Gold fountain pen given to Mary Baker Eddy by Edson Dewey in January 1900
On January 10th, a Christian Scientist named Edson Dewey wrote to Mary Baker Eddy in the hopes that she would accept an unsolicited gift, although he was aware of her longstanding desire for her followers to show their gratitude for Christian Science in ways other than lavish presents. Dewey and Eddy had become briefly acquainted one year earlier, when he arranged to deliver an inscribed copy of Science and Health to his famous cousin, Admiral George Dewey, a hero of the Spanish-American War. Now, he was writing to her again.
Today I send by mail a perfect Dewey pen for your own use, realizing you should have the best of everything, and while I desire more than all not to disobey your wish in offering you a present, I assure you I do this that I may lessen your pen cares in giving you something to use in this line….1
The pen that he included was a striking gold fountain pen with the words “Mother” and “Jany 1, 1900” on its cap and barrel. Dewey’s motive in sending Eddy the pen may not have been entirely altruistic, as he did not send her just any pen – he sent her specifically a pen of his own design, the “Dewey Perfect Self-Filling Fountain Pen,” made by A.A. Waterman. Dewey’s own business, The Colonial Pen Company, manufactured and distributed various pens for Waterman.
Far from being upset that Dewey had sent her a gift, Eddy was thrilled. “You must have apprehended my need. The old fountain pen was leaking and I needed the new. God grant that all your needs be supplied by Him who knows them. And that I give to the world through the pen you have given me things ‘new and old’ – something higher than happiness, even blessedness.”2
Included in her note of thanks was a valuable piece of information that reveals more about Eddy as a writer – something we at the Library have been thinking about a great deal this year in conjunction with our exhibit Impressions on Paper. Dewey had offered in his original letter to take the pen back and have it adjusted to her hand, and Eddy was pleased to offer him feedback.
You requested me so kindly to have the pen suit my hand. I will say – I naturally turn the nib towards the right in writing, and find the ink dim and not given down then but when I watch myself and turn the pen over toward the left the ink flows and the lines are smooth. It is my fault is it not?3
Dewey was, needless to say, happy and relieved that his gift had found a welcome audience. “I cannot put in words how happy I am to know I can do ever so little for ‘Mother’ who has done so much for me and mine.”4 He immediately offered to customize further pens for her to match the grip she described – something less fancy, something more like a “weekday or working day pen.” He also requested one thing from her: the opportunity to always provide her with “a perfect easy working pen and its repairs.”
Eddy accepted his offer, and upon receipt of the new “weekday” pens Dewey sent her, published notices in both The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel praising the pens and their innovative design.
The Dewey’s “Perfect” Fountain Pen has recently entered my employ, and after one month’s trial I find it well named, – perfect. I had tried various styles of fountain pens, but not until I got “Dewey’s Perfect Fountain Pen”; did I find one that meets the demand in every respect. To write with this pen is indeed a pleasure, it never fails to make its mark; and the construction is such there is no joint through which the ink can leak and stain the fingers…. 5
Dewey was understandably delighted, and wrote to thank Eddy and tell her that since the notice he had received numerous orders. “I have received several letters from different states expressing a desire for a pen the same as Mother is using. I feel that I have received many blessings within the past few months and am truly grateful for them all. I hope each day to become more and more worthy.”6
Edson Dewey’s thoughtful, simple gift provides insight into the importance of writing in Eddy’s life. The gift of a tool through which she could continue to communicate her ideas – especially a beautiful tool that worked so well – speaks to both her practicality and her life as a writer.
- Edson Dewey to Mary Baker Eddy, 10 January 1900, IC 405.
- Eddy to Dewey, 14 January 1900, L07381.
- Dewey to Eddy, 15 January 1900, IC 405.
- Mary Baker Eddy, “Dewey’s ‘Perfect’ Fountain Pen,” The Christian Science Journal, March 1900, http://journal.christianscience.com/shared/view/2kt8mhh70i0?s=t; Mary Baker Eddy, “Dewey’s ‘Perfect’ Fountain Pen,” Christian Science Sentinel, February 8, 1900, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/256dkog3rw2?s=t.
- Dewey to Eddy, 15 February 1900, IC 405.