Before computers and word processors were invented people wrote their Articles, Stories and Poems, as well as their grocery lists, to-do lists, and love letters by hand, using a pen. I recall using a #2 pencil for doing my math calculations when I was in school. Pencils of many varieties are still used today for jotting things down, as well as for sketching and drawing. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on the history of the pen that is still being widely used today.
The cave dwellers first used a hunting club and a sharpened stone to scratch the pictures of their daily lives into the walls of the caves they lived in. While some people might not consider this to be an actual pen, as we know it today, it was the first form of a permanent means of communicating the events of their lives back then. But cave walls were not easily transported from one place to another.
Pictographs were used as far back as 8,500 B.C. when merchants used clay to record the amounts of items that were being shipped and traded. From there the Hebrews, Greeks, Byzantines and Romans developed various alphabets.The Greeks used writing instruments that were made up of metal, bone or ivory with the writing being placed on wax-coated tablets. That is how the first written letter was developed, with written words communicated from one individual to another in this way.
Then the Chinese developed Indian ink. Other cultures used berries, plants and minerals, which produced natural inks of different colors. There were different ritual meanings assigned to the different color inks being used.
The quill pen was invented in 700 A.D. This pen was used for over 1000 years. The feathers that were used to make these pens were primarily taken from the outer left wings of living birds. More people tended to be right handed, then left handed, and the feathers from the left wings of our fine feathered friends, curved in a direction better suited for right-handed writers. The goose, crow, eagle, owl, hawk and turkey all sacrificed their wing feathers for the quill pens that humans used to write with, during this time.
Quill pens had their own sets of problems in being used as writing instruments. They did not last very long, and they needed to be sharpened. There was a long preparation time before the quill pens could be used for our human writing purposes. In 1884, the first fountain pen was developed by L.E. Waterman, of New York. Four companies, Parker, Sheaffer, Waterman and Wahl-Eversharp soon started manufacturing fountain pens.
In 1888, John J. Loud had a patent for a ballpoint pen. But his patent appears not to have been used commercially. Then in 1943 Laszlo Biro, a journalist originally from Hungary, submitted his patent for a ballpoint pen in Argentina. Biro put a tiny ball bearing on the tip of his pen. The British government later bought the licensing rights. During World War II, the British Air force needed a pen that would not leak, when the pilots were flying at high altitudes. But Biro never got a U.S. patent for his ballpoint pen.
More developments were made in 1945 to the Biro pen, as some companies merged and new companies were formed. Eversharp teamed up with Eberhard-Faber. Milton Reynolds saw the Biro Pen in Argentina, and started the Reynolds International Pen Company in America. The British started the Miles-Martin Pen Company.
Reynolds was sued by Eversharp for copying their design. Both Eversharp and Reynolds had problems with their pens as many were returned by unhappy consumers. Some reasons for these pens being returned to both companies, included leaking, skipping, not writing at all, as well as problems with the pens not working the way the advertisements of those times proclaimed.
In 1950, Bich, a Baron from France left the "h" off of the name of the company when he started the Bic Company. In 1954, Parker Pens came out with the Jotter, which worked better then the pens from Eversharp or Reynolds.
The Bic Company continued to capture the market. They held 70% of the European Market, in the 1950's and owned 100% of the Watermen pens in the 1960's. Their pens were being sold in the U.S. in the 1960's in a price range of 29 cents to 69 cents. Parker, Shaeffer and Watermen continued with smaller fashionable markets for fountain pens and higher priced ballpoint pens.
Today the Bic Company has had worldwide sales of their Bic Pens. Parker's black ballpoint pens will write for longer then five miles, before they run dry.
Now pens come in a wide assortment of different styles, and different colors in both the inks that are being used, and the color of the outside of the pen as well. There are gel pens, calligraphy pens, and squiggly shaped pens. You can buy pens that can switch from one color ink to another in the same base and pens that have erasers on them. There are pens that can be used for scrap booking, for writing on wood, or fabric as well as writing on other types of items as well. There are extremely fine tipped pens, and fat thick tipped pens that are often used for highlighting words or sentences.
Even with the popular use of computerized word processors, I don't think pens will ever go out of style, when they can be used for so many different purposes, and can be used to write on such a wide variety of materials.We use them on a daily basis to make shopping lists and take notes in school. Some of us even fiddle with them during boring meetings. Whether at home, at school, or at work, most of us have a pen on hand and, chances are, that pen is a promotional pen. Yet, when you hold a promotional pen in your hand, do you realise you're holding a piece of history?
Meek began imprinting the store's name on burlap bags which Cantwell, in turn, gave to every child who came to his store. As the children began carrying their bags to and from school, the town soon got the message to "Buy Cantwell Shoes" and both Meek's and Cantwell's businesses profited. Meek's new endeavour was so successful, he went on to produce other promotional items including calendars, caps, aprons, and just about anything else he could run through his printing press. It wasn't long before Meek found himself facing competition as other entrepreneurs joined this booming industry.
Other advertising items produced in times past and present include rulers, clothing, coffee mugs, and promotional pens. Promotional pens are perhaps one of the most popular marketing tools in the business today, and why not? Pens have been used for decades by people of all ages in countries throughout the world. Since the invention of the first quill pen in 700 A.D., writing instruments have undergone numerous modifications and improvements to give us the pens we use today. The first ballpoint pen was invented by Hungarian journalist Laszlo Biro in 1938 and today's version of Biro's pen has a reported daily sales total of 14,000,000 pieces worldwide. Not even the Computer Age can stop the popularity of the pen!
With such widespread popularity, it's no wonder that promotional pens are such a successful marketing tool. Undoubtedly, many businesses will continue to utilise promotional pens and other promotional items for years to come.