A History of The Presidential Signing Pen (clip)

The afternoon commute often can be long and tedious, so I often listen to NPR to pass the time. One of my favorite programs by far is All Things Considered, which highlights various viewpoints on current topics. In light of President Obama’s signing of the Health Care Reform Bill the reporter talked about a little known tradition surrounding  bill signing.

This tradition is that of the personalized presidential pen, which according to Time Magazine was begun by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and then symbolically gave away 75 presidential pens to Congress members and others who had supported him on the bill. The first pen he gave away was to Martin Luther King Jr.

Apparently this process can be very long, because the president has to actually sign the bill with each individual pen, sometimes one letter at a time. Obama only used 22 pens for this bill, but imagine when LBJ had to use 75 for his signature! I like a good ceremony, but this one seems painstakingly long. Many of these pens stay with the original recipient but many are housed in presidential museums.

The Associated Press has a YouTube clip which I will embed below, which shows him physically signing the bill: