Iconic: The Bic Ballpoint Pen

With its ballpoint and its timeless design, the Bic pen was a technological revolution. Functional and cheap, this disposable pen produced since 1950 in Clichy is also a symbol of consumer society. At the rate of three Bic pens sold every second, it’s the most popular ballpoint pen in the world.

Ever since the invention of the ball­point pen in 1888 by John J. Loud, an American from Massachusetts, the instrument had difficulty finding a public in France, where traditionally a fountain pen was used for handwriting. It took until the end of the 40s and the refinement by a Frenchman − Marcel Bich, director of a company making spare parts for writing equipment in Clichy – to elevate it to the status of cult object.

Legend tells us that a flash of genius struck Marcel Bich while he was pushing a wheelbarrow "loaded with 50 kilos of potatoes". "Everything became clearer suddenly", he writes in his autobio­graphical notes. "What exactly was a ballpoint pen? Simply the application of the wheel in writing!" As the fable goes, he immediately used


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