The Mabie Todd company manufactured writing equipment and parts as early as the 1840s. ‘Mabie Todd & Co.’ was estabished in New York in 1860 and changed to ‘Mabie Todd & Bard in 1873 when they were joined by a nib manufacturer by the name of Bard.
A London branch was opened in 1884 and by 1890 production of the first Swan pens had begun. The advert dates from 1893, 10/6 was a substantial amount at this time. It is also worth noting that the pen is adveriised as a ‘Gold pen’ when only the nib was Gold. this was not a fraudulant or misleading claim, nibs were known as ‘pens’.
In 1907 Mr. Bard left the company and the firm reverted to ‘Mabie Todd &Co.’ and started to manufacture pens in the U.K. in 1909.
In 1914 ‘Mabie Todd & Co. Ltd.’ was registered as a British firm and by 1915 had branches in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Paris, Brussels, New York, Toronto, Chicago and Sydney. They had become a global economic force, the largest manuacturer of Gold pens in the world.
Although manufacture continued in the U.S.A. into the 1930s Mabie Todd was now essentially a British firm and all parts for the British pens were home produced.
The main headquarters in Sunderland House, Mayair, London, and the main factory in Harlesden London were destroyed by German bombs in the ‘blitz’ in 1940 and the few machines that were rescued were put to work for the war effort. Pen production resumed at Park Royal, London immediately on cessation of hostilities and the 3320, this pen, was one of the first post war Swan pens.
Let’s try and get the ‘number thing’ out of the way first! The Mabie Todd model numbering system is, as with the Conway Stewarts, a little esoteric and mysterious but in this case a concensus seems to have been reached. The first digit denotes the ffiller type, in this case a number 3, a lever filler. The second digit refers to the nib size, a number 3 nib on this pen. The third and fourth digits give the colour although sometimes, if the fourth digit is not a zero, it may refer to the material. This pen has a ’20’ colour which is ‘Midnight Blue’. So we have a Swan 3320 in Midnight Blue, a lever filler with a number 3 Gold nib.
Although it was made in the mid 1940s the pen has quite a modern ‘torpedo’ shaped appearence, it is uncluttered and attractive in the distinguished rather than garish sense. A modern Montblanc, say, may be uncluttered but, in many cases the size and ‘garishness’ completely overcomes the distinguished aspect.
At 13cm. capped and a 1.2 cm. girth it has quite a ‘chunky’ appearence but , when posted it grows to an most impressive 16cm., a centimetre longer than a posted Parker 51. It has a well balanced and high quality ‘feel’.
The pen is finished in a dark Blue, almost Indigo colour with Gold filled trim. The lever is Gold filled, the cap carries three cap bands and a ball ended clip with the Swan logo.
The barrel carries a clear and sharp imprint with the Swan trade mark and : Swan self-filler.Mabie Todd & Co. Ltd.Made in England.Pat. No. 575341.The barrel end is stamped ‘3320‘ and ‘Swan‘ is imprinted on the and the feed.
An interesting feature is the Brass threaded collar between the section and the barrel. This was only incorporated for a very short time period, perhaps the metal component was more expensive and difficult to produce than the subsequent plastic ones.
The pen is fitted with a 14Ct Gold no.3 nib which is stamped:“Swan”314Ct.Mabie Todd& Co. Ltd.Made in England.
The nib cannot be described as flexible but it has a very ‘soft’ fell and does give a little line variation. It is a very pleasant writer with a broadish point that makes you want to write with a bold flourish.
The Mabie Todd Swan 3320 fountain pen is, then, a good choice if looking for a high quality and reasonably uncommon vintage fountain pen at a price that is unlikely to break the bank. I don’t, however, see the 3320 as a pen you would stuff in your pocket or bag and cart around as a daily user. The open, softish nib is a bit succeptible to damage without careful handling, a point to consider with many vintage pens, but as a pen to keep on a desk and enjoy using it would be perfect. It’s also very good for just holding and looking at!