Birthday Offers now on - Automatically applied at checkout

See What's New - Click HERE

History of the Ball Pen

History of the Ball Pen

Ross Adams |

A ball pen works by a small metal ball baring moving at 360 degrees in a fitted socket distributing the oil based ink.

Early inventions had a thin tube that was filled with ink. A small metal ball was held at the end to stop the ink leaking out, very similar to today's current design.

The first patent for a ballpoint pen was issued in 1888 to John J. Loud who was looking for a writing instrument that would write on coarse surfaces such as wood, jobs that a fountain pen could not achieve. However, Loud's design was not suitable for letter writing so was never released commercially.

Hungarian born Laszlo Biro is the modern inventor of the ball pen and is a name we are probably more familiar with. After fleeing to Argentina with his brother during World War II, the pair developed an ink similar to that used in newspaper printing as it dried quickly. Together they came up with a more viscose ink that flowed more easily. His patent was filed in Britain in 1938. Ball pens were sold in Argentina under the name Biome.

Interestingly, patents were often filled under the term 'ball point fountain pens.'

American entrepreneur Milton Reynolds came across a Biome pen on his travels to Argentina. After many design alterations and a patent of his own, he beat the competition to releasing the first ball pens to the American market. The 'Reynolds Rocket' became the first successful commercially sold ball pen.

However, after a ball pen sales peak in 1946 the interest dipped due to market saturation and high prices. In todays money 'The Reynolds Rocket' cost around $200!

Brands such as Parker and Paper Mate released their ball pens in the 1950's to great success. Parker's first ball pen was 'The Jotter'. Their price range was more pocket friendly and sold between $3 - $9.

Parker Jotter Ball Pens

Parker Jotter Ball Pens

The globally recognised Bic was introduced to America in 1950. Marcel Bich began producing pen holders and pencil cases in a factory in Paris. He bought the patent for the ballpoint pen from Laszlo Biro for $2 million and released their first product, the Bic Cristal ball pen. The design has remained largely unchanged to this day.

Bic Cristal Ball Pen

Bic Cristal Ball Pen

The Bic Cristal has become the most widely sold pen in the world, selling on average 57 per second! Since their release in 1950 they have reached and far surpassed their 100 billionth sale! It even has a permanent display in New York's Museum of Modern Art. If you have ever noticed it's hole in the iconic cap, well it is a safety feature in case it gets swallowed.

There is definitely no question that ball pens have changed the way we write. Their ease of use and accessibility are a winning combination that makes them such good sellers. However at what cost?

Most cheap ball pens are thrown away once the ink runs out and unfortunately most of those 100 billion Bic's sold will end up in landfill and stay there for a very long time. Today many ball pen manufacturers have realised this issue and are promoting ball pen refills and making the pen tube from recycled plastics and more sustainable materials.

So there is a lot to be said for the refillable fountain pen.