Ballpoint pens are the world’s most sold pens with a share of about 40% of the total proportion of pens. That is easy to understand as they are easy to use, reliable and long-lasting. But then it hasn’t always been that way.
Before the birth of the ballpoint pen, fountain pens were the pen people used to write with. However, it began to pester a dissatisfaction with the function in the late 1800s. John Loud was one of those who tried to come up with an alternative to the fountain pen, which he did not find to be sufficient when writing on leather. Loud patented his solution, but his ballpoint pen had major flaws. Among other things, one needed to twist the top of the pen to set the amount of ink that would pass down to the writing ball.
Inspired by the printers
Loud’s invention did not go as well as one could have hoped. However, many were inspired to try a similar invention both in the USA, Germany and France. But a Hungarian named László Bíró tried to make a better ballpoint pen, as we recognize it today.
László worked as editor of a magazine in Hungary, and was dissatisfied with how messy his writings got with fountain pen.
When he noticed how quickly the ink dried in the newspaper presses, he was determined to create a pen that used such ink.
Together with his brother, they experimented with different thicknesses of the ink and the ball construction. In 1938, the patent was approved and the success was a fact. British pilots from the RAF were equipped with
László Biró’s ballpoint pens during World War II as it was the only pen that could be used at such altitudes.
Pretty much the same since the 50’s
Then the American market tried to make and sell ballpoint pens, with varying results. The reason was mostly based on major problems with lawsuits filed between the companies, but also that the pens did not keep what they promised.
Not until the 60’s Marcel Bich with his company Bic managed to reach out to the big crowd with his advertising campaign “Writes the first time, every time!”.
Ballograf and the Swedish manufacturing
In the middle of all patent breaches and problems in the US,
AB Fabeh was founded in Gotenburg by Eugen Spitzer in 1945 after escaping World War II. The company is growing fast and changing its name to Ballografverken AB. From 1953, Ballograf was owned by BIC, but since the companies had different ambitions in their production, the companies were separated in 2004.
Now Ballograf stands on it’s own legs as the only pen manufacturer in Sweden and continues to manufacture popular pens with a high standard and archive-resistant ink.