Though necessity may be the mother of invention, perhaps it is frustration that fuels the fire; or so it seemed for Lewis Waterman. In 1883, Lewis Waterman was an insurance broker in New York City, getting ready to sign one of his hottest contracts. In honor of the occasion, Lewis Waterman bought a new fountain pen that he considered far more stylish than a cumbersome dip pen and ink well. With the contract on the table and the pen in the client’s hand, the pen refused to write, and actually leaked onto the precious document. Horrified, Lewis Waterman raced back to his office for another contract, but a competing broker had closed the deal.
Determined to never again suffer such humiliation, Waterman began to make fountain pens in his brother’s workshop. Lewis Waterman used the capillarity principle which allowed air to induce a steady and even flow of ink. He christened his pen "the Regular," decorated it with wood accents, and obtained a patent for it in 1884. In his first year of operation, Waterman sold his hand-made pens out of the back of a cigar shop. He guaranteed the pens for five years and advertised in a trendy magazine, The Review of Review. The orders filtered in.
By 1899, Lewis Waterman opened a factory in Montreal and was offering a variety of designs. In 1901, upon Waterman’s death, his nephew, Frank D. Waterman took the business overseas and increased sales to 350,000 pens per year. The Treaty of Versailles was signed using a solid gold Waterman pen, a far cry from the day Lewis Waterman lost his important contract due to a leaky fountain pen.