Among the elaborate seals, bronze statues and marble hallways that adorn federal Washington, there is another symbol of the machinery of government that is often overlooked: the lowly ballpoint pen.
For more than 40 years, standard black pens have cluttered the desks of thousands of federal employees, hung on a chain at post offices across the country and slipped into the pockets of countless military personnel. Yet few have realized that this government-issue pen has a history to rival that of any monument.
Blind workers assemble the pens in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina under the brand name Skilcraft as part of a 72-year-old legislative mandate. The original 16-page specifications for the pen are still in force: It must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero.
Hey, they got me through 12 years of school, and 12 years of the Army.
I haven’t looked lately, but I’m sure there are one or two stashed in my memento/junk storage.