When the Gimbels department store fielded a new type of fountain pen on this day seventy-five years ago, a revolution in writing was started.
The ballpoint was in its way as life-changing as the cell-phone which came forty years later. For the first time, it was possible to write anywhere, on all sorts of surfaces, without all the paraphernalia and mess that accompanied the traditional, often leaky fountain pen with its fragile nib.
On this day in 1945, the Reynolds International Pen Company set the world alight with its expensive new-fangled device. Gimbals sold 30,000 of the new pens within the week, despite the asking price of $12.50, now equivalent to around $175.
The story of the ballpoint pen goes back much further, though, right back to 1888 when American John Loud patented the idea of a pen with a captive ball instead of a nib. And the man normally credited with its invention, Hungarian-Argentinian László Bíró, had production models in circulation before the War.
Price was a big disincentive in these early years and it was left to a Frenchman, Marcel Bich, to put the seal on the writing revolution. His brainwave was the disposable pen which cost around 1/50th of a traditional ballpoint with a replaceable refill. The BIC conquered the world.