Ordinary but necessary things in everyday life surround us every day. We are so accustomed to some that we do not notice their presence, but their absence is noticeable. These things can include a ballpoint.
Despite increasing gadgets, cellular networks and electronic signatures. Ballpoint manufacturers and retailers like Parker Jotter still maintain their business now. Now, people see expensive pens as fashion items or an addition to a businessman’s image. A crucial innovation, National Ballpoint Pen Day is marked annually on June 10th.
At first glance, this is a fairly simple object. These days, nobody attaches importance to designs and shapes.
Who Invented The First Ballpoint Pen?
But before 1888, nobody even guessed they would replace conventional fountain pens. Does the common ballpoint now conquer the globe with its convenience and ease of use? The ballpoint is the universal writing instrument of the 20th century!
The pen design by leather tanner John J Loud resembles current roller deodorants. A thick core passed ink to a rotating sphere. Being able to leave marks on a rough surface, wood or coarse wrapping paper. It used special inks; they were more viscous than those with a nib pen. Unsuitable for writing on paper, this patent lapsed.
The Golden Era
Over the next 30 years, a slew of people filed patents for handwriting implements. But John Loud kept the secret of his famous creation, and his followers did not receive any profit.
The following designs were not good enough, leaked and deteriorated. Sometimes the ball slipped out of its socket after repeated usage. As a result, he became a pioneer in the history of the ballpoint pen. Competitors did not bother him, thanks to secrets known only to him.
But the invention of J. Loud had its drawbacks. For example, it leaked in hot weather because it thawed. In winter, it refused to operate at all because the ink froze.
The Inventor Behind the Ballpoint Pen: László Bró
In the 1930s, the Hungarian Bíró brothers-chemist György and journalist László Bró-made a ballpoint pen that didn’t smear or stain.
Frustrated Hungarian newspaper editor László József Bíró dreamed of creating an ink pen in the mid-30s. From his work, he often visited newspaper printing houses. Suddenly, he watched machinery produce dry news sheets. He thought it would be great if it dried out as fast as newspaper print.
László researched and realized that developing such a writing instrument was impossible. Quick-drying formulas must be thick but would clog the fountain pen capillary action. But László did not stop there. “If you cannot use thick ink in a normal fountain pen,” you need to develop another handwriting tool.
With his ideas, Laszlo enticed his brother György, a talented chemist, to collaborate on a new design. They had an idea to replace the sharp tip with an ink reservoir. With a freely rotating tip on the end, then everything should happen.
In the summer of 1938, he made the first commercially successful ballpoint pen that was smudge-free. During WWII, Laszlo didn’t want to live in Hungary, which backed Hitler’s Third Reich. Soon, he took his prototype pen and emigrated to Paris, Spain, then Argentina.
In 1941, his brother moved too in the same period. Hungarian siblings and Argentine friend Juan Jorge Meyne created a ballpoint with new ink formulas. Meyne later became the project investor. They sold the new biro pen in 1943 under the brand Birome (a mixture of the surnames Bíró and Meyne). It’s curious that bíró pens of Argentina are still known as “Birome” under different brands.
The history of the pen in the united states resembles an action novel. In 1943, commercial traveller Milton Reynolds, travelling through South America, bought a “Beer”. A smart businessman realised he could make a lot of money by making the pens reliably in Chicago.
On return home, Reynolds inquired about the rolling ball pen. Patented Bíró’s invention in the USA with his surname (before the inventor did it himself). Then mastered mass production with no license.
On October 29, 1945, Reynolds pens went on sale after an advertisement campaign. His pen sold under the brand Reynolds Rocket in Gimbels department store in New York City at $12.50. Fifty police officers had to maintain order. With 8 million manufactured by Reynolds international pen company in the six weeks prior, ten thousand sold out in days!
The insolence by Reynolds outraged Laszlo Biro and his American partners. Wahl – Eversharp, which bought Bíró’s pen license, sued Milton Reynolds but did not defend its patent rights. Reynolds referred to the earlier patent, dated 1888, in court. Reynolds said his version of the ballpoint pen was a reduced copy and had nothing to do with Bíró’s construction.
