their hearts, to live their passion. And we can only have God to thank for it – for we now have Kiwi Pens – a Fountain Pen portal, from where Saji is introducing Master Pen-turner and Nibmeister A C Ramachandran’s timeless ebonite creations from KIM-ACR to discerning fountain pen connoisseurs worldwide.
I wrote to him. Talked to him over the phone, as he has some Made in India Mabie Todd & Company / Mhatre Pens manufactured Swans that I desperately wanted to add to my collection. Mabie Todd was, as is widely known, had its origin in the United States (established in 1860 in New York), had morphed into a British brand (when Mabie Todd’s erstwhile UK subsidiary scaled up, even as the parent faltered) and was once a widely used brand in India. As a matter of fact, it will not be out of place to mention here that Mabie Todd pens were widely advertised as “the pen of the British Empire” in and around the 1930’s and import into India was fairly common.
We are talking 1950’s and thereabouts here – Mabie Todd Swans were manufactured locally by Mhatre Pens and Plastics in Maharashtra under licence. Mhatre was not only a big name in the industry in those days but was also extremely versatile – they manufactured their own nibs – both steel and gold and their popular brands included Swan, Blackbird, Writer, Doric, and Clipper that offered a variety of filling systems including lever and squeeze fillers among others. The immediately post-independence era, when hope reigned and education had gotten an unprecedented impetus, had naturally seen a burgeoning demand for writing implements. Many manufacturers of fountain pens had sprung up around the Nation of which Mhatre was undoubtedly one of the bigger names.
Mabie Todd went under in the post-World War II period, another casualty unable to fight off either adverse effect of the War or the blitzkrieg of the ballpoint pens. The fate of Mhatre Pens and Plastics is however unknown to me and I am trying my best to unravel the mysteries. Suffice to say, I will keep you all posted. For the history of Mhatre is not only a story about the trials and tribulations of a pen maker but is also the story of a time that had witnessed India’s tryst with mixed economy, often, it is alleged, stifling private enterprise and leading to global brands taking the flight.
My excitement therefore was on expected lines when I learnt that Saji had Mabie Todd Swans that he could spare. But what he did next, was not only totally unexpected but more like a bolt from the blue. He just couriered three pens – a Mabie Todd Swan Cadet, a Blackbird Graduate and a Butterfly Self Demonstrator – as a gift! It was like a piece of India’s fountain pen legacy – sealed and delivered, a manna from the heavens!
Saji laughed it off. “Its just a gesture from one lover of fountain pens to another” he said.
The Dying Swan (originally The Swan) is a solo dance choreographed by Mikhail Fokine and performed by ballerina Anna Pavlova. The short ballet follows the last moments in the life of a swan, and was first presented in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905.
You, my friend, have just made the Swan immortal. Thank You.
I strongly urge all of you reading this to visit Saji’s website and check out the spread. He has spent more than three decades in collecting these fountain pens and is in the process of rejigging his collection by ensuring the duplicates get good, caring homes in the hands of aficionados and collectors. Such chances don’t present themselves often: