The Acquisitions Table: Quill Pens

Box with Nine Congress Quill Pens. New York: Emanuel De Young, ca. 1850.

515145_0003This box of goose quill pens was purchased jointly by the manuscript curator, who wanted to add the pens to our holdings of writing implements, and the graphic arts curator, who wanted the box and label for the ephemera collection. De Young produced quill pens between 1846 and 1854 and continued to sell them into the 1890s. Orders for “Congress” quill pens, his brand name, appear in many state documents from the 1880s and 1890s (including orders from courthouses and legislatures in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota), so inexpensive quills were still in demand at the end of the century. The December 1891 issue of American Stationer reported, “There was a time some years ago when quill pens and unmade quills were standard articles and found ready sale from E. De Young, who is still in business and is still shoving the quill but not to the extent of years ago…”

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

3 thoughts on “The Acquisitions Table: Quill Pens”

  1. Emanuel De Young was my great grandfather. I have two boxes, each with a few quill pens, made by him. One of the boxes was the property of Gen Winfield Scott, according to some documentation that was in the box. Each box of pens I’ve seen has a different printed cover.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Mr. De Young. I am so pleased that you found this blog post and commented. Do you have your great grandfather’s birth and death dates, by any chance? We would love to add that information to our files. I find it fascinating that people continued to use quills well after the production of ink pens. We have not seen other boxes, so we can’t compare the covers. Good to know there are variants — which is not surprising given how long he was in business!

  3. Good morning Lauren,

    I am so sorry that this response to your note is so very, very tardy. I just saw it. Emanuel DeYoung was born about 1819 in the Netherlands and he died on 1 October 1894 in Manhattan. He lived at 124 55th St.

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