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, it's often asked why fountain pen collectors pay Cross so little heed, and why vintage examples are so hard to come by.
The main reason 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 until the early 1900s (an early example appears at top), but made extremely few fountain pens with nibs. The company's primary focus was pencils, and 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 an addition to the Signet line of all-metal pencils (introduced in 1935, the Signets were slightly redesigned in 1946 and given the Century name; with minor changes they remain in production to this day, with ballpoints added in 1953). Original examples of this bold Art Deco design are scarce indeed, though it has left its mark in recent decades through retro models such as the Townsend. 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 clear that LeBoeuf reciprocated in the manufacture of these Cross pens. For more, including the relationship of Cross and LeBoeuf and the connection with Packard automobiles, see Barbara Lambert, Writing History: 150 Years of the A.T.Cross Company (Lincoln, RI, 1996), chapter 5.