Eduard Slavoljub Penkala

   Croatia can be justly proud of Eduard Slavoljub Penkala, the extraordinary inventor and innovator. He was a man with great energy and enthusiasm, whose aim was to make practical devices simpler, more useful and of a higher quality. In this book we pay tribute to him and to the legacy he left behind.

   Penkala was born on 20 April 1871 in Liptovsky St Mikulas (today in the Slovak Republic), to a Polish father and a Dutch mother. As a young boy he already showed great interest in solving technical problems and was always repairing something at home in his own small workshop. His parents urged him to become a doctor, and he enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine in Vienna. But he felt he had made the wrong choice, and eventually moved to Dresden where he studied chemistry and met his future wife, Emilija, a music student.

   The year following his graduation the young couple were married, and in 1900 they moved to Zagreb. Penkala found the city stimulating, and he soon became a high ranking official in the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Finance. He was later appointed Royal Technical Controller. To mark his loyalty to his new homeland he took on the Croatian name Slavoljub.

   In spite of his responsible job and growing family, Penkala spent many hours working on a variety of inventions, and on 24 January 1906 he registered the patent for an automatic pencil, a truly revolutionary innovation among writing instruments. Soon afterwards he met Edmund Moster, one of nine children of a much respected tradesman and steam mill owner. The Moster family's wealth had been earned by diligence and shrewdness, and Edmund and his brother Mavro immediately recognised the huge potential of Penkala's invention. In August 1906, Penkala and the Mosters set up a company for the purpose of manufacturing the automatic pencil, with the Mosters as principal financiers. Production began seven months later.

   The automatic pencil was an instant success in domestic and foreign markets. "Penkalomania" spread around the world, helped in no small way by a clever advertising logo depicting a friendly man with a pointed nose and big ear with an automatic pencil tucked behind it. The company diversified into other writing instruments and accessories patented by Penkala.  As the business grew, a second factory was set up in Berlin..

   Slavoljub Penkala not only continued to hold his demanding job at the Ministry, but began to develop a new idea. He was fascinated by the first flights of the Wright brothers and other pioneers of aviation, and became determined to design the first Croatian aircraft. As a result of an intensive study of aero-dynamics, he patented several inventions in that field, and construction of the parts for Penkala's aircraft began in 1909. In the spring of 1910 the aircraft was completed, and nearly all of Zagreb turned out to witness and cheer Penkala's first public flight.

   His interest in aviation in no way affected the Penkala company's business, and the Zagreb factory became one of the largest and most modern in Europe, thanks to its modern operating methods and the unprecedented care it took of its workers. New product lines were introduced, most notably the twist-mechanism pencil patented by Penkala in 1917.

   By the time Penkala set off on what was to be his last journey as Head Controller in January 1922, he had brought to fruition more than eighty inventions. Travelling in bad weather, he returned home exhausted, soaking wet and ill. The doctors diagnosed a severe case of pneumonia, and Penkala died on the day he was admitted to hospital,    at the tragically early age of fifty.

   He was at the peak of his creative powers, and how many of his ideas remained unrealised we will never know. Although Penkala's genius was never in doubt, it seems that over the last fifty years the public has forgotten that he was the golden link in the chain of twentieth-century patents of writing instruments and accessories, and that, due to his achievements, Croatia can rightly claim to have taken part in the development and civilisation of Europe.


                      Miroslav Tischler

About Eduard Slavoljub

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E.S. Penkala
Find out all about Eduard Slavoljub Penkala, the great inventor of writing instruments.


About the book
Read a few extracts from the forthcoming book.


Here you can order the book, pens, pencils, as well as spare parts.


Photo gallery
Many photographs of Penkala fountain pens and pencils and examples of advertisements from the old Penkala factory.