Writing transcends all time and gender making it a vital part of a civil war portrayal, whether soldier or civilian.
In earlier decades the quill was used to script letters, documents and thoughts onto parchment.
As the 19th century progressed, the dip pen became the popular utensil for penning a note.
Dip pens were simple items consisting of a base, stem, and nib which was dipped into ink and then used to write the desired text.
Pens consisted simply of the holder and the nib.
This was the predecessor to the fountain pen.
This instrument created delicate scrolled lines on the page and, at times, spit blots of ink to the hand or the paper.
While fountain pens are often associated with this time period, they did not become a popular mode of writing until later in the 19th century.
When using a dip pen there are several steps that must be followed in order to create the desired effect on the parchment.
To begin, one must hold the pen at the base of the stem.
This is unlike modern day pens, where the grip is nearer to the point.
Secondly, when dipping the pen in the ink only submerse the tip and allow the reservoir to fill.
This will allow a few words to be written before needing to dip the pen again.
Use pressure for down strokes but release the pressure for up strokes.
This alleviates any stress, which may cause the paper to tear.
It also prevents the nib tip from bending or breaking.
As the design of writing utensils shifted from a quill to the dip pen so did the ability to control the ink production from the instrument due to the nib’s reservoir design.
This allowed for lap desks, ink wells and pens to become a reasonable mode for traveling with writing supplies.
Authentic dip pens can range in price from a mere $25 up into the thousands.
However, new pens in old styles can be obtained for a few dollars from online merchants to give the desired affect for a mid-19th century portrayal.
Aside from the authentic appearance achieved, the feeling of writing in the same manner as our ancestors gives a sense of authenticity and accomplishment to a portrayal.
As we are all aware, when we feel the part we are more likely to exude the proper countenance and demeanor to spectators.
Imagine sitting at a wooden table beneath the tent fly in the glowing light of an oil lamp scripting away the day’s events.
Imagine the pen gently scratching the words across the parchment.
Connect with the past through the written word and leave a legacy for future generations to behold.
The next article will complete the series addressing inkwells, pen wipes and blotters.
-By Kim Poovey