The first fountain pen was invented as a viable product in 1884, previous models did exist but none was ready for mass production. Lewis Waterman was the first to create a good viable pen, and he was a real pioneer for the writing industry. Although previous patents for fountain pens were recognized in both North America and Europe the pens had many functional problems. Ink spills and material issues were the main difficulties for the pen industry. Because of such failures early pens like those from the 18th century were very hard to sell in those days when the quill pens were still ruling.
As a historical record the fountain pen appeared one thousand years after the apparition of quill pens, in fact it was the quill that inspired the inventors. They noticed that the ink had the tendency to remain in the feather natural capillary system acting like a reservoir. So they thought how to create a larger reservoir that could store an increased amount of ink. Their idea was simple, to create a man-made pen that would not need constant dipping in the ink. The most primitive pens included a long rubber reservoir with a metal nib at the bottom. This first models were a failure from a certain point of view because of ink dripping: they weren't good enough to draw a straight line on paper.
Lewis Waterman created the best fountain pen of his times, it is said that the innovatory idea came to him after loosing a valuable contract because of leaky ink pens. He added an air hole into the nib, and he also modified the feed mechanism adding three groves. All fountain pens contain an internal reservoir, for which the first viable solution was the rubber sack. This flexible sack was simply squeezed and inserted in the bottle, when the sack was released the internal pressure would fill it with ink.
There are nine sizes for fountain pen nibs, each of them can be italic, oblique or straight. In the old days the ink composition wasn't similar to the one we have in our days. The fact is that corrosion affected the metal so fast that few nibs could be used; hence gold was the only good alternative to other materials. To compensate for the lower hardness of gold the tip of the nib was treated with iridium. Another characteristic for early fountain pens was the fact that the nibs would flex gradually according to the owners' writing skills, this is one of the reasons for which people avoided lending their pens.