Sunday, September 16, 2018

the last book I ever read (Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein, excerpt six)

from Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein:

Parker pens showed up at defining moments of the twentieth century. During World War I, the U.S. War Department awarded Parker a contract for a “Trench Pen,” with dry pellets that turned into liquid ink when soldiers in the field added water. In May of 1945, the treaty of German surrender that ended World War II in Europe was signed with a pair of Parker 51 fountain pens belonging to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, who held up the two pens for the cameras in a V for victory. At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, a Parker pavilion sponsored the biggest international letter-writing program that had ever been undertaken. It featured an early “electric computer,” which could, within seconds, match a fairgoer with a pen pal of similar age and interests overseas. Uniformed women known as Pennettes, from Janesville and around the globe, handed out pens, postcards, and stationery.

Two years later, the year that Linda was hired, George S. Parker II, a grandson of its founder, became the company’s president and CEO. He was the last Parker to run Parker Pen, and he presided over a long, slow decline as the market for high-end pens waned. In 1986, he sold the company to a group of British investors affiliated with a British firm based in a town along the English Channel, Newhaven, where Parker pens had been manufactured since shortly after World War II. Pen making continued in Janesville under the name Parker Pen Holdings Ltd. Then, in 1993, the Gillette Company bought out Parker Pen Holdings Ltd. Six years later, the pen business was bought out again, by Newell Rubbermaid—specifically, by an offshoot of its office supplies division known as Sanford Business-to-Business, which customizes pens for promotional purposes. So the final 153 workers, Linda among them, have been working for a company called Sanford, not Parker. They have no longer been making pens. They have been printing the logos of pharmaceutical companies and other businesses onto the sides of pens that were made overseas.

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