On September 3rd, 1965, the French government issued an official decree authorizing the use of the ballpoint pen.
The quill and inkwell reigned supreme for ages on the desks of French schoolchildren, until one day, on September 3rd, 1965, the French government issued an official decree authorizing the use of the ballpoint pen. Goodbye blotters, so long stained fingers and au revoir ink dribbles down the wrists of the left-handed.
The arrival of Bic® pens in classrooms was met with thunderous approval by the students, where its practicality and simplicity were appreciated almost as much as transforming them into miniature blowguns.
The Bic® story originally started in 1888…
The Bic® story originally started in 1888, when the American tanner John Loud developed a ballpoint pen in order to write on rawhides. Unfortunately, its practicality suffered due to the ink drying on the ball when in contact with the air, thereby preventing it from rolling. The world had to wait another half century before the Hungarian László Bíró patented a ballpoint fountain pen in 1938. Bíró created his own business making and selling his pens in Argentina, but sales never really took off.
Then in 1945, the English company Reynolds began to sell copies of Bíró’s pen. Despite a prohibitively high price and ink-leaking issues, Reynolds managed to sell 10,000 pens on its first day.
The copies catch the eye of the French Baron, Marcel Bich, a visionary entrepreneur who goes on to negotiate with Bíró for the use of his patent, which ends up making both men incredibly wealthy.
Inspired by bees, Bich opts for a hexagonal shape to allow for better grip…
Patent in hand, Bich starts by redesigning the ink supply system. Inspired by bees, Bich opts for a hexagonal shape to allow for better grip and drills a hole in the tube to compensate for atmospheric pressure and optimize ink flow. Next, he tests numerous types of ink to find the least viscous, while also deciding to use a transparent tube so the ink level could be easily monitored. His final idea is yet another revolution; the pen will be disposable.
Bich, a genius of marketing and communications, launches the Bic® pen with such catchy slogans as “only 5.8 grams for at least 2 kilometers of writing”, “writes first time, every time”, and “elle court, elle court (she runs, she runs)”. The campaigns worked, and to this day the Bic® Cristal is still the world’s best-selling pen, with more than 100,000 billion sold. The Bic® pen has even conquered the art world, with exhibits in Moma and Beaubourg, and use by numerous artists, from César to Magritte through Giacometti and on to Fernand Léger. Its story will continue, and will require even more ink!