The pen – a potted history

3rd May 2016

fountain pen

The pen – a quick history lesson

As a journalist I was delighted to discover that the brains behind the ballpoint pen was a newspaper editor.

The story goes that Hungarian editor Laszlo Biro was frustrated by constantly having to refill his fountain pen and smudged letters when he was working on his newspaper. So, he teamed up with his brother George (a chemist) and set about designing new type of pen. It was one with a tiny ball in its tip that was free to turn in a socket and by using a thicker, quick drying ink as they did in the newspaper world, the ballpoint pen was born. It was patented in 1938. This was some 50 years after the first patent on a the ballpoint was issued to a John J Loud. Biro, however, is credited with the ballpoint pen’s journey in to the mass market.

So, no more messy pen and ink, it was a highly sought after product and was soon bought by the BIC corporation. And the rest, they say, is history. Needless to say, the pen has flourished and adapted to meet the demands of each and every writer, with different tips, ink viscosity, varieties, designs and colours, for use in the home, at work, on the move, in the air, under water, even in space… and for every pen, there is your opportunity to add your brand, your message.

Biro and Bic, of course, are synonymous with the ballpoint, just as Google is with search engines!

The biro name lives on. But when did someone personalise the pen?

When we look at the history of promotional products the earliest known were in 1789 in the USA – these were commemorative buttons marking the election of George Washington. Closer to home, it was in the late 1950s when the UK and Ireland began to really recognise promotional merchandise as an industry, and it grew significantly in the 1970s and 1980s as companies saw the benefits of corporate gifts. Promotional pens have been at the forefront of successful campaigns and are regularly in the Top 10 promotional merchandise products.

Things are a little murky when we delve into the history of the promotional pen itself however it seems an Abraham Singer of Amsterdam Printing and Litho (in New York) may be able to hold claim to the title of inventor of the promotional pen in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Amsterdam Printing claims they invented laser engraved pens.

However, with so many pens circulating in society throughout modern history it is difficult to ascertain just who it was who first put a name on a pen. One thing is for sure, there are many, many more printed pens still to be produced. Order yours today. It was a visionary idea in the first place and is still a mighty powerful promotional piece of merchandise.

Posted in: promotional pens