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The Evolution of the Pen

The Evolution of the Pen

As touchscreens and keyboards make writing instruments less and less necessary, we, along with many others, still appreciate jotting things down the old fashioned way. We consider our pens the tools for documenting our lives. Whether you use a Mont Blanc or a Bic disposable, if you’re like us, it’s your daily sidekick. Here’s a brief look back at how the mighty pen evolved into what it is today.

4th Century BC

Ancient Egyptians used reed pens made from sea rush to write on papyrus. Each was cut to about 10” and given a slanted tip which was crushed into a sort of brush to spread the ink. (img)

500 BCE

The reed pen was extremely fragile and obtaining reed was not easy for people in every area, around this time the quill pen began to replace it in certains places. By using a large wing or tail feather from a goose, swan or other large bird, the skilled writer could produce finer lines. (img)


The German inventor Daniel Schwenter wrote about a pen that required two quills. One of the quills would go inside the other and hold the ink. Cork would keep the ink from leaking out while a small hole allowed it to flow to the nib. This basic idea would be the precursor to pen designs in the future. (img)


The steel pen was patented by Bryan Donkin, and by the mid-1800s, metal nibbed pens had become the standard. (img)


M. Klein and Henry W. Wynne received a patent for a fountain pen with an ink chamber. Fountain pens would become more and more popular and Klein and Wynne’s design would influence a great number of changes in how the ink was stored and used. (img)


Duncan MacKinnon and Alonzo T. Cross created stylographic pens (stylos). They had a metal tub with a wire inside to keep control of ink flow. They would become one of the first popular fountain pens and are often used today in drafting. (img)


L.E. Waterman was an insurance salesman who lost a sale because of leaked ink from a pen. The drive to create a better fountain pen started the famous Waterman brand. (img)


The first patent for a ball pen was issued to leather tanner John Loud. His goal was to create something he could use to write on the leather he tanned. (img)


The Conklin Self-Filling Pen was invented and was one of the very first self-filling pens. (img)


Walter A. Sheaffer patented the lever filling pen which used a lever to send ink into the pen. It was one of many mechanisms that began to appear in the early 1900s. (img)


WWII made the ballpoint pen popular, as soldiers needed something that they could use on the battlefield. This gave rise to The Reynolds Pen which sold extremely well at just $10. It also started the shift from fountain pens to ballpoint pens. (img)


The Bic Cristal was developed by Marcel Bich, Edouard Buffard, and the design team at Societe PPA after Bich spotted a ballpoint pen in Argentina during the war. The pen would sell for just 19 cents when it was introduced in America in 1959 and it became a phenomenon. (img)


Sheaffer created the Snorkel which is still regarded as having one of the most complex filling systems ever created. A tube would come out the front of the pen and suck in ink almost like a hummingbird so users wouldn’t have to dunk the pen. (img)


The felt-tipped pen was invented by Yukio Horie in Japan. (img)


OHTO Japan introduced the first rollerball pen which was designed to blend the usability of the ballpoint pen with the smooth writing of a fountain pen.


The Fulgor Nocturnus became the world’s most expensive pen when it was sold at auction for $8 million. (img)