A Complete Ballpoint Pen History All You Need To Know

A Complete Ballpoint Pen History All You Need To Know

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 the absence is immediately noticeable. These things can undoubtedly include a ballpoint pen.

Despite the increasing distribution of modern gadgets, the development of cellular networks and ways of electronic signatures, manufacturers, and shops of ballpoints such as Parker pens firmly hold their positions in the market. Today it is increasingly possible to see expensive pens only as a fashion accessory or addition to the business image of a businessman.

At first glance, this is a simple and fairly simple object, which, in our time, no one attaches importance to ballpoint pens of various colours, designs, and shapes.

The First Ball Pen

But did you know before the beginning of 1888, no one even guessed that they would come to replace the fountain pens – with ballpoint pens and conquer the entire globe with their convenience and ease of use?

Once in the US state of Massachusetts, inventor John J. Loud patented the world’s first ballpoint pen, US patent No 0392046 this event occurred on October 30, 1888.

The design of the ballpoint pen by John J. Loud very much resembles modern ball deodorants. The thick core of a ballpoint pen passed ink to a rotating ball, leaving marks on the rough materials, leather, wood or wrapping paper. For ballpoint pens, it used special inks; they were more vicious than those that came with fountain pens. Unsuitable for writing on paper and with no commercial viability the patient lapsed.

The New Century

Over the next 30 years, there was a mass of people willing to patent their own varieties of writing instrument, but only John Loud kept the secret of his universal and popular invention, and his followers did not receive the desired profit. Their ballpoint pens were not good enough leaked, deteriorated, and the ball itself, performing the main function of rotation fell out after several times of use. As a result, John J. Loud could become a pioneer in creating a ballpoint pen, and competitors did not bother him, thanks to some secrets known only to him alone.

But the invention of Mr. J. Loud, as it is not pitiable had its drawbacks. For example, a ballpoint pen leaked in hot weather, because the ink thawed a little and became liquid, and in winter the ballpoint pens refused to write at all because the ink in them froze.

The Biro

It was only in the 30s of the 20th century that the  Bíró brothers (Hungarians by nationality) – the chemist György and the journalist Laszlo Biro – made a ballpoint pen that would not dirty the hands and clothes of the writer, and also not leave blots.

The idea to create a ballpoint pen appealed from frustration to the Hungarian journalist László József Biro in the mid-1930s. From his work, he often visited the printing house. One day, as he watched the rotary machine produce practically dry news sheets, he thought it would be great if the ink on the fountain pen dried out as fast as the ink. László researched and realized that it’s still not possible to develop such a comfortable fountain pen. For the quick drying ink, it must be thick enough, and such ink will quickly clog the capillary action of the fountain pen. But László did not stop there. “If thick ink cannot be used in a normal stick pen,” he decided, “then you need to come up with some other writing tool.

Moving Countries

With his idea, László enticed his brother György, a chemist, and together they developed a new design. The brothers came to the idea that if the sharp tip of the pen was replaced with a rod filled with ink, with a freely rotating ball on the end, then everything should happen. In the summer of 1938, the prototype of a ballpoint pen created by the brothers turned out to be usable. But with world war II, the liberal journalist László Bíró did not want to live in Hungary who supported the Third Reich. And soon, taking the prototype pen he emigrated to Paris, then lived in Spain, and finally settled in Argentina.

In 1941, Brother György moved to Argentina, and in the same year, the Hungarian brothers and their Argentine friend Juan Jorge Meyne, who became the project investor, prepare for the production of a ballpoint pen. The first pens appear on sale in 1942 under the name Birome (the union of the names Biro (Biro) and Maine (Meyne)). It is curious that in Argentina  “Birome”  is still called ball pens of different brands.

