Vintage Item Spotlight: Lyndon Baines Johnson Bill Pen…Part 1

lbj-s503-pen-1By David G. Firestone

It dawns on me I should use this blog more often. So what I’m going to do is every other week, I will take a vintage item, and analyze it up close. The Driver Suit Blog will be for racing items, this will be for everything else.lbj-s503-pen-1

For the first part of this new blog, we will take a look at a Lyndon Baines Johnson bill pen, used to sign a legislative bill in 1965.lbj-s503-pen-2

The pen is an Esterbrook crystal fountain pen, which, in addition to LBJ was used by John F. Kennedy, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. This particular style was used for a number of high profile bill signings, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. This particular pen was used to sign S. 510, “An act to extend and otherwise amend certain expiring provisions of the Public Health Service Act to community health services, and for other purposes.”

The pen is clear, with THE PRESIDENT THE WHITE HOUSE engraved on the side.lbj-s503-pen-3The steel fountain pen tip has ink remnants from that signing still present on the pen over 49 years later, which adds to its mystique. This 49 year old ink on this 49 year old pen changed the United States of America and affected all of the citizens within it.lbj-s503-pen-4Pens such as these are highly desired by collectors…but how do collectors get them?  Here is a simplified version of how a bill signing works in the United States:  The House and Senate pass the bill, and the bill goes to the President who signs the bill.  In a media ceremony, the President signs a number of copies of the bill, each with a different pen, and then gives the pen to individuals who helped pass the bill, Senators, Representatives, and private citizens alike.  These pens are treasured by the recipients, but often times, after the recipients pass away, or if they need some extra money, they will sell them to collectors.

Many examples of “bill signer” pens exist on eBay and other collector sites where it is unclear if it was used to sign legislation.  Those pens that actually have signed legislation command a much higher price, and are very highly desired by collectors.  Benjamin Franklin once said “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and this pen is a perfect example of that.

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1 Comment

  1. […] you may remember, a few weeks ago, we discussed a Lyndon Baines Johnson Esterbrook pen, used to sign S. 510 in 1965, well we will […]


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