Which Pen Is Made for the White House?

If you have ever worked for an American government institution, you've used this pen. Know what it is?

By Dan Lewis from Now I Know
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine June 2014

penAdam Voorhes for Reader’s Digest

The pens read “Skilcraft U.S. Government.” And if you have worked for an American government institution, chances are you’ve used one. About $5 million worth of these pens are sold every year (with 60 percent going to the military), and they have quite the story behind them.

To start, they’re assembled by the blind. In 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression, the government stepped in to help blind workers, who were already at a competitive disadvantage. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Wagner-O’Day Act, which required that the federal government purchase specific goods manufactured by blind Americans. The law soon included pens.

The Skilcraft brand came to be a decade or so later, in 1952. Today, the company employs over 5,500 blind workers in 37 states, producing an arsenal of office supplies, with the pens made in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina. The pens must be built to the specifications outlined in a 16-page document that was first promulgated more than 50 years ago. Among the requirements? The pens must be able to write continuously for no less than 5,000 feet and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero. You know, just in case.

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  • Your Comments

    • Hasan Abulaban

      “Also published in Reader’s Digest Magazine June 2014″?!!! Guys, we’re still in May!

      • infinity396

        as most magazines do and have for a long time, the next month’s issue is usually published in the preceding month..

    • Missy

      I so do not agree with the sugar coated “differently abled”. I have almost zero hearing in my left ear and not much better in my right. Know what I tell people? I’m DEAF. As in, I can’t hear. I don’t go around saying, “I’m differently abled,” or, “I’m hearing challenged,” or “I receive audio input differently.” I’m freakin’ DEAF. And, at five feet zero inches, I am SHORT. Not “vertically challenged”, “small of stature,” I am short. A short, deaf person. And I have friends who will say they are black or brown, friends who will tell you they are fat. No sugary, feel-good, unicorn pooping rainbows on cotton candy clouds raining Skittles. Why? because we live in reality. All that aside, this is a cool article and if I could, I’d buy a box of the pens to support the blind people who are benefiting from employment through their manufacture. Can an average joe buy a box, or do you have to be a government go-fer?

      • PHIL E.


      • infinity396

        yep, Amazon.. search for Industries for The Blind, Inc to order direct.about $12 with shipping for a dozen.

    • Bob G

      Oh, they are wonderful pens. The blue pens are especially rare in the field and highly prized and you can actually buy a box from AbilityONE just in case you wanted your very own ($6.44 per dozen). And yes, they all say, “SKILCRAFT US GOVERNMENT”. JWOD has many office supplies, many at favorable prices and some you can’t get anywhere else. Help support the differently abled and check them out!!

      • O. Edlin

        I am ‘differently abled’, I’m broke. How do I buy a dozen or so?

    • bhargavkesavan

      Good to know. And it’s a great initiative to support differently abled people.

      • PHIL E.