This Day in History (30-Oct-1888) – John J Loud patents ballpoint pen

This principle of the ballpoint pen dates back to an 1888 patent owned by John J. Loud for a product to mark leather. However, this patent was commercially unexploited. A Hungarian journalist named Laszlo Biro noticed that the type of ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. He decided to create a pen using the same type of ink. The thicker ink would not flow from a regular pen nib and Biro had to devise a new type of point. He did so by fitting his pen with a tiny ball bearing in its tip. As the pen moved along the paper, the ball rotated picking up ink from the ink cartridge and leaving it on the paper.

Laszlo Biro first patented his pen in 1938, and applied for a fresh patent in Argentina in 1943. The British Government bought the licensing rights to this patent for the war effort. The British Royal Air Force needed a new type of pen, one that would not leak at higher altitudes in fighter planes as the fountain pen did. Their successful performance for the Air Force brought the Biro pens into the limelight, forming Eterpen Company in Argentina.

Eversharp Co. teamed up with Eberhard-Faber in June 1945, to acquire the exclusive rights to Biro Pens of Argentina. The pen re-branded the “Eversharp CA” which stood for Capillary Action. Less than a month after Eversharp/Eberhard close the deal with Eterpen, Chicago businessman, Milton Reynolds visited Buenos Aires. While in a store, he saw the Biro pen and recognized the pen’s sales potential. He bought a few pens as samples. Reynolds returned to America and started the Reynolds International Pen Company, ignoring Eversharp’s patent rights. He copied the product in four months and sold his product Reynold’s Rocket at Gimbel’s department store in New York City, starting 29th October 1945. Priced at $12.50, $100,000 worth sold the first day on the market.

However, the Reynolds’ pen leaked, skipped and often failed to write. Eversharp’s pen did not live up to its own advertisements. The ballpoint pen fad ended by 1951. Parker Pens introduced its first ballpoint pen, the Jotter, in 1954, which wrote five times longer. It had a variety of point sizes, a rotating cartridge and large-capacity ink refills. Best of all, it worked, re-initiating ballpen era.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/october/30

http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa101697.htm

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