My Favorite Pens – John Holland Saddle Filler

Manufactured between 1906-1918, the John Holland Saddle Filler is one of my favorite pens.

John Holland Saddle Filler

John Holland Saddle Filler

The John Holland Saddle Filler is a unique pen in an era where manufacturers were trying to either come up with alternatives to an eye drop filling pen or trying to compete with the Sheaffer Lever Filler.  Self Filling pens were all the rage and made filling your pen much easier and less messy.  No longer did you need to remember where you put that eyedropper, or risk overfilling the barrel, your filling system was included with the pen.

John Holland Saddle Filler Imprint

John Holland Saddle Filler Imprint

This pen was a Christmas gift to me from Lisa a few years back.  Well, ok, I picked the pen and told her that’s what I wanted her to buy.  It is one of the cleanest examples of a Saddle Filler I have ever seen.  The imprint is crisp and deep and fully readable.  The barrel end is also stamped clearly 2 for the size.

John Holland Saddle Filler Nib

John Holland Saddle Filler Nib

The nib is, as to be expected, flexible, and bears the number 12.  Holland seems to be the exception to the rule when considering how nibs were marked during this time period.  Holland Dip Pen nibs were numbered in single digits, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, etc.  Fountain pen nibs got the 1 in the tens place so 12 instead of what normally would be considered a number 2 nib.  Not to be confused with larger nibs by other manufacturers like Waterman #10 nib which is extremely large.

John Holland Saddle Filler

John Holland Saddle Filler

The saddle filler saw two distinct designs during its life, one a screw cap design with a very short cap, and this design, the early version, a slip cap design.  While saddle fillers are not easy to find, the slip cap version is, in my experience, harder to find.

John Holland Saddle Filler

John Holland Saddle Filler

The pen fills the reverse way a lever filler fills.  In a lever filler, the lever presses down on a bar to compress the sac, push out the air, and then releasing the lever fills the pen.  With the saddle filler, there is a pin at the end of the barrel (seen in the image above), which a bar attaches too.  The saddle, also attached to the bar, then is pulled up and the sac compressed from the back side.  Releasing the saddle to position fills the pen.  During a time when clip less pens were common, the saddle also acts as a stop for the pen so it does not roll off your writing desk.

The combination of unique filling system, a slip cap on a self filler, and overall condition of this pen make it one of my favorite pens.

Ink it up!
Brian & Lisa

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  • Michael Simon

    Brian–I really appreciate your reviews of vintage fountain pens. You highlight important features and provide a context to the era of the pens. I find it so much more helpful than just reading info on line. Your vast knowledge of so many pens over the history of fountain pens is a great resource for those of us just starting to learn about vintage pens.
    Michael

    • Brian & Lisa

      Thank you! I have a couple more of these I plan on releasing over the next couple weeks, and a rather unlimited supply of cool pens to showcase in the future! Glad you like them!

  • Scott Hatfield

    Brian & Lisa- Mr. Simon echoes my feelings as well. As a new pen collector-I find the online information is tricky to educate one seeking general information. For example- I have a Waterman #412 Silver Filigree Fountain Pen with a John Holland nib. The nib is marked: John Holland-CIN’TI-13. In researching the nib, you are the only one who informed me about Holland’s creative numbering system. So in reality, it is a number 3 nib. A question I have is why one would use a John Holland nib on a Waterman Pen? Would it be the user’s preference? And after cleaning my 412 and filling it with Waterman ink, I find it is a delight to use. The nib is very flexible and has a slight calligraphy effect and I have excellent control of the ink flow. I can only assume that the John Holland nib is a high quality nib based on it’s current performance. My research has indicated that the Holland Company were high end until the Stock Market Crash, eventually closing in the 1950’s. Any additional thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

    • Brian & Lisa

      It was very common to replace a gold nib in a pen with whatever was available. Either the owner replaced it (not too likely) or the shop he/she took it too did not have a Waterman nib on hand so replaced it with whatever they had on hand. John Holland pens are of the highest quality just like Waterman and Aikin Lambert, The plastic pens aren’t nearly as good or interesting, in my opinion. Thankfully for you, if you wanted to replace the Holland nib with something more correct, all you need to do is find a Waterman #2 New York nib and you’ll be set. Quite a common nib and should be easy to find, particularly if you can get to a pen show.