A speedball is a pen you dip in ink and use primarily for lettering. It was invented by Ross F. George, of Seattle, who also wrote and illustrated the booklet I scanned for today’s column. The booklet is titled “Elementary Alphabets and Their Construction.”
George’s idea for a new type of pen nib grew out of frustration with his lettering efforts. He took his design to the C. Howard Hunt Pen Company in 1915 and that firm released six different Speedball nibs. Click on any image for a larger version.
The pen is named for the speed at which it allows for precision lettering, both thick and thin lines. It holds a reservoir of ink.
The C. Howard Hunt Pen Company was already a pioneer in United States pen making, so the match worked out and the Speedball became a huge success; in fact, the company is now named Speedball after the iconic product.
Ross F. George was a type designer, as well; you can find a handful of his typefaces at MyFonts.com.
A good deal of lettering success, we learn, comes when you “sit erect and do not lean into your pen.” And you need your hand and wrist to make three points of contact on the desk. That’s obviously my problem.
The worst grade I ever received was for penmanship, back in the days when they taught penmanship. I never learned how to hold a pen or pencil properly, just like I never learned to type properly. So I’m envious of the examples shown here.
I suppose it’s never too late to learn how to letter properly, though I doubt I’ll get very far—it’s just too easy to fall back on the illegible handwriting I’m used to.
I know one thing for sure. If I ever do take up hand lettering, the first thing I’m going to do is buy myself a genuine Speedball pen.