Cross dates its founding to 1846, though the company's roots go back even further. Given the firm's age and the ubiquity of its present-day products, many fountain pen collectors wonder why vintage examples are so hard to come by.
The answer is that Cross did not make many fountain pens until relatively recently. Cross was a major player in the manufacture of stylographic pens from the end of the 1870s on (an early example appears at top), but made extremely few fountain pens with nibs. The company's prime focus was on pencils, and on the pencil mechanisms which Cross quietly supplied to a wide range of major American fountain pen manufacturers.
The classic vintage Cross fountain pen was introduced c. 1938 as part of the Signet line, and is often called the "Art Deco" model by collectors. It has become familiar as the basis for recent models by Cross, such as the popular Townsend. Original examples of this bold design, however, are rare. The pen incorporates many features that are peculiar to LeBoeuf products of the era, including screw-off end pieces and a sleeve-filler mechanism using a ribbed metal sac protector. Cross made pencils for LeBoeuf, and it is virtually certain that LeBoeuf supplied at least the filler units. For more on these pens, the relationship of Cross and LeBoeuf, and the connection with Packard, see Barbara Lambert, Writing History: 150 Years of the A.T. Cross Company (Lincoln, RI, 1996), chapter 5.