6.12.18 Entrepreneurial Success

Fisher Space Pen: A Symbol of American Innovation Celebrates 50 Years of Use Aboard Space Flights

By: Chris Curry

The Crunch: For 70 years, Fisher Space Pen has exemplified the family-owned, made-in-America retail success story built on hard work and innovation. Paul C. Fisher’s original 1948 pen design became one of the most popular, iconic ballpoint pens of the 20th Century. His innovative AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen, patented in 1966, made it possible to write in zero gravity, and NASA astronauts have used it on every space flight since 1968’s Apollo 7 mission. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of that momentous flight, Fisher is releasing a commemorative edition pen with collectible case. The rugged yet sleek, write-in-any-condition pens are used by space programs worldwide and across a wide range of professions, from the oil rig to the corner office. Today, Fisher continues to keep up with changing technology by developing products modern workers need, including a line of stylus pens designed for tablets and mobile phones.

When you examine the long history of American retail, Fisher Space Pen may be the only brand that has been to the moon and on an episode of “Seinfeld.”

In fact, astronauts have used Fisher pens on every NASA space flight since the Apollo 7 mission in 1968, and today space programs across the globe use the pens for their ability to write in extreme conditions — including in zero gravity.

The unique nature of the Fisher Space Pen entered the mainstream in 1991 when the iconic comedy series Seinfeld featured it in an episode entitled “The Pen.”

“This is an astronaut pen,” points out the gravel-voiced character, Jack Klompus, as Jerry Seinfeld admires the pen. “It writes upside down — they use this in space.” Drama quickly ensues when the retired Del Boca Vista resident (played by the late comedian Sandy Baron) offers Jerry the pen, and he accepts it.

In 2018, the ongoing Fisher story will celebrate two important milestones. The most significant achievement is the 70th anniversary of founder Paul C. Fisher’s development of the original Bullet Space Pen.

A photo collage of the Bullet Pen and its packaging

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the development of the iconic original Bullet Space Pen.

The bullet pen, which is on display in the permanent collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art, remains one of the most popular pens of the 20th Century.

The other celebrated occasion of 2018 is the brand’s 50th anniversary of the Fisher AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen, which is the design used on the first manned Apollo mission and subsequent space flights.

The innovative design included a pressurized ink cartridge that prevented solvents from evaporating and allowed ink to flow upside down.

Fisher is marking the 50th anniversary with a limited edition commemorative set that will include a gold titanium pen, a medal, and the inscription of a quote from Apollo 7 flight crew member Walter Cunningham.

Matt Fisher, VP of Marketing & Sales at Fisher Space Pen, said the original Space Pen, like the Apollo missions, remains a lasting symbol of American technology and innovation.

A Family-Owned Business Proud of Its Made-in-America Brand

As a third-generation Fisher, Matt entered the family business with the explicit responsibility to carry on his grandfather Paul’s legacy. Matt was a just a young boy when he started accompanying his father Cary, Paul’s son and the business’ current president and co-owner, to the factory.

Matt Fisher, VP of Marketing & Sales at Fisher Space Pen, said he joined the business to continue his grandfather’s legacy.

“I started working here when I was 8 years old,” Matt said. “I worked every summer because my father always wanted me to learn how important it is to work hard.”

When Matt turned 16 and got his first car, he started working summer jobs elsewhere, taking the advice of his father to explore what other opportunities might exist. During college, though, Matt decided to get serious about joining the family business.

“My father started me back down all the way at the very bottom,” Matt said. “He has never really handed me anything — I had to work my way up and prove myself in every department. Eventually I worked my way up to the position I’m in now.”

Being family-owned and operated is a key component of the Fisher business, but the company also prides itself on the fact that it is the last American manufacturer of high-end pens.

“It’s significant for us,” Matt said, “because ‘made in the USA’ means reliability, functionality, and quality.”

And that reputation has spread across the globe as Fisher products are distributed to 52 countries and counting.

The Rugged, High-Quality Design Won’t Fail in Extreme Conditions

The fame and recognition that comes from producing a pen that’s been used in space, displayed in museums, and written into hit television shows can only help business so much. In the end, Fisher Space Pen continues to thrive because its products are reliable, rugged, and high-quality.

All Fisher pens are designed to function at temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit. They work wet, even underwater, write through grease, and don’t fail because of dust or grime. Almost every model is refillable and made from durable metal to last a lifetime.

A screenshot of a $5 pen and a $150 pen set side by side

Fisher makes quality pen products at prices ranging as low as $5 (left) up to $150 (right).

In addition to extreme outdoor enthusiasts, oil and gas field workers, and police departments, the military has been another loyal Fisher pens customer.

The company has even produced a special line of non-reflective pens so enemy combatants can’t spot troops by the light that would be cast off traditional Fisher pens.

The sleek metal design also attracts high-end consumers, with Fisher being a trusted name in gift-giving for those moving into corner offices.

And, because Fisher prices range from $5 for a stick pen all the way up to $150, more shoppers than ever can find the perfect, reliable, and reasonably-priced pen to suit their needs.

Because 95% of the company’s pens can be refilled, a customer can get years, even decades, of use out of nearly every model.

Continued Innovation as Technology Changes What We Use to Write

This year marks two major milestones for Fisher Space Pen — the 70th anniversary of the company’s founding and the 50th anniversary of its first use on a space flight. Matt said that, while the company will commemorate those achievements, it continues to look ahead to the future.

Matt and other Fisher representatives are traveling to Japan and India later this year to meet with distributors and learn more about those markets. The trip is part of a campaign to further the company’s global presence.

Fisher is also working to stay ahead of changes in technology. Now that laptops, tablets, and mobile phones are everywhere, fewer people are using pens to write. So, to stay ahead of the curve, Fisher has introduced several pens that feature a stylus for writing on a smartphone or tablet.

“The world is moving toward handheld devices rather than pens so we need to stay at the forefront by developing more technically savvy pens,” Matt said. “And that is a challenge we are continuing to work through.”

Over the years, Fisher has succeeded when faced with challenges. For example, in the 1980s, Matt’s grandfather had to reformulate the ink the company used after a chemical in it was banned.

What could have been a stumbling block inspired perseverance, and, as a result, the company has seen steady growth. Matt said that the same spirit of ingenuity is what will bring the brand into the future.

“Honestly, just being able to carry on my grandfather’s legacy is an honor I can’t put into words.”