Postwar Implements

The story of the conquest of the ball pen in the United States market resembles an action-novel. The fact is that in 1943, the American commercial traveller Milton Reynolds, traveling through Argentina, accidentally bought a “Beer”. An enterprising businessman immediately realized that the ballpoint pen would make him cash if he mastered its mass production in America. Returning home, Reynolds immediately made inquiries about the pen, patented Biro’s invention in the USA under his own name (before the inventor did it himself) and mastered the mass production of a ball point pen without a license. When, after a massive advertising campaign on October 29, 1945, the first batch of Reynolds pens under the name Reynolds Rocket went on sale in a large New York department store Gimbels at a price of $12.50, Fifty police officers had to maintain order. With 8 million pens made in the weeks prior, ten thousand pens sold out in a few days!

The Pen Wars

The insolence of Reynolds outraged László Bíró and his American partners. The management of Eversharp, which officially bought the license from Biro, sued Reynolds but failed to defend its right to a US patent. Milton Reynolds referred in a court to the American patent of John J. Loud, dated 1888. Reynolds said his pen was a reduced copy of Loud’s invention, and Biro’s construction has nothing to do with it.


Marcel Bich, the owner of the stationery factory, closely followed the success of the Biro brothers. Having not yet gained a patent, he was already an investor in the technology of fine metal processing, where he developed a tiny ball bearing for a stainless-steel handle (now tungsten carbide used to make it), the metal ball diameter was only a millimeter (it was unthinkable accuracy).

In 1950, Bich buys out a patent and starts the production of an “atomic grip,” which, following the fashion, gave this name to his product. He organizes a large-scale company. Within a couple of years, the company produced 40 million ballpoint pens each. And since 1965, we could buy Bic Cristal in almost any country. In 1966.

Design History

The employees of Bic firmly believe (and proudly declare this) that the ink in their pen is enough to draw a continuous line, the length of 2 km. Thanks to its purely practical design, a ballpoint pen became an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in the city of New York. It has a transparent case, through which the ink level is visible, there are holes in it to equalize the pressure in the rod – the ball is enveloped with paste evenly, and the hole in the cap that appeared in 1991 was made so that the child who accidentally swallowed it could not suffocate.

Fisher Space Pen

Paul Fisher improved the characteristics of the ball pen. He could create a space pen which took a special place in the history of ballpoint pens since it was possible to write even in zero gravity. With a pressurized cartridge it could write on almost anything from grease to metal.

Types of ballpoint pens

Price category determines the quality indicators, and the role of a ballpoint pen. Simple plastic handles can be disposable and with a replaceable stem, have a removable cap or push-button mechanism for activating letters. Such models are inexpensive, less than a pound, and most often serve not for long.

The average price category includes pens for everyday use. Models of this segment have mechanisms for extending the rods they use (push-button or rotary), aluminium parts and rubber inserts in the detachment.

Luxury Ballpoint Pens

Premium or business class represented by high-quality accessories of famous brands. The range of prices within the category is also large and depends on the materials and finishes. Luxury pens from Mont Blanc or Montegrappa costing into the mid-hundreds.

Twist Pens

A.T. Cross Company with a long history developing and manufacturing writing implements from 1846 with Richard Cross starting the company. An employee Walter Boss purchased the company in 1916. His family remain key figures in the family a hundred years later.

The Cross company known for several historical developments, a propel-repel mechanical pencil the forerunner of today’s mechanical pencil. Stiff competition from 150 pen manufactures also with quality issues Cross didn’t release a ballpoint until 1953. Cross released the first twist ballpoint pen in 1954 with a mechanism similar to the one used in the pencil. A slim refill and the “Cross Century” still popular to this day.

Pen Parts
The Components

Retractable pens

Retractable ballpoint pens first appeared in 1950 from “The Frawley Pen Company”. With several parts, the barrel, two cams, thrust button, two springs and an ink cartridge. Examples from, Parker or Waterman ballpoint pens are reliable stylish models that not only adorn the look of a modern person but also testify to the high status and good taste of the owner.

Ballpoint pen takes its rightful place in the world of stationery. This irreplaceable accessory even became the creator of a separate art direction. The pictures drawn with their help highly appreciated by critics. A wide range of applications, ease of use, unpretentiousness and a large selection of models define the ballpoint pen as the most demanded accessory for writing.

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