Parker “51 Vacumatic” and “51 Red Band” new old stock pens & pencils from 1945 and 1946. These all came from the estate of Merle Heskett, a metallurgist who worked for Parker from 1945 to 1947 or 1948 and worked on the development of the metal components of the 51 Red Band (filler button, spring, spade press bar assembly, nib). According to Merle’s son (interviewed by Victor Chen in the early 2000’s), the army released his father around 1944 who then returned home to his family in Illinois. When Parker offered Hackett a job to help develop the filling system for what would become the “51 Red Band,” they allowed him to commute by train between Iowa and Wisconsin, traveling to the factory on Monday & home for week-ends. Trains did not always run because of the weather so Heskett took work to his home workshop. When he left Parker to work in the aerospace industry in Southern California, Hackett took his Parker stash with him (side note: he was also offered a job with Dairy Queen, but told his family “Americans will never eat soft ice cream.”).
According to his son, besides selecting the red color for the bushing, Heskett also modified the Parker 51 nib, developing a new nib design for the “Red Band,” which was then carried into the 51 Vacumatic, at least through 1947. His design had a shorter slit which ends at a circle embossed into the gold, and with the vent hole a ways below the circle. His son said Heskett’s goal was to achieve a softer feel and increased ink flow.
The Design Shop 51 Red Bands and Vacumatics offered below from Heskett’s estate all contain his newly modified nib. Interestingly, the location of the compressed circle varies in many of the nibs, which would not likely be found in production nibs (were these prototypes, or was Parker supplying the Design Shop with reject nibs?). The nib date codes run from 1945 to 1946. This also seems to be a fair way to date these pens (since none of the pen barrels have a final polish or a date stamp, the pens can’t be dated in the more traditional way).
The Red Band sac is a grey silicone based polyurethane material. Heskett also used a grey material for the diaphragms in four of the six Design Shop Vacumatic-fill 51’s offered here. We don’t believe this material was used in production 51’s but, even if it was, it would still likely be prototype use in the 51s offered here.
None of these pens show any use or signs of ink. Except for the Red Band Demonstrator (which is solvent sealed), none of the sections are sealed to the barrels (not even the second Red Band). No barrels or filler units are shellac sealed. None of the pens have a Parker imprint or date code, so they did not progress through the production department. All are right from Hesket’s Design Shop stash.
By 1942, only a year after launch, single jewel 51s were introduced to save brass for the war effort. The rarest colors, in both double and single-jewel, are Buckskin Beige, Nassau Green and Yellowstone (mustard). Note that both a double-jewel Buckskin Beige and Nassau Green are included in these Design Shop pens. Perhaps more important, also included are two prototype single-jewel pens in a unique prototype Green color. The color is a shade darker than the Nassau Green and nowhere near as dark as the Forrest Green which eventually made it into the 1949 Parker 51 Aerometric introduction.
The pencil barrels and mechanisms are old new stock. All the barrel lead holders show no sign of ever holding an eraser. There are a few prototypes offered along with some normal production pencils. We can’t be sure why the normal production pencils were in the Design Shop; perhaps they were intended to be used to house new prototype cap and/or barrel designs, but were never put to use by the time Heskett left Parker.