Places that Matter

Fountain Pen Hospital

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Fountain Pen Hospital, photo by Anna Mule
Fountain Pen Hospital, photo by Anna Mule
Fountain Pen Hospital, photo by Anna Mule
Caring for our writing implements since 1946
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Place Matters Profile

Fountain Pen Hospital is a family-run business that has operated in lower Manhattan for more than 50 years. With a rich history dating back to the 1940s, when fountain pens were a central part of daily life, the company’s story mirrors the life cycle of the treasured writing instrument itself.

Founded in 1946 by Al Wiederlight and his son Phillip, Fountain Pen Hospital opened for business at 141 Fulton Street. The company quickly developed a strong reputation for outstanding customer service and a unique ability to repair the era’s most vital business “tool.” Fountain Pen Hospital also became well known for carrying the newest writing instruments from major manufacturers Montblanc, Waterman, Parker and Sheaffer, etc. Well before 8 a.m. deep lines would form outside, with loyal customers ranging from bankers to secretaries, writers and statesmen. Ernest Hemingway, Betty Grable and Count Basie color the lore of Fountain Pen Hospital’s early days.

Soon, the need for more space forced several relocations, which eventually landed the store at its current site, 10 Warren Street. However, starting in the 1950s, the ballpoint pen began to gain popularity and fountain pen sales dropped. Once considered as necessary as a wristwatch, fountain pens found their way into junk drawers and closets. To survive the drastic market change, Fountain Pen Hospital turned to offering general office supplies, while keeping its unique name from an era gone by.

In the late 1960s, Phillip’s son Terry began working at the store, and was later joined by his younger brother, Steve. With other flea market and garage sale bargain-hunters who saw vintage fountain pens as remarkable and rare, the Wiederlights were among the first collectors to help the hobby crystallize in the late 1970s. Once again, the fine writing instrument, both modern and vintage, became popular for its ability to convey the character, personality and social status of its beholder.

By Fountain Pen Hospital’s 50th anniversary in 1996, fountain pen sales once again surpassed ballpoint pens, and the company phased out office supplies to concentrate on its core business. To celebrate, the company released a limited edition fountain pen, created by leading manufacturer, Omas. Like the glory years, the family business drew loyal customers and notables like Bill Cosby, General Colin Powell, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bryant Gumbel, and mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Operations expanded through the 1990s, establishing the company as the world’s largest showcase of fine writing instruments, while still receiving packages daily containing family heirlooms from around the world in need of special care. In 1997, Ed Fingerman joined the staff as Director of Operations. Fingerman brought over 25 years of experience to Fountain Pen Hospital, as the President of Pen Collectors of America and frequent contributor to fountain pen books and magazines. By the turn of the millennium, Fountain Pen Hospital brought the fountain pen’s renaissance to the internet via its website www.fountainpenhospital.com.

With fountain pens now occupying a thriving niche in the luxury goods marketplace, Fountain Pen Hospital expects to continue to grow and adapt to the ever-changing business climate, with plans in place for the fourth generation of Wiederlights—Terry and Steve’s daughters and sons—to keep the business in the family.