Thursday, October 28, 2010

Postcard Friendship Friday - Pen(sive) Thoughts

The Scheaffer Pen Factory Fort Madison Iowa

Today in History: On October 29, 1945, the first ball point pens went on sale at Gimbels Department store. All 10,000 pens, priced at $12.50 each were sold. That's about $158.00 per pen in 2010 dollars.

Folks had been working on the idea of ball point pens since the early 1800's, but were faced with a myriad of problems, including - and especially - getting the ink at the proper viscosity. Too thin and it leaked out, too thick and it wouldn't write at all. Lazlo and George Biro perfected the flow of ink and the action of the tiny ball for smooth writing. They designed the "The Biro Bullet" used by the RAF in the early 1940's. It was this style that was sold to the public for the first time in 1945. In 1950 the brothers sold their patent to Baron Marcel Bich (pronounced BIC - sound familiar?) who formed the Society BIC Group. Which is where we get BIC (TM) pens razors, lighters, etc.

A mere 1 1/2 years later, Marie purchased a Scheaffer postcard while on Easter vacation in Fort Madison, Iowa. Perhaps she used a new-fangled ball point pen to write this note to her friend Joan.

The Biro Bullet

The word pen comes from the Latin penna, meaning feather.

The word pencil is from the Latin, penicillum, meaning paint brush. Penicillum chrysogenum is the blue green mold that is used to make penicillin, and it is so named because the microscopic fungus resembles a brush. There are many species of penicillum, including roquforti which is used in making Roquefort and Stilton cheese.

The pen knife retains the name of it's original use - to sharpen pen quills.

Down town Ft. Madison Iowa

Gimbels Department Store enjoyed several firsts: The sale of the first ball point pens, the first Department Store sponsored Thanksgiving Day Parade, and their Pittsburgh store was chosen, in 1975, to be the exclusive seller of

Used by Steeler Fans

To cheer on their team, swat at opposing fans, and wipe away their tears in times of loss and sorrow.

But I digress. As usual.

A poem about the magic of the pen:

The Joy of Writing

by Wislawa Szymborska

Where through the written forest runs that written doe?
Is it to drink from the written water,
which will copy her gentle mouth like carbon paper?
Why does she raise her head, is it something she hears?
Poised on four fragile legs borrowed from truth
she pricks her ears under my fingers
Stillness-this word also rustles across the paper
and parts
the branches brought forth by the word "forest."

Above the blank page lurking set to spring
are letters that may compose themselves all wrong,
besieging sentences
from which there is no rescue.

In a drop of ink there's a goodly reserve
of huntsmen with eyes squinting to take aim,
ready to dash down the steep pen,
surround the doe and level their guns.

They forget this is not real life.
Other laws, black and white, here hold sway.
The twinkling of an eye will last as long as I wish,
will consent to be divided into small eternities
full of bullets stopped in flight.
Forever, if I command it, nothing will happen here.
Against my will no leaf will fall
nor blade of grass bend under the full stop of a hoof.

Is there then such a world
over which I rule sole and absolute?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence perpetuated by my command?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
The revenge of the mortal hand.


A parting word: thanks to Monty Python and his Flying Circus, my mind has been completely clouded. Parrots, boxes of chocolates, cheese, the Inquisition, lumberjacks and hunters have all taken on new meaning and vision. As I read this lovely poem, for example, I snickered loudly at the thought of the hunters surrounding the deer. Click HERE to see what Monty Python has done to my brain stem.

See Beth, at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy (I'm not even going to suggest frogs or larks here, Python fans) for more Postcard Friendship Friday Fun!


Bob of Holland said...

Again a great, associative post. The postcards are beautiful and I love the design of the Biro pen, although a bit too expensive for someone who loses his pens everywhere, all the time. (I also do find a lot of pens, but never found a Biro). Happy PFF.

willow said...

Excellent post! Hey, fun to see you at the manor today!

Snap said...

Wonderful, wonderful! I could easily have started a pen collection ... if they hadn't been so expensive! Happy PFF!

viridian said...

Great post. i love monty python too. I am not following your link though - keep my mind free.

Funoldhag said...

The Schaeffer Pen Company postcard caught my eye right away along with the little picture of downtown Ft. Madison. We lived there from 1956 - 62 when the Santa Fe consolidated the Illinois and Missouri Division headquarters and headquartered them in Ft. M. Had a really good friend who worked at the Schaeffers. Ft. M was known as the Pen City - it also had the state penetentiary located there. Stirred up pleasant memories!!

Dorincard said...

Great blogpost!
Now I want you to read about Petrache Poenaru, a Romanian inventor of one of the first fountain pens. Officially patented, I might specify. :)

steviewren said...

As always you have again managed to be informative and amusing at the same time, but what I really want to know is how do you know all of this stuff????

Lyneen said...

Wonderful post on the pens... It is hard to believe they have only been around a short time! Happy Pff

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

Fascinating post, and thanks for the reminder of Monty Python. :) We in the UK, maybe only those of us of a certain age, tend to call all ball point pens biros.

Joy said...

A clever invention but maybe the reason there are no longer postcards with beautiful penmanship.

Debs said...

love it! promise you'll never stop digressing...!