The history of the
Article added on October 17+18, 2002
The history of the ball-point
in Providence, Rhode Island, Alonzo T. Cross invented the stylographic
fountain pen, a precursor of the ball-point pen. He engaged in competition
with Duncan Mackinnon, the other stylographic pen inventor. In 1880 A. T.
Cross separated his business from his father's and renamed his company the A.
T. Cross - Pen and Pencil Manufacturer.
The fountain pen by
Lewis Edson Waterman in 1884 was another step forward in the development of
writing instruments. The problems of ink, e.g. drying out, remained. They
could be overcome
by a ballpoint pen. The first to think of it was the German inventor Baum who
patented a ball-point pen (Kugelschreiber) in 1910.
However, the first man to actually develop and launch a ball-point pen was the Hungarian László Jozsef Bíró
(1899-1985) from Budapest, who in 1938 invented a ball-point pen with a pressurized ink
cartridge. He is considered the inventor of today's ball-point pen. Working as
a journalist, Biro noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried
quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. From there he got the idea to
use the same type of ink for writing instruments. Since the thicker ink would
not flow from a regular pen nib, he fitted his pen with a tiny ball bearing in
its tip. Moving along the paper, the ball rotates picking up ink from the ink
cartridge and leaving it on the paper. This principle of the ballpoint pen
dates back to a never commercially exploited patent of 1888 owned by John J.
Loud for a product to mark leather.
At the very end of
1938, just one day before anti-Jewish laws became active in Hungary, Bíró fled
to Paris before emigrating to Argentina. Agustin P. Justo had suggested to him
to travel to Argentina. He gave him his signed card which should allow Bíró
to obtain a hard to get visa for the South American country; only in the consulate Bíró found out
Justo was no one else than the
In 1943 Bíró obtained a new patent in Argentina and
became the country's leading producer of ball-point pens. The British
government bought the patent as the pen's functioning was not affected by high altitude air
pressure and would thus be of use to navigators in airplanes. In 1944, a pen under the brand name Biro was produced for the
Royal Air Force. Bíró died in Argentina in 1985.
In 1945 Eversharp Co. and Eberhard-Faber acquired the exclusive rights to Biro
Pens of Argentina. Their pen company was re-branded the "Eversharp
CA" with CA standing for Capillary Action.
Shortly afterwards in 1945, the Chicago businessman Milton Reynolds brought some of Biro's pens
from Argentina to the US. With the help
of William H. Huenergardt, he created the Reynolds Ball Point Pen which was
put on the US market at the end of 1945 - ignoring the patent acqurired by
Eversharp. It became an instant success. However, like Biro's and Eversharp's pens,
they were not perfect and often leaked
By 1951, the fountain pen regained its leading position with consumers. The
ballpoint pen seemed to have lost the battle. However, in 1954, Parker Pens
introduced its first ballpoint pen called The Jotter which became a success.
The same can be said of Patrick J. Frawley Jr. who, in 1949, bought from the
Los Angeles chemist Fran Seech an improved ink formula. Seech had lost his job
when the ballpoint pen company he was working for had gone out of business. He
continued to improve the ink formula he had been working for. Frawley used it
when he launched his Frawley Pen Company in 1949. Within one year, he put an
improved ballpoint pen on the market, the first pen with a retractable
ballpoint tip with no-smear ink. Frawley named his pen the "Papermate".
It became a huge success, selling hundreds of millions of copies within
a few years. However, within the ballpoint pen battle, the French Baron Marcel Bich, who had founded the BIC company in 1950, began to dominate the market in
Europe and the US in the late 1950s and, by 1960, owned 100% of the Waterman pen
The Fisher Space Pen
In September 1945, Julian Levy, Milton Reynolds' son-in-law, had asked
Paul C. Fisher to help improve their pen not yet launched. After two days of
testing, Fisher declined the offer because he came to the conclusion that
"the basic principle is not sound". Despite this evaluation by
Fisher, Reynolds had made some five million dollars after taxes by January
In October 1948, Paul C. Fisher
founded his own firm, the Fisher Space Pen Company. In the 1950's, there were dozens of
ballpoint models using nearly as many different cartridges. Therefore, in 1953 Fisher
invented the "Universal Refill" which could be used in most pens. It
was a good seller since store owners could reduce their stock of assorted
Fisher continued to improve his
refill and, in 1966, came up with a perfect solution using thixotropic ink: It
remains semisolid until the shearing action of the rolling ball liquefies it.
