Wednesday, February 5, 2014

John J. Loud
After last week’s article about homemade ink, I thought I’d follow up with some investigative work into the invention of the ball point pen. Surprisingly, the very first ball point pen was patented on October 30, 1888, by John J. Loud. His patent application suggested that his pen invention was useful “for marking on rough surfaces --  such as wood, coarse wrapping paper, and other articles – where an ordinary [fountain] pen could not be used.” Mr. Loud didn’t pursue his invention and made very few of his pens. His patent expired, and the ball point pen wasn’t mass produced until 57 years later, on October 29, 1945, when they went on sale in New York City.

Loud's Patent Application Drawing
What makes this story more interesting is the discrepancy in biographies about John H. Loud. Most of the websites I found had information to the effect that very little is known about Mr. Loud except that he may have been a leather tanner or a shoemaker. However, one website was much more complete and stated that he was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard University. He became a lawyer and later on because an assistant to his father at the Union National Bank. That’s a lot different than leather tanner or shoemaker.


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