Before 1943 we used the fountain pen or the quill dipped in ink to write our ideas, thoughts and theories on paper. Both could be very messy and were a little difficult to carry around. Then came the “Birome”, invented by Laslo and Georg Biro in Argentina, the first working version of the ball point pen. It sold for $12.50 at Gimbel’s Department Store in New York and was considered pretty darn expensive… but worth every penny! Today, ball point pens are a dime a dozen with many meant to be thrown away after the ink in used up or given away as promotional items with a company name written on them.
How to celebrate – Use a ball point pen to write down your thoughts. “Ink” a deal! Try using a quill or fountain pen to see what you’ve been missing!
It’s hard to imagine, but pens advanced very little from the time Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to when FDR wrote the New Deal. Of course the quill and ink well was a bit sloppy and difficult to write with on the move.
On top of that there was the drying time required before sealing the letter and sending it out. By the time “the ink dried” the news or information you put in what you were writing down was already dated. Then there was all the smudging, ink on the heel of your hand, and if it got wet, well forget it.
Next came the fountain pen, which was basically just a quill with an ink well built into it. It still smudged, still took time to dry and still was ruined if it got wet.
And as far as being portable… if you ever carried one you knew you had a 50/50 chance the ink well was going to break free of the quill at some point and you would have a nice stain in whatever pocket you were carrying it in.
It wasn’t until 1943 that Laszlo and Gyorgy Biro invented a working ballpoint pen as we know it today. Others had tried but failed in their attempts to create the ballpoint pen but it did not become a reality until June, 1943 (I am guessing June 10th since this is the day we celebrate the ballpoint pen). Putting that a little in perspective, we were able to get the atomic bomb built before we could develop a pen that didn’t leak ink everywhere.
How to celebrate: Write a letter to someone using a ballpoint pen. With all the colors ballpoints come in these days, draw a picture using ballpoint pens. Just for laughs, try using a quill and ink well. (It’s fun, but difficult).