The ink flows only when needed. The cartridge is pressurized with nitrogen so
that it does not rely on gravity to make it work. It writes in freezing cold,
desert heat, underwater and upside down (1965: patent # 3,285,228 - the
original AG7 Anti-Gravity Pen developed by Paul Fisher).
Sensa Polar Silver Ballpoint Pen. Photograph copyright: Sensa by Willat.
Sensa Carbon Black Ballpoint Pen. Photograph copyright: Sensa by Willat.
Sensa Antigua Blue Ballpoint Pen. Photograph copyright: Sensa by Willat.
Sensa Antigua Green Ballpoint Pen. Photograph copyright: Sensa by Willat.
The original Fisher Astronaut Pen AG7 from the 1960s. Photograph Copyright:
Fisher Space Pens.
The Fisher BULLET Pen.
Fisher Space Pens. The original BULLET Pen was developed in 1948. Until today,
Bullet Pens are Fisher's most popular items.
The Fisher Millennium Pen. Photograph Copyright: Fisher Space Pens. It writes
over 55 km, enough to write some 80 years. It comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Paul C. Fisher invented his pen and refill at the right time: It was the era of
the space race. Astronauts involved in the Mercury and Gemini missions had
been using pencils to take notes in space since standard ball points did not
work in zero gravity. The Fisher cartridge did work in the weightlessness of
outer space and astronauts, beginning with the October 1968 Apollo 7
mission, began using the Fisher AG-7 Space Pen and cartridge.
Since then, Fisher pens have been the only ones used on all manned
space flights by the USA and the USSR: the Apollo missions, the landings on
the moon, the Space Shuttle flights, the Sojus flights, the MIR space station
missions and the International Space Station ISS.
Fisher Space Pens
write in freezing cold and desert heat, from minus 34 degrees Celsius up to plus 143 degrees
Celsius, as well as underwater, upside down, on oily and
greasy surfaces. The Fisher Bullet Pen was featured in the Museum
of Modern Art in New York.
By the way: In 1960, Paul C. Fisher run in the New Hampshire Presidential
Primaries against John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
Sensa ball-point pens
In 1985, Boyd Willat decided to create an ergonomic writing instrument. After
ten years of research, he introduced SENSA in 1995. Willat had determined the
ideal weight for a ballpoint pen. He had selected an aeronautical alloy for
its strength, weight and other properties. He developed an interactive
plasmium filled gripped system which has a morphic reforming quality through
an interdependent relationship between the contour of the inner spindle, shape
of the gripping section jacket and fluid characteristic of the plasmium. The
result is a reduction of the overall stresses which normally occur through
writing by over 50%. The inner plasmium fluid is displaced with the pressure from
your fingers. A drive system was engineered within a tiny motor house. Boyd
Willat chose a heat-tempered steel for a lifetime of exacting tension. As it
enters the barrel the clip turns downward at a 180 degree angle and is
press-fitted between the barrel and internal motor house.
As refill, the SENSA uses the Fisher Space Refill, used on all manned space
flights, as we have seen above. In the rear portion of the refill a shot of
nitrogen is injected prior to capping which allows for the writing under
water, upside down, over grease, over photographs, in zero gravity and from 40
degrees Fahrenheit below up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit above zero.
SENSA's aeronautical aluminum alloys are bathed in ultra high temperature vats
which permanently head infuse metallic color particles into the metal. SENSA
offers light weight, tensile strength and color brilliance.
SENSA, "the world's most comfortable pen" was featured in the Museum
of Modern Art in New York and has won the Silver Industrial Design Award in
In Germany, SENSA by Willat and Fisher Space Pens are available through