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The History of the Pen!

Writing instruments of some type have been used for thousands of years. Today, pens are among the most used of all writing instruments. Over 2 billion pens are manufactured in the United States every year. Did you know that there are 5 kinds of pens?

  • Ball point pens
  • Fountain pens
  • Rolling ball pens
  • Specialty pens

Each of these kinds of pens has an advantage for certain situations. It’s incredible that we have developed this many kinds of sticks that emit ink!


Ancient peoples used pens consisting of hollow straws or reeds that contained a short column of liquid. By about 500 B.C., people began to make pens from the feathers of birds such as geese and swans. The shaft of the feathers were hardened and the writing tip was shaped to make writing easier. These feather pens were known as quill pens and were used up until the development of steel pens in the 1800’s.

By the late 1800’s an early version of the fountain pen was perfected. This was a major improvement over previous pens as it featured a place for the ink to be stored and a feed to bring it to the tip. This was a major improvement since earlier pens could only hold a small amount of ink and needed to be repeatedly dipped in ink.

In 1883 an insurance salesman named L.E. Waterman found a way to perfect a writing instrument that he purchased. Salesmen at the time needed to carry around small containers of ink with them in their vest pockets. No pens had a control system for the flow of ink. Waterman designed a feed with a groove for air intake and three narrow slits in the bottom of the groove. As the mechanism was filled with air bubbles, they pressed against the ink barrel and ink went through the slits in an even flow to the point of the pen. A patent was immediately filed and granted. It was amazing that the excessive discharge of ink was limited. This design became the standard principle for all other makes of pens produced. The invention of a better pen was what led to Waterman’s own fortune. Once he began to advertise in 1885, the modern pen as we know it was born and became popular.

The Waterman company introduced a slot big enough for a coin could be used to compress the ink sac in 1913. Then, a lever was introduced which emptied or filled the sac of ink accordingly with a stroke of the pen. Changes since that time have been made to the pen merely in styling.

The First Ball Point Pens

The first ball point pen was born out of necessity when John. J. Loud of Weymouth Massachusetts created a pen to mark leather fabrics. His ideas did not take off, however. In fact, ball point pens received little notice until WWII. Pilots began using these pens since they did not leak at high altitudes. Following the war, ballpoint pens became increasingly popular. Soft tip pens and rolling ball pens were not introduced until the 1960’s. With new styles of pens being introduced, it caused a good form competition in the market of writing instruments.

It’s undeniable that pens are a part of our everyday lives. That’s why buying pens in bulk is great for events, fundraisers and gifts. Our selection of specialty pens here at Pen Factory won’t leave you disappointed. There’s something for everyone. Pens are some of the oldest materials that we still use every single day. That’s why pens make great promotional products for your business or organization. Check out all the great pens that we have on our site and become a part of history!