It was, however, very popular with American and British fighter pilots who liked the pens because they would write at high altitudes and did not need refilling like fountain pens. The British Government licensed the pen for the RAF and the United States Department of State sent samples of the pen to a number of American pen manufacturers so they could develop a similar pen. In an attempt to corner the market, the Eberhard Faber Company paid the Biro brothers $500,000 for the U.S. rights to manufacture their ballpoint pen. Eberhard Faber sold the patent rights to the pen to the Eversharp Company, allegedly for $1,000,000, which began an extensive campaign to introduce the pen to America.
In a surprising end-run, a fifty-four year old salesman from Chicago, Milton Reynolds, became the first American manufacturer to successfully market the ballpoint pen. Reynolds had visited Argentina, where he had seen the Biro’s pen in stores and thought that the pen would sell in America. Reynolds ignored the Biro patents, many of which had either expired or had never been cbd vape pen properly filed in the U.S. and set up a factory. In a bold marketing move, he made a deal with Gimbels to be the first store to sell the pen. On the first day that the pen went on sale, 5,000 customers showed up at Gimbels and purchased the entire 10,000 pens that the store had in stock at over $10.00 per pen!
While Reynolds made millions of pens in the months that followed, ballpoint pens fell out of favor with the public as they discovered many of the same problems with the pens still existed. Somebody needed to invent a pen that was smooth writing, dried quickly, didn’t skip or fade and, most important of all, didn’t leak.
Two men, Patrick J. Frawley, Jr. and Fran Seech solved the problem. Seech was an unemployed chemist who lost his job when the pen company he worked for went out of business. Working in his own home laboratory, he finally developed the successful ballpoint pen ink. Frawley, was so impressed with Seech’s ink, he purchased the formula and started the Frawley Pen Company in 1949. Frawley’s pen not only had smear-proof ink, it also had a retractable point. An imaginative marketing campaign ensued and soon Frawley’s pen, which he named Paper-Mate, took off. Other brands, such as Parker soon followed suit.
The other person to help revive the ballpoint pen was a French maker of penholders and cases, Marcel Bich. Not only was he appalled by the poor quality, but also by the high cost. He did, however, recognize that the ballpoint pen was a true innovation and resolved to create a low-priced, top-quality pen. Bich went to the Biro brothers and struck a deal to pay them a royalty on their patent and then spent two years studying every detail of every ballpoint pen on the market.
Finally, in 1952, Bich was ready to unveil his new pen. It was an inexpensive clear-barreled, smooth-writing, non-leaking pen called the Ballpoint Bic. The public accepted it with open arms. By the late 1950’s, BIC had captured 70% of the European market.
Today, BIC dominates the market, with other manufacturers like Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman capturing the smaller market for upscale fountain pens and ballpoint pens. The modern version of Laszlo and George Biro’s pen – the BIC Crystal – sells more than 14,000,000 pieces daily. Biro is still the generic name for the ballpoint pen in most of the world. And lastly, Parker black ink ballpoint pens will produce over 28,000 linear feet of writing – more than five miles – before running out of ink.
So the next time someone gives you a promotional pen or you buy one at the store, remember the amazing story of the Biro brothers and their gift to the world, the ballpoint pen.