White House Narrowly Avoids Custom Pen Crisis
The first four weeks of Donald Trump's presidency have been busy, to say the least, but things almost reached a tipping point last week. No, we're not talking about Trump's impromptu press conference—we're talking about a presidential pen shortage.
The Associated Press reported that Trump's transition team ordered 150 gold-plated pens before Inauguration Day. Trump used the pens, engraved with his signature, to sign his first flurry of executive orders, but gave many of them away as souvenirs for officials who attended his first signing ceremony. (NPR has an anecdote about Trump trolling House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by offering her the pen he used to nominate Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pelosi opposed Pruitt's nomination.)
"I think we're going to need some more pens, by the way," Trump joked at the signing ceremony. "The government is getting stingy, right?"
Fast forward to last week, and it appeared that the custom pen shortage was no laughing matter. Via the Associated Press:
The White House expected its latest batch of 350 of the gold-plated pens by Friday. They were shipped Wednesday by the 170-year-old New England company that has supplied its fancy pens to at least seven U.S. presidents. But Trump might be the first to make brandishing a pen and showing off each newly signed order such a definitive part of his governing style.
"He absolutely, positively, had to have them by Friday," said Andy Boss, who manages business gift sales for A.T. Cross Co., based in Providence, Rhode Island. "My guess is he's running low."
A.T Cross Co., which does business as Cross, supplies custom pens to the promotional products industry in addition to its retail sales. Boss indicated to the Associated Press that the Trump team purchases its pens through a distributor. And, apparently, both Cross and the distributor delivered in a big way—the pens arrived on time (with two-day shipping, no less). Crisis averted.
Could Trump have used generic pens to sign his executive orders? Maybe. But that would diminish the strategic value of Trump's televised and publicized signing ceremonies—events designed to project the kind of confidence, power and populist access that propelled Trump into office. To Trump, the details matter. A basic pen wouldn't be very presidential.
The original Associated Press story appeared in numerous major news outlets, including The Seattle Times, Fortune and AOL. And it's nice to see the promo industry in the spotlight for its critical if overlooked role in keeping American democracy running.
Cross wouldn't reveal the distributor who fulfilled the order, but told Promo Marketing the distributor is based in the Washington, D.C. area. A Cross representative also noted that the pen Trump uses differs slightly from the standard version (beyond the engraved signature), featuring a medium-point refill variation rather than a fine-point.
If you're the heroic distributor that delivered the presidential pens, email us! We want to hear more about it. For everyone else, here's the video of the Associated Press report: