Pens & the Post: After the Ink Dries


By Erin Blasco

The ink stains on my hands may have finally faded, but fond memories of the Pens & the Post festival remain. Presented in partnership with the Pen Collectors of America, the program focused on fountain pens, handwriting, and postal history.

Two boys practicing perfect cursive
A cursive handwriting workshop presented by Fahrney’s Pens had kids in deep concentration as they traced perfect loops under the guidance of Elizabeth Bunn. Some adults also dropped by the workshop to pick up some practice and improve their penmanship.
Two girls holding a gigantic pen.
On a class trip from Hawaii, two students showed off the preferred writing instrument of the day--the fountain pen!
Writing Victory Mail with World War II era pens
At the "Mail & Morale" activity table, Jim Rouse and Tadas Osmolskis gave visitors a fascinating glimpse into World War II history. Sharing the story of Victory Mail and the fountain pens that were popular during the 1940s, Jim and Tadas inspired visitors to write letters to modern day military members using historic pens and V-Mail stationery.
Victory Mail »
V-Mail text: Good afternoon! Today I am visiting the National Postal Museum.
V-Mail text: Hello! I'm Hannah and I want to thank you for what you do for the USA!

Letters written during Pens & the Post will be included in care packages sent to the US military by Operation Gratitude. In the first letter above, the author shares a bit of V-Mail history. In the second, a young letter writer points out how tricky it can be to write with a fountain pen for the first time and then discusses favorite foods.

Follow the color wheel for vivid cards that don't clash!
At the "Creative Cards" activity, Sophia, Ericka, Gracie Breuer inspired visitors to create gorgeous cards with the help of Cindy Reppert. The techniques Sophia uses in her card making were imitated and adapted by hundreds of visitors. Her "color wheel" sign above helped visitors pick vivid colors for their cards without clashing. The Breuer family traveled all the way from Iowa to participate in Pens & the Post and Grandma even made t-shirts with the festival logo. William Breuer is a young pen turner and enjoyed sharing the story of how pens are made with museum visitors.
Testing out vintage ink

"Think Ink" was a fun activity presented by John Bosley, author of Vintage Inks. Adults and kids alike enjoyed sampling a rainbow of vintage inks, ranging from Waterman’s Aztec Brown (1928) to Sheaffer’s Skrip Peacock Blue (1950).

Testing out a rainbow of ink colors
Vintage ink bottles
Photo by Ashley E. Bowen

"Think Ink" caught the eye of visitors and bloggers alike. Ashley E. Bowen not only shared her Pens & the Post experience on her blog but also shared these two photos of vintage ink bottles with us. Other blogs shared their perspective on the festival, including Felt & Wire and Orphaned Postcard Project.

Deborah Basel pens a visitor's name in beautiful calligraphy
Deborah Basel of the Washington Calligraphers Guild wrote visitors' names in the beautiful Copperplate style while visitors watched in awe. "Wow, handwriting is an art!" one teen was overheard saying.
Kim Graham and Sally Ortuzar of Fahrney Pens at the Pen Petting Zoo
At Fahrney's Pen Petting Zoo, visitors got to take fancy, modern fountain pens for a spin. Kids even got to assemble their own colorful pens.
Nan Barchowsky at the paper trail activity
Handwriting specialist Nan Barchowsky welcomed visitors to experience the satisfaction of perfect pen-to-paper match at the "Paper Trail" activity. With different types of papers (glossy, smooth, and “grabby”) provided by Mohawk Fine Papers, visitors tried writing on each one and compared the experience. Nan also wrote and distributed a concise and fascinating history of paper that had many visitors murmuring, “Wow, I never knew…”

Pens & the Post included many other wonderful elements, from Pens for Kids workshops to a talk on the fascinating history of the Parker Pen Company by Geoffrey Parker, great grandson of the company's founder. Both of these portions of the program can be viewed on the museum's YouTube channel.

The Postal Museum and the Pen Collectors of America want to thank everyone who made this unique festival possible as well as everyone who attended. To find out about how the festival was born, read this post on the magical moment when a museum volunteer put World War II era pens in museum visitors' hands.

Writing Victory Mail