Rotkäppchen Safety Pen
"Rotkäppchen" literally translates to "Red Riding Hood", and the story behind this brand name is rather interesting! It all began with the first line of pens developed by Simplo Filler Pen Co. in 1908 branded as "Rouge et Noir" (ReN). The company chose the French-sounding name of ReN to make it an aspirational product to its European clients. French culture was perceived as sophisticated and elite, but once World War I started Germany's hostility towards France did not allow the sale of products affiliated with the country. So, the story is that the French-sounding name of “Rouge et Noir” was rebranded to “Rotkäppchen” or ”Red Riding Hood” for a brief period of time.
Rotkäppchen box c. 1915
Image: Collectible Stars I
Rouge et Noir box c. 1912
Image: MB Diary & Collectors Guide
Pinpointing the exact date of manufacture for these pens presents a complex challenge. If we consider the historical context, it seems plausible that the Rotkäppchen pens were produced around the time of World War I, which spanned from mid-1914 to the end of 1918. It's reasonable to speculate that the transition to the Rotkäppchen brand might have occurred slightly earlier, possibly during the heightened tensions preceding WWI, around the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. This theory gains credence when examining the similarities between the c.1915 Rotkäppchen box and the c.1912 Rouge et Noir boxes. Key design features to note include the shape of the pen’s barrel front, the junction of the cap and barrel, the cross-hatched knurling, and the 'simplo pen co' imprint on the nib, all indicative of Montblanc’s design ethos prior to 1914. Additionally, both boxes depict pens with fully red domed caps, as opposed to featuring a red star, aligning with the fact that Montblanc's star logo was only introduced in 1914. It’s conceivable that pens manufactured even a year or two later might have retained the domed cap tops and earlier design features, possibly as a means to utilize existing stock without waste. This would explain why the c. 1915 Rotkäppchen box image (assuming it is accurately dated) shows design features of a slightly earlier period. By the same logic, Montblanc might have continued to sell pens with Rotkäppchen imprint caps for a while post WWI's conclusion. Thus, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to find a Rotkäppchen pen available for purchase as late as 1919 or 1920. Considering these factors, I would estimate that the Rotkäppchen pens were likely produced between 1913 and 1920. Let’s examine a few examples of these pens to further this analysis...
Rotkäppchen No. 1
Image and pen belong to Marcwithac
Rouge et Noir box c. 1922
Image: MB Diary & Collectors Guide
Firstly, let's explore a No. 1 size pen, graciously shared by Marcwithac, a notable contributor on FPN and an esteemed vintage pen collector known for his exquisite taste. Marcwithac acquired this pen from the daughter of the original owner in Prague. Notably, this particular pen shows significant deviations from the design featured on the c.1915 Rotkäppchen box. Key differences can be observed in aspects such as the knurling, nib imprint, section threads, cap design, and the cap top. Instead, these design elements align more closely with those seen on the Rouge et Noir pen depicted on the c.1922 box. Also, notice the "SIMPLO ORIGINAL MONTBLANC" imprint on the barrel of the pen. Normally, the imprint on a ReN barrel would be "ROUGE ET NOIR PAT. APPL.". Of course, this would not make sense on the Rotkäppchen barrel that is trying to avoid the ReN branding in the first place. So, to me it is logical that the pen would instead have the "SIMPLO ORIGINAL MONTBLANC" imprint like those found on the MB branded safeties made around the same time. Provided that all parts of the pen are original and no replacements have been made, I would suggest that this specific example likely dates back to the later stages of the Rotkäppchen production timeline, possibly around 1920.
Rotkäppchen No. 4
Image and pen belong to Sandro R.
Next, let’s examine a pen owned by Sandro R. - a seasoned expert in restoration, and a long-standing collector of vintage Montblancs. Sandro discovered this pen within a lot of vintage pens in Ergoldbach, Bavaria. It is a No. 4 size pen. Intriguingly, this pen also diverges significantly from the design showcased on the c.1915 Rotkäppchen box, and it doesn’t quite align with the c.1922 Rouge et Noir box either. Sandro’s pen presents an amalgamation of features from both designs. It sports the cross-hatch knurling at the top of the cap and the bottom of the barrel, reminiscent of the older safety models. However, it features a red star cap top, akin to the later safety design. The pen's body does not mirror the slender styling of the early safeties, and instead leans more towards the later safety design. Notably, it lacks any body imprint. If I were to venture a guess, I’d place the manufacture of Sandro’s pen at c.1916 - presumably a transitional period when the star cap top began to replace the red dome, and the safety pen’s design started evolving towards a more modern aesthetic while retaining elements of older models. Of course, this is assuming all parts are original and period correct and have not been replaced during the pen's rather long lifetime. Sandro's pen is equipped with a No. 7 warranted nib, a detail that does not match either box image. 'Collectible Stars I' indicates that a 'warranted' imprint nib was plausible for that era, but it doesn’t specifically mention a No. 7. The choice of a No. 7 nib for a size 4 pen raises questions about consistency and suggests the possibility of a replacement.
"W.T.D." imprint on Sandro R's pen
"W.T.D." imprint on Marcwithac's pen
The details I have presented are - at best - educated guesses. There is very little known about these pens. I haven't seen pictures of examples even in seminal books on vintage MBs. The only pictures I have seen are the ones in this article, thanks to two generous collectors. This makes we wonder, why are Rotkäppchen imprint pens so rare? If they were made for a period of 7 or so years, we should see at least a few handful examples, right? Another question I have is about the "W.T.D" imprint inside a triangle that both pens have. What does it mean?
If you possess knowledge or theories regarding these queries, I encourage you to contribute your insights in the comments section. Also, if you own a Rotkäppchen pen and are open to sharing images with me, please do reach out. The more examples we can collectively analyze, the deeper our understanding of these fascinating pens will become.
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