All the President’s Pens

The President's Pen - American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law

Donald Trump's Choice

When Donald Trump recently started being photographed signing various Executive Orders, the Bureau Direct office took an obvious interest in the pen he was using. Turns out it was a Cross Century II rollerball which then prompted the question – what pen does the President usually use? And what about other world leaders? Do they choose a pen manufactured in their own country? Are they free gifts? Is it their own pen? Well after a little research, it seems the answers vary quite a bit but for sure, the pen has been present at many interesting occasions, often proving the maxim that the pen is mightier than the sword.

The Treaty of Versailles, which brought an end to the First World War, was signed by Lloyd George, British Prime Minister with a Waterman Ideal fountain pen. A Waterman was also the writing instrument of choice for King Edward VIII in 1936 when he signed his abdication. Neither of these men were presidents though and where presidents and top ranking generals are concerned, the Parker Pen is king.

Parker Pens - Choice Of Presidents Past

Parker was the original pen of choice for US presidents. An American company (though now the pens are made in France) they pop up at many key moments in history. A Parker 51, considered by many to be the best pen ever made, belonging to General Dwight D Eisenhower, later President Eisenhower, was used to sign the treaty that brought about the end of World War II. Such was his disregard for the Nazis, he refused to be in the same room as them and had the pens sent in to be used.

Parker pens were also used on board the USS Missouri to agree the surrender of Japan. The Parker Big Red Duofold was used by General MacArthur though it was said to be his wife’s pen. He had it specially sent for to use for the historic signing. Admiral Nimitz used a Parker 51 for his part in the signing.

Parker pens went on to be used to sign arms reduction and peace treaties into the seventies, eighties and nineties. The Camp David accords, signed at the White House with the ubiquitous Parkers, brought about the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty and earned President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin the Nobel Peace Prize. Camp David incidentally, was named after President Eisenhower’s grandson as he felt the previous name -Shangri-La – a little too fancy for his tastes.

Parker’s involvement with peace in the Middle East continued with the Oslo Accords of 1993. Though negotiated with Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO’s Yasir Arafat, the actual agreements were signed with a Duofold Centennial rollerball at the White House by Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas. Peres, Rabin and Arafat also went on to gain the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts though Rabin was assassinated the following year for his support.

The Ceremonial Use Of Pens

Pens are also used in a somewhat ceremonial capacity to sign bills in to law by the President. Because of the historical nature of the event, several pens are used and then donated to those who have helped create the bill. This is a White House tradition that dates back many years. Barrack Obama signed the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) with 22 pens and Bill Clinton used 40 pens in 1997 for the Taxpayers Relief Act, all the pens then being passed on as gifts. Astonishingly though Lyndon Johnson was said to have used as many as 75 pens to sign in the Civil Rights Act in 1964, all for one signature! Unsurprisingly perhaps, JFK would write out his name in full, to make the task of using all those pens a little easier. George W Bush however preferred to use just the one pen for signing, hanging on to it and then sharing the unused pens as souvenirs.

Lately though the Parker has been dropped as the go to pen. German manufacturers Montblanc were said to be very unhappy when Bill Clinton not only used a fake Montblanc to sign in a bill, but then gave out other fakes as souvenirs. American brand Cross (mostly made in China these days) has been the presidential pen of choice for a while now which brings us back neatly to Donald Trump. Whether Cross are happy that their pens have gone from signing in Obamacare to the current executive orders is anybody’s guess. No doubt they would say it isn’t about politics. But still, don’t be surprised if there is a change of pen sometime quite soon.

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  1. I would very much like someone to gift me a Visconti fountain pen. Especially their ‘Tarot’ pen – Chariot/Wheel of Fortune. I haven’t got the necessary $14,000 and, let’s face it, I’d still wander off and leave it lying in the bank 😀

  2. Just reading through this blog and thought that like General MacArthur’s wife I also own a Parker (big red) Duofold.

    Tried to get a quote from Parker to have the ink sac replaced, but they would only respond with, will you donate the pen to us (for free)

    Anyway even with my awful handwriting the pen is a pleasure to use.

  3. Interesting post. I wonder if the Cross Trump uses is manufactured in the US? I recall they moved all their production to the Far East in recent times. Given he advocates US manufacturing and favours US made products ( even rejecting using an iPhone due to it being made outside of the US) what pen should he be using? A Fisher Space pen?

    1. I believe Cross pens are made in China now but yes, the Fisher Space Pen might work well. It is made in Boulder City, Nevada so would fit the bill, so to speak.

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