In 1843 the Bard Brothers started producing gold nibs and pen holders. Seventeen years later Messrs Todd & Mabie started making pencil cases and holders. They joined in 1873 as the Mabie, Todd & Bard Co. By 1878 their first of many fountain pen patents was filed, and by 1880 they were producing Stenographic pens. Their top-of-the-line pen, the “Swan” was introduced in 1884, just about the time they opened a London office, selling their US made pens. Around 1908 British production began, and “Bard” was dropped from the name.
In the mid-teens, as UK business flourished, there was intense competition in the US, and Mabie Todd decided to sell European rights to Mabie Todd England. In 1919, Mabie Todd US was sold to a British group. The company now was entirely British owned, although the US division continued producing pens until 1938.
The early Swan line included hard rubber and ornate metal covered eyedroppers. In the late-teens pencils were introduced under the “Fyne Point” name. In 1924 the Swan “Eternal” was introduced to compete with competitor’s lifetime guaranteed models. Plastic was introduced in 1927. Mabie Todd also sold a middle-of -the-line model, the “Swallow” and a student line, the “Blackbird.”
In 1932 a patent was granted for the “Leverless” pen. A knob on the bottom of the barrel, which was connected to a metal bar, was twisted to deflate the bladder and returned to fill the pen. This was a popular feature which continued in production for many years.
In 1936 the “Visofil” was introduced — Swan’s answer to the Vacumatic and Inkvue. The plunger mechanism was hidden inside the bottom of the pen. Turning the blind cap mechanically extends the plunger rod. Another version was more similar to the Vacumatic.
MT utilized many unique and beautiful plastics for their pens, including snakeskin, lizardskin, pastels, mottled, and solids.
English pen production continued into the 1950s. The Company was sold to the Biro Pen Company in the 1940s and sold again in 1957, this time to Bic (France). The last hurrah for the Company were their Calligraphic pens which allowed for italic handwriting. Quality was poor, and they weren’t enough to save Mabie Todd from extinction. They do, however leave a wonderful legacy!
Thanks to Fischler, Schneider and Lambrou for the information for this summary.