Vacumatic nomenclature

Confused about the correct model names for Vacumatics? You are far from alone.  Many models came in a bewildering range of sizes, each with multiple variants.  In many cases, the original names under which they were advertised were changed from year to year, and from country to country.  On top of this, some popular and widely-respected books have contained serious errors; and since most pen books to date have relied more upon previous books than upon original research or close familiarity with actual pens, these mistakes have come to be accepted as fact.

For this reason, many advanced collectors and dealers (ourselves included) don’t bother using all the original model names, and instead use a simplified terminology which drastically reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings.  The fundamentals behind this terminology are as follows:

  • Up until the end of the ‘30s, Vacs belonged to one of two lines: deluxe or economy (also called Juniors – not the same as the Juniors from the Blue Diamond era, however).  The economy line pens came with black sections and jewels and single-tone nibs; deluxe pens came with two-tone nibs and, until the end of the '30s, striped sections and jewels (black pens excepted).
  • The economy line were advertised in only two sizes: Junior (which was slightly smaller than the deluxe standard) and Juniorette (Junior-length Juniorettes are also extant).  Certain colors such as Shadow Wave, Crystal, opaque black, Golden Web, and marble were only used on the economy line.
  • The deluxe line came in four sizes: small, standard, oversize, and – later – slender oversize.  All used laminated (banded) celluloid.  When equipped with the non-locking filler plunger, the oversize and slender oversize pens are known by most collectors as Maximas and slender Maximas (original late '30s names: Speedline Senior Maxima and Speedline Maxima).
  • At the beginning of the ‘40s, Vacs were reduced to a single line, offered in three sizes: small, standard, and oversize (Maxima).  Confusingly enough, however, standard-sized pens were initially made in shorter and longer versions, the latter being approximately as long as the oversize.  Small and standard-sized pens were sold both with and without the Blue Diamond clip, and with other trim variations.  The standard pen with Blue Diamond was called a Major; without Blue Diamond, a Junior (not to be confused with the pre-Blue Diamond economy line). The small pen with Blue Diamond was called a Debutante; without Blue Diamond, a Sub-Debutante.

From the above, one can see the importance of noting whether a Junior is a '30s or '40s model.  It is also apparent how confusion arises from Parker's rapid name changes (e.g., "slender Senior" [1936] to "Maxima" [1937] to "slender Maxima" [1940s]).  This is why most collectors simply use "Maxima" and "slender Maxima" to denote the largest Vac models (and "Oversize" and "slender Oversize" for their lockdown-filler equivalents) – leaving off the "Senior" appellation entirely.  Finally, note that many collectors are under the misapprehension that a Major is an oversize pen; in fact, it was Parker's term for their top-line standard-sized pen, used from c. 1937 on.

For more, see the Vacumatic Pen Profile.