A Comprehensive History of the Ballpoint Pen
Ever wondered how the ballpoint pen came to be? Who invented it? Its evolution?
Every single day you’re surrounded by lots of ordinary stuff. Stuff that you would rarely think twice about. You’ve become accustomed to these things that you barely recognize their presence. Their absence on the other hand? Oh! Very noticeable.
Ordinary, but necessary. That’s the ballpoint pen for you.
Yet, for such a lackluster item, the story of how it came to be is dotted with interesting twists and turns. And - wait for it - an improbable inventor you seldom hear about!
The Unhailed Hero
When you go searching for the brain behind the ballpoint pen, the name László Bíró almost always comes up first. While it’s true that he invented the modern ballpoint pen, another man laid the foundation for László Bíró.
His name is John J. Loud.
Image from: edubilla.com - John J. Loud
Born on 2nd November 1844, Loud was a leather tanner, a Harvard-educated lawyer, and an inventor. While tanning leather, he often needed to mark a point to cut. A pencil would be too faint and using a fountain pen made this process quite messy. This frustration got Loud cracking his brain for an alternative.
He was inspired to design a writing tool that had a rotating metal point ball which was clutched by a socket.
The ballpoint pen’s first patent US #392,046 was obtained by Loud on 30th October 1888. He described the writing instrument as follows:
“My invention consists of an improved reservoir or fountain pen, especially useful, among other purposes, for marking on rough surfaces such as wood, coarse wrapping-paper, and other articles where an ordinary pen could not be used.”
Unfortunately, Loud’s ballpoint pen was only great when used on leather but too rough on paper. So the patent lapsed eventually paving way for better iterations.
It was quite a long journey to the modern-day ballpoint pens. Years passed, patents increased in number. One flawed prototype after another became the order of the day.
For instance, during summer the ink from the ballpoint pens overflowed. In winter, the ink didn’t flow and froze. Sometimes, the metal point ball would come off the socket after several uses. Other times if at high altitudes, the ink leaked.
The inventors came up with creative solutions to try and fix these issues. Solutions such as springs and piston-pressurized ink reservoirs. Or capillary action to make the ink flow without gravity. When the 20th century came knocking, success wasn’t far behind.
The Bíró by Bíró
It’s the 30s, in the 20th century.
Enter the Bíró brothers, László Bíró and György (Hungarians by birth). György was a chemist and Bíró a journalist. Bíró was desperately in need of a pen that didn’t smudge on paper. One day, while visiting the printing houses, Bíró noticed that the make of the ink used in printing newspapers dried fast. In addition, there were no smudges.
Image from: pinterest - László Bíró
So an idea popped into his head. He realized he could design a pen with a mechanism to aid his writing. He then spoke to his chemist brother in the hopes that they could design one together.
They managed to create a ballpoint pen that didn’t blot when writing or dirty the hands of writers. They used the ball-and-socket mechanism for these new ballpoint pens.
It can be difficult to visualize the tip of a ballpoint pen considering it’s too tiny. To understand how the socket and metal ball works, check out a roll-on bottle.
The mechanism is similar to a ballpoint pen only that it’s on a larger scale. The idea behind it is that the ball keeps out air. The essence of this is to avoid drying while facilitating easy application.
The Modern-Day Ballpoint Pen
In 1931, the ballpoint pen was launched at the Budapest International Fair. Seven years later, in 1938, the Bíró brothers obtained patents in Britain and France.
There was exponential growth when the two brothers partnered with their friend, Juan Jorge Meyne. They launched the Bíró Pens of Argentina factory in Buenos Aires.
The ballpoint pen features in the patent were described as:
- • A system of getting the ink from the reservoir to the rotating ball.
- • An airtight reservoir for storing a particularly dense ink.
- • A sealing mechanism in the metal ball that would prevent ink oxidation/evaporation.
- • A free ball nib.
