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The Presidential Pen: The Cross Legacy in the White House

The White House

Most Americans can humbly agree that they’ve seen footage, if not watched it live, of the signing of a bill by a President. In most cases, there is a half circle of relevant people standing behind the President, the background is cluttered with large curtains and American flags with the President front and center with his bill. With most of the focus on the bill and the President, as they are initiating an important act, another silent star lurks among the group: the pen.

Since the 1970s, A.T. Cross has been the official pen supplier to the White House. Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the U.S., made the relationship between Cross and the White House official in his term, but the tradition of using Cross can be traced back to Gerald Ford’s term.

The relationship between Cross and the White House is a special one. All Presidents since Bill Clinton have used Cross pens to sign important documents. In most cases, too, the pens become a piece of history. The signee typically gives the used pen to a person as a memento afterward. The Presidential pen is also given out as simply a souvenir to visitors. It’s often viewed as an honor to obtain one of these beautiful fountain pens.

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There are two popular styles of pens that are preferred by current and past office holders. The Presidential pen choice has changed over the years, but the quality certainly maintains. In earlier years, the Townsend model was the preferred fountain pen by Clinton, Bush and Obama. Later in his term, Obama opted to switch his writing utensil and decided to use the Century II, which happens to be current President Donald Trump’s favorite model, too. The pens made for the Presidents are custom, so while the exact pen isn’t for purchase, you can find a similar style.

Scene from Washington DC

So, what makes Cross pens so significant in the Presidential arena? Well, Cross has been a leading producer for high-end writing products since 1846. In the beginning, the company created casings for pencils, which reflected the Cross family’s history in jewelry. The original founder of the company was Richard Cross, who later passed the company on to his son, A.T. Cross. The company was, and still is, located in Providence, Rhode Island.

Over the years, Cross and their fine products have made a great name for themselves. Not only do they create ballpoint, rollerball and fountain pens, but they also do work in accessories. The accessories include journals, wallets and portfolios. In the ’90s, they even worked with IBM to create a digital writing pad. It was called the CrossPad. The run didn’t last as long as their iconic pens, but it was certainly unique for the time.

Cross is a great option for someone who would like a unique and reliable pen. It may not be the exact Presidential pen, but you can get close. Cross offers many kinds of pens these days, too, which was much more limited in their conception. Now, you can find ballpoint, fountain, rollerball and pencils. The list goes on. There are options to engrave, as well. And they provide refills and occasionally roll out some special edition pens. So, keep your eye out for some neat versions of your favorites. Luckily for consumers, Cross stands by their products. With a great warranty on products, this shows how much respect and appreciation they still have for the craft and creation of quality writing instruments.

Fountain pen on an antique handwritten letter

Presidents aren’t the only ones who love Cross pens. John Steinbeck, the author of famous texts such as The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, wrote a letter to his editor saying, he would stop writing unless he could get new Cross pens with refills. It’s been mentioned that this letter is archived at Cross headquarters in Rhode Island.

The A.T. Cross company has a long-standing association with the White House and other famous folks throughout U.S. history and we don’t see that coming to an end anytime soon.

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