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When Was the Ballpoint Pen Invented?


Ballpoint pens are wonderful inventions that help us write flawlessly on paper. They’re also the most common pen types. Its ink is oil-based and dries faster than other ink types, meaning less smudging. However, have you ever wondered the answer to “when was the ballpoint pen invented?” Let’s discuss that and more in this article.

When Was the Ballpoint Pen Invented?

Technically, the first patent for the ballpoint pen was US #392,046 obtained by John J. Loud on October 30, 1888. Loud was born on November 2, 1844 and he was a leather tanner, inventor, and lawyer.

Did you know how he invented the ballpoint pen? One time, he needed to mark a point to cut while he’s tanning leather. However, he thought that pencil markings would not be very visible and clear. And if he’d use a fountain pen, it would leave a messy marking. He came up with an idea by designing a writing instrument to have a rotating metal ball that’s clutched in a socket.

This design would allow the ball to cycle the ink back from the ink’s reservoir that is inside the pen to the ballpoint’s surface as the ball spins around in the socket.

Mr. Loud wanted an ink pen that would write well on paper, leather, wood, and rougher material. In patent filling back in 1888, he wrote that his invention is made of improved fountain pen or reservoir for marking on different surfaces that also include coarse wrapping paper and other surfaces in which pens couldn’t be used. But while it could write on wood and leather, it wrote poorly on paper because it was too rough.

Therefore, Loud’s invention had no commercial value, and later on, the patent lapsed. So for the coming decade, different inventors tried to develop and improve on his design.

Who invented the ballpoint?

The first considered ballpoint pen was patented by László Bíró in 1938, even if he had been in the works and had been developing it for about a decade with György, his brother. Laszlo, who was born in Hungary to a Jewish family, was a journalist and newspaper man and his brother a dentist. Both of them developed and created ink made with paste, not water. This paved the way for the creation of the ballpoint pen.

Why’s the ballpoint pen invented?

Undoubtedly, ballpoint pens have a long and colorful history. Biro, who invented the first ballpoint pen, was frustrated with how the fountain pen worked. Being an editor who always had to write, he constantly had to dip his pen in ink which was also taking a lot of time to dry.

Biro noticed that the ink on newspapers didn’t have this problem in that the ink could dry almost instantly. He decided to use such ink in the designing of a new pen. At the Budapest International Fair in 1931, Biro displayed his invention and patented its design.

He turned to his brother to help improve the pen’s design. They developed a spring-loaded piston in it.  When applied pressure on, the ball would roll and the transfer the ink into the paper.

While ballpoint pens, at this point, still had leaking issues, pilots were able to use them without such problems at high altitudes. For that, the British government was impressed and decided to buy the rights to the pen for use in the Air Force.

When World War II ended, some people tried selling their pens; however, many of them didn’t succeed. Meanwhile, Milton Reynolds, while on a business trip to Buenos Aires in 1945, saw a ballpoint pen. He thought it would succeed in the USA and brought back a prototype to improve its design. In this case, he could acquire a US patent of the pen.

Through his Reynolds International Pen Company, he introduced the Reynolds Rocket, his ballpoint pen, which was a huge hit in that it was the first commercially successful ballpoint pen.

To market his pen, his company created an advertisement claiming that the pen won’t need refilling for 15 years. Due to its success, Gimbels, a New York department store, sold thousands of these pens in one week.

Other pen manufacturers followed suit and created their ballpoint pen versions. One of them was Eversharp Co. that also made their pens and commercially started selling them. During the same year, through Miles Martin Pen Company, Britain had its first ever commercially successful ballpoint pens.

Unfortunately, as the number of manufacturers making their ballpoint pens increased and so the market became saturated, too.  In the 1950s, Reynolds closed.

Paper Mate pens started commercially manufacturing their ballpoint pens and selling them in Canada, with their pens having a new formula. Meanwhile, Parker Pens also released “The Jotter.” In its point, it used tungsten-carbide textured ball.  The pen was also cheaper and so it sold millions of pens in its first year.

Unfortunately, some companies didn’t survive the tough competition. Evesharp Co. sold its pen division to Parker Pens, and then later closed down.

In the 1950s, Marcel Bich, or shortened as Bic, obtained a license from Biro to manufacture pens based on his design. Throughout the world, Bic pens are now recognized.

Fun Facts about Ballpoint Pens

  • Over 125 ballpoint pens are sold every second daily.
  • RAF flyers had been using feather pens in the cockpit before obtaining rights to the ballpoint pen.
  • More than 56% of individuals would own a personalized pen.
  • Every month of June, the National Pen Day is celebrated, paying respect to the creators of the ballpoint pen, the Biro brothers.
  • An ordinary pen would approximately write 50,000 words (roughly 100 pages)
  • Annually, 4.3 pens are used by every person in the US on the average.
  • Ballpoint pens are cheap like seven cents each, but Mont Blanc ballpoint pen could cost more than $730,000.
  • The first word that a person writes when they receive a new pen is their name.

Ballpoint pens have indeed taken the world by storm since invention and have contributed to increased literacy. Now, students can write down notes seamlessly without dipping their pens into ink and don’t have to worry about the mess that smudging can make on paper. They also don’t need to wait long for the ink to dry because ballpoint pen inks dry faster than fountain pens.

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