The Pen Truly is Mightier

The pen is a fascinating and often undervalued item found in nearly every home, office and classroom across the world. Before the age of computers, it was this object that powered us into the information age. Today we’re honouring this unsung hero by looking at where it came from and what it’s all about.

Back in the day when Pharaohs ruled over Egypt with god-like authority, an interesting development occurred. You guessed it; Egypt was the birthplace of the pen! They started using reed straws filled with ink nearly 5000 years ago. Far from being the ink we know today, the Ancient Egyptians used soot or red ochre mixed with vegetable gum and beeswax.

The problem with reed pens was that they were extremely fragile. You’d be writing down your ancient shopping list and it would just break – not good. It’s for this reason that people started using quills made from the flight feathers from large birds. Fun fact: only the 5 outer feathers from the left wings were used for quills as they were usually the right size and curved outward when writing with your right hand – sorry lefties.

The quill was used for centuries until the 1800s. First, steel pens were patented in 1803 by Bryan Donkin. In 1867, M. Klein and Henry W. Wynne received a patent for a fountain pen with an ink chamber. The fountain pen would become the most widely used writing instrument of its time, but often leaked and made a mess. In 1888, a leather tanner named John Loud took out a patent for the first ball pen, purely for the purpose of writing on leather. The 1800s saw the pen go through various stages of growth and change to becoming a more modern writing instrument.

Fast-forward to World War II and the ballpoint pen became very popular. Soldiers needed to take pens into the battlefield. Ballpoint pens were easy and didn’t require dragging an ink pot along with you; you could call it the first “mobile pen”. Pilots also liked the fact that these pens didn’t leak at high altitudes.

The pen has gone through so many changes, growths, evolutions and mutations since then. In the 1960s, Yukio Horie invented the felt-tip pen in Japan and with that, Pentel was born.

Today, the pen is used all over the world. Interestingly enough, it is one of the most widely stolen items in offices and schools. It also happens to be one of the most common promotional/branded items that companies and organisations hand out. Fun fact: If given a new pen, the first word that 95% of people would write is their name.