An Administration Remembered, Stationery-Style

(Photo credits: in order clockwise from top left: A reporter takes notes while President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom speak to the press in the Oval Office, March 3, 2009, Photo by Pete Souza;Pens to be used by President Barack Obama are set on the signing table with the bill prior to the signing of H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 22, 2014, Photo by Amanda Lucidon; The place-setting for attendees of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet meeting to discuss the economic recovery effort in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 8, 2009, Photo by Samantha Appleton; resident Barack Obama’s place is set at the table prior to the State Dinner for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in the East Room of the White House, April 28, 2015, Photo by Chuck Kennedy. )

Over the years, I’ve frequently used photos of President Barack Obama writing as examples of an overwriting lefthander because of the tireless work of the staff photographer (usually Pete Souza) in the White House who has spent the last eight years photographing just about every time President Obama signed anything. And thankfully, the photos have been available for use by the press on the White House Flickr feed, now archived as the Obama White House feed.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite pen related photo over the years. I’ve spent much time trying to figure out exactly what pens are used for the signing of legislation (I’m assuming either Parker or Sheaffer) and admiring the occasional photos of the handlettered place cards for luncheons and state dinners.

And that photo at the top left of the reporter who still writes in shorthand?!? That was back in 2009 but still! Pretty cool. I always like to see how other people work and live especially in such a world in which they meet foreign leaders, visit other countries and still occasionally dig in dirt, go for burgers and play basketball and manage to do it all under a microscope and smile through it all. I don’t think I pull that off. But I guess if I got all those pens, I’d sure try.

(Photo credits: in order clockwise from top left: Close-up detail of President Obama’s signature on a bill, and a pen used for the signing, aboard Air Force One on a flight from Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, Col. to Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 17, 2009, Photo by Pete Souza; President Barack Obama signs a United States name plate at the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2014, Photo by Pete Souza; President Barack Obama writes a response to one of the ten letters he receives each day from the White House Correspondence office on Saturday, July 25, 2009, Photo By Pete Souza; A copy of the menu sits on a table following the Congressional Spouses Luncheon, May 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton).

These photos are official White House photographs and are made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way or used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

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9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for the photos. I got an email with a link to Mr. Souza’s photos as the official White House photographer. There were so many, so I never got to the ones you posted.

    I’d like to have one of those pens!

    I’m curious, and don’t know if you can answer, but is one style of left-handed writing more common? Like do more lefties overwrite? My brother is left handed, but I don’t know his style.

    1. I’m not sure the percentage of overwriting to underwriting left-handed writers. My personal experience puts it about 50-50 though with a slight dominance toward over- and side-writing. My opinion is that it’s because most lefties are taught to write by right-handed writers so they tend try to mirror the angles which result in the unusual angles.

  2. Thank you. I cherish my letters from the president although the signatures could very well be stamps. “He” answered each time I wrote. His sig is one of the best I’ve ever seen from a leftie. 😀

    I’d like one of the fountain pens he used. Yum!

  3. The signature pens look like they are Cross Townsend models (not Sheaffer’s or Parker pens), a tray of what seem to be ballpoint twist-action pens and a capped rollerball are pictured. If I am not mistaken, all U.S. Presidents from Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama have used pens manufactured by the Rhode Island based A.T. Cross Company as signature pens. Last night after his inauguration, President Donald J. Trump signed some appointment and legislation documents with what appeared to be a tray of capped felt-tipped pens. Cross does make felt-tipped refills that fit their rollerball models, so there is a good chance the pens were (once again) Townsend models.

    1. The Cross Townsend is the “Official” pen used for signing documents. A similar model is available in the White House gift shop either in DC or online. Most, if not all presidents have used the Mont Blanc 149 as their personal pens.

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