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 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.
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
the branches brought forth by the word "forest."
Above the blank page lurking set to spring
are letters that may compose themselves all wrong,
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!