Huckster Milton Reynolds bragged he
The mostly true story of how we got the ballpoint pen in 1945
In 1945, Milton Reynolds introduced the ballpoint to the United States and triggered the biggest single-day shopping riot in history at Gimbels in Manhattan. The Reynolds International Pen Company made $5 million in eight weeks during the first non-wartime Christmas season. Thereafter, increasing competition from established companies such as Eversharp triggered several years of the “Pen Wars.” An exuberant entrepreneur who had already made and lost several fortunes, Reynolds bragged that he “stole it fair and square.” This novel is told from his mild-mannered son Jim’s point of view, about coping with Milton’s outrageous schemes, then their sudden success.
From the Author
It’s a story about testosterone and how-things-work. It’s a father-son comedy about how we got the ballpoint pen. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading about how we got the ballpoint pen (in the U.S.) and chuckling at the antics of fathers and sons.
Jim’s first-person narrative about his adventures with his huckster father Milton Reynolds may give the reader the impression that this work of fiction was somehow adapted from his memoirs. But although there is a wealth of Reynolds ephemera, no such personal document exists. The historian in me needs to confess that my creative self has taken considerable liberties with the truth. The surprising revelation will be that Milt’s bizarre, madcap, and often questionable schemes, as recounted in this story, actually happened much as I have described them. As to his character or his actions, there was no need to invent or exaggerate. It’s the more mundane stuff that I had to make up. The facts of the ballpoint story and Milt’s subsequent exploits are mostly in the public record. I’ve included my principal sources in the references appended to the book.
The story of the real inventors of the ballpoint pen, Laszlo Biro and his brother Gyorgy, is told in the nonfiction book Ballpoint by Gyorgy Moldova. That story takes place in Hungary and Argentina. Milton Reynolds and the American Pen Wars get scarce mention in that factual account, and perhaps deservedly so. Milton did quip that he “stole it fair and square.”
Short-lived and unreliable as it eventually proved to be, the Reynolds ballpoint was a milestone not only in the technology of paperwork production but also in postwar consumer marketing. So, in a sense we have Milton Reynolds to thank for the necessity of at least two enduring government initiatives – the Paperwork Reduction Act and the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
“Gerald Everett Jones certainly knows how to tell a story. Engaging, funny, and full of the cross-genre capability that marks all of Jones’s novels, Mr. Ballpoint will surprise and delight readers of all ages.” – Magdalena Ball, host of The Compulsive Reader and author of Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening.
“Forgotten history brought to life. If you ever wanted to know how to play the game of life and have a blast doing it, read Mr. Ballpoint. Perfect for our library and book clubs.” – Deborah Vaden, Manager of Libraries, City of Irving, Texas.
“It’s getting rarer these days to find humorous fiction – much less humor stories based on true stories – but Mr. Ballpoint is such a find and includes an unusual focus on a father-son relationship and a ballpoint pen. Not just for comedy readers and not just for those who want serious psychology… a recommendation for any who want a blend of entertainment and serious reading.” – Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews and host of Donovan’s Bookshelf.
“In the ever-expanding universe of Gerald Everett Jones, this is a funny, typically quirky and engrossing read. Milton Reynolds, a rollicking hustler who harvested gravity, is a bigger-than-life character with Best Actor written all over it. Should be a movie by Monday.” – Morrie Ruvinsky, author of Meeting God or Something Like It and Misfits of Science.
“If only I had known about this marvelous invention before I started my writing career! No typewriter! No computer! The story calls to mind the old adage about pioneers and arrows. I salute Mr. Jones for his delightful and insightful tale.” – Marvin J. Wolf, author of Rotten Apples: Tales of New York Crime and Mystery and For Whom The Shofar Blows.