In 1943, they obtained an Argentinian patent. They named the ballpoint pens Bíróme (a merger of their names Bíró and Meyne). To this day, pens in Argentina are still referred to as Bírómes.
The Ballpoint Pen in America
In the wake of World War II, the modern ballpoint pen was introduced to the United States. Eversharp acquired the Central and North American rights to the ballpoint pens which cost Eversharp half a million dollars.
Meanwhile, Milton Reynolds was designing his version of the ballpoint pen. His pen permitted the flow of ink by gravity and not by capillary action. Reynolds knew that the gravity mechanism risked leakage. Yet he still went ahead into production on October 29, 1945.
The Reynold’s Rocket was launched at Gimbels, New York City and one pen was sold at $12.50 which is equivalent to $170 in 2017.
The BIC Company
Thanks to Marcel Bich, the Bíróme made it to the US. He licensed the designs of the ballpoint pens done by Bíró and formed the Bic Company in 1953. The company struggled with sales initially but achieved success later in the 1960s.
Image from: mini-ielts.com - Marcel Bich
Fun Facts About Pens
1. The world’s smallest pen is the ‘Nanofountain Probe‘. Scientists normally use it for nanoscale on-chip patterning. The lines produced by this device are only 40 nanometers wide.
2. Before an average pen runs out of ink, it can write 45,000 words - give or take.
3. The world's biggest pen was designed by Acharya Makunuri Srinivasa in 2011. The pen weighs 37 kilograms and is 5.5 meters high. The ballpoint pen is fully functional and holds the Guinness world record. Besides that, it looks stunning!
4. The most common types of pens are the gel pen, the ballpoint pen (Bíró pen), the brush pen, the fountain pen, and the marker pen. Markers and highlighters are also types of pens.
5. The ink of a ballpoint pen is made of a paste containing about 25-40 percent dye that is suspended in oil.
After such a riveting story, we know you can’t wait to have your own ballpoint pen. The pen will now have more meaning as you have understood its origin in depth.
What about one of the best ballpoint pens by Dayspring Pens’ for your indulgence? The Cross Calais Ballpoint Pen - Lustrous Chrome is one of a kind. Let’s have a look.
The Cross Calais Ballpoint Pen - Lustrous Chrome
Cross Calais Ballpoint Pen
The Cross Calais is among Dayspring Pens' best-sellers. It stands out as a pocket-friendly gift. The magnificent bright chrome complements this pen's lustrous design.
A barrel with a medium diameter means that your company logo or custom engraving is legible. The Calais pen is well balanced, fits comfortably, and writes with ease. The Cross brand quality is bound to outlive even the most voracious writer!
- • Lifetime Mechanical Warranty by Cross.
- • Twist-action ballpoint.
- • Includes personalization as a light brass.
- • Sleek chrome finish with black writing ink.
- • Comes in a Cross brand gift box.
- • Great gift for graduation, business, men, women, and corporate orders with a logo.
- • Cross Calais AT0112-1
- • Pen Weight: 1.2 oz
- • Barrel Width: 1.2 cm
Here’s what Adam had to say:
“First of all, this is a beautiful pen and a perfect gift! Just as important - when I noticed that my order was lost in transit I contacted the seller and Daniel responded immediately. I explained this is a gift for my son’s graduation party is in 2 days. Daniel responded immediately and had a new one engraved and in my hands the next day! I haven’t had this kind of customer service since the 70s when my dad gave me my first pen! Being a dad, gave special meaning to gift my son his first nice pen just as my dad did.”
Few things are more special than holding your very own custom engraved ballpoint pen. It makes it unique and meaningful - it makes it yours.
At Dayspring Pens, we understand this. That’s why we offer custom engraving with every purchase of one of our elegant pens.
You may be wondering where to begin looking for genuine, high-quality, and elegant ballpoint pens.
Well, look no further than Dayspring Pens.
Shop now and join our exclusive club of elite ballpoint pen owners.
Cross Calais Ballpoint Pen
Featured image: pikrepo.com