Marcel Bich followed the successful Biro’s. He had not yet gained a patent, but he was already an investor in fine metal processing technology. He developed tiny steel ball bearings for a stainless-steel handle (tungsten carbide is used today). His tiny ball bearing diameter was only one millimetre (it was incredible accuracy).
In 1950, he licenced Biro’s idea and created an “atomic grip”. Following fashion, gave his name to his Bic company in 1953. He organizes a large-scale operation. Within a two-year period, the business produced over 40 million. And since 1965, we could buy Bic Cristal in almost any country.
When Did Ballpoint Pens Become Popular?
Ballpoint pens became popular in the 1940s, replacing the messy fountain pen. The ballpoint used a rotating ball to dispense ink evenly without smudging, making writing faster. Their popularity skyrocketed in the 1950s and 1960s and has since become a staple in daily life. Used for writing, drawing and note-taking due to their simplicity, affordability and versatility.
Bic employees believe (and declare) that ink in their pens is enough to draw a continuous 2 km line. Thanks to its practical design, an ordinary pen could become an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It has a transparent case through which the level is visible.
There are holes to equalize pressure in the rod envelope that coat the metal ball with paste. The hole in the cap appeared in 1991. It was designed so that any child who swallowed it could not suffocate.
Interesting Ballpoint Facts
- There are many different sizes of ballpoint available. The smallest is used for nanoscale patterning. The largest is 5.5 meters tall and weighs 37 kilograms!
- 56% of individuals have a custom ballpoint pen with a promotional logo.
- When a person receives a new pen, 95% of the time, the first word they write is their name.
- An average-sized ballpoint pen typically writes about 45,000 words – or about 100 pages of text.
- 125 ballpoints are sold every second, which is a considerable number.
- Miles Aircraft Ltd licenced the first Royal Air Force ballpoint pen in 1943. The RAF ordered more than 30,000 known as the Eterpen, for their crews.
Fisher Space Pens
Paul Fisher improved the characteristics of the ballpoint. He introduced his space pen, which took a special place in the history of modern ballpoint pen brands. Able to write even in zero gravity with its pressurized ink cartridge. It could work on almost anything from grease to metals.
Types of ballpoint pens
Price category shows the quality and role of each pen. Simple plastic handles can be disposable and with a replaceable body. Removable caps or push-button mechanisms for activating letters. Such models are inexpensive, less than one pound, and most often serve not for long.
Average price category includes pens for daily usage. Models in this segment have push-button or rotary mechanisms for extending refills. Aluminium parts and rubber inserts also abound.
Premium or business class represented by famous high-quality companies. The price range in this category is extensive and depends on materials and finishes. Luxury pens from Mont Blanc or Montegrappa branded pens cost mid-hundred pounds.
A.T. Cross has a long background in developing and manufacturing writing implements. Richard Cross started the firm in 1846. An employee Walter Boss purchased the organisation in 1916. His family remained key figures into the early 21st century.
The Cross company is associated with several historical developments. A propel-repel mechanical pencil is the forerunner of today’s mechanical pencil. Stiff competition from 150 pen manufacturers with quality issues, Cross didn’t release one until 1953. Cross’s first twist ballpoint pen came out in 1954. It worked the same way as their pencils. A slim ballpoint refill and the “Cross Century” famous even now.
Retractable ballpoint pens first appeared in 1950 from “The Frawley Pen Company”. With several parts, a barrel, two cams, a thrust button, springs and a cartridge. Examples of Parker or Waterman pens are reliable, stylish models. They adorn the look of a present-day person and testify to their high status and good taste.
The humble Ballpoint deserves its place in the range of stationery products. This irreplaceable item even became the creator of a separate artistic direction. Critics praise the wide variety of applications and simplicity of usage. A large selection of models makes them the most-requested handwriting equipment.