Trump’s fancy pens are made partly in China

Cross has pro­vided pens to U.S. pres­i­dents since the Ford ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - MATT O’BRIEN

It didn’t take long for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to start run­ning out of the cus­tom­made Cross pens he uses to sign ex­ec­u­tive or­ders.

“I think we’re go­ing to need some more pens, by the way,” he said on In­au­gu­ra­tion Day four weeks ago. Trump was hand­ing them out as sou­venirs for mem­bers of Congress who at­tended his first sign­ing cer­e­mony, jok­ing to the law­mak­ers that “the gov­ern­ment is get­ting stingy, right?”

The White House ex­pected its lat­est batch of 350 of the gold-plated pens to ar­rive 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, R.I. “My guess is he’s run­ning low.”

Cross pens have been sup­plied to pres­i­dents at least since the Ger­ald Ford ad­min­is­tra­tion, said Boss, whose great-grand­fa­ther bought the writ­ing in­stru­ments man­u­fac­turer a cen­tury ago.

The com­pany, sold to a pri­vate eq­uity firm in 2013, was once a ma­jor Rhode Is­land em­ployer but now makes most of its pens in China. It still tries to put an Amer­i­can im­print on the pres­i­den­tial pens, which are lac­quered and en­graved in China but go through their fi­nal assem­bly in Rhode Is­land us­ing a mix of do­mes­tic and for­eign parts.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama used the com­pany’s pricier Townsend model to sign the Af­ford­able Care Act in 2010 but later switched to the slim­mer Cen­tury II, the same felt-tipped model wielded by Trump when he signed an ac­tion last month ex­press­ing his in­tent to re­peal Obama’s health care law.

Trump’s tran­si­tion team or­dered its first 150 of the black-lac­quered pens be­fore the in­au­gu­ra­tion. The only fea­tures dis­tin- guish­ing Trump’s Cen­tury II pens from Obama’s are their en­graved sig­na­tures and their metal plat­ing: gold in­stead of chrome.

“It’s re­ally just a per­sonal pref­er­ence,” Boss said. “Ob­vi­ously, Trump loves gold.”

The White House didn’t re­turn emailed re­quests for com­ment this week about the cost of the pens and whether it mat­ters to Trump where the pens are made. The man­u­fac­turer’s sug­gested re­tail price is $115 per pen, but Boss said it’s sold to the White House through a third-party dis­trib­u­tor that is likely to have of­fered a dis­count.

The com­pany be­gan work­ing in Oc­to­ber to design its 2017 pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion pens for Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton, think­ing she would be pres­i­dent. When Trump won Novem­ber’s elec­tion, the com­pany and its dis­trib­u­tor dropped their work with the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and sent sam­ples to the Trump team in­stead.

Boss said the com­pany hasn’t re­ceived much push­back over its work with Trump, who has used Cross pens to sign or­ders that have tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended the na­tion’s refugee pro­gram, blocked travel from seven Mus­lim-ma­jori- ty coun­tries and ex­panded im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, among other things.

Boss said he thinks Trump “could prob­a­bly pol­ish him­self a lit­tle more and be a lit­tle more states­man­like.” But he said the com­pany has sup­plied pens to pres­i­dents of both par­ties.

“To me it doesn’t mat­ter whether the pres­i­dent is a Repub­li­can or a Demo­crat. Just hav­ing a pres­i­dent us­ing our pens is pretty cool,” Boss said. “I’d much rather him us­ing our pens than some­body else’s.”


A.T. Cross cus­tom-made pens for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, top, for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama, mid­dle, and for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, bot­tom.

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