Randolph, our titular hero in today's strip, was the brother of one Judy Foster whose bi-monthly four-color dates long outlasted her radio series. What's interesting about this strip is how alien it is to the average person under the age of 55 or so, dealing as it does with fountain pens and ink bottles. In fact, Randolph's solution to his story problem isn't all that different from what happened in real life to put the fountain pen on the endangered species list.
The last time that I saw an inexpensive fountain pen in a stationary store was something on the order of 30 years ago. And, now-a-days, the fountain pens sold in brick-and-mortar stores in America are typically or always designed and priced for conspicuous consumption.
However, more practical fountain pens remain popular in East Asia, and there's a very active manufacture of them in Europe (though I don't know whether it is much for their domestic market). And there are various 'Net stores that import fountain pens from Asia and from Europe for sale to Americans.
My every-day writing instrument is a charcoal-colored Lamy Safari fountain pen with a black nib. I carry an inexpensive little Japanese pen as a back-up and for a finer line. (The Japanese ‘F[ine]’ is the equivalent of the German ‘E[xtra ]F[ine]’, and the Japanese ‘EF’ is a truly fine line.)
BTW, nibs fabricated decades ago for dip pens can still be found as ‘new old stock’ — that is to say as old but never used — in what seem to me to be fairly large quantities. This suggests to me that there was a precipitous decline in their sales.
Various sorts of pens were introduced, and some faded into obscurity, without dispatching the dip pen. I think that it was as what we now call a “ballpoint”* pen began to drop in price (it was once very much a premium item) that the dip pen disappeared from homes and from offices.
*Earlier, in describing a nib, “ball-point” and “ballpoint” referred to a nib whose tip was rounded, allowing the pen to move in any direction on the paper without catching the paper and scratching it or opening and releasing more ink.
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