Throwback Thursday Object: Pen Used to Sign into Law the 1961 Amendment to the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind

Pen and Ink Well from 1961 Kennedy signing Federal Quota bill into law

When laws are signed in Washington, frequently several pens are used and awarded to the participants as souvenirs. Our object this week is an interesting pen and pen holder (a dip-less fountain well) of clear & black lucite made by the Esterbrook Pen Company in New Jersey.  A silver plate on the pen holder is inscribed "On Sept 22, 1961 President John F. Kennedy Used This Pen To Sign Public Law 87-294, An Amendment to the Act to Promote The Education of the Blind." The pen is stamped, “The President, The White House.”

The pen was given to Finis Davis, superintendent of the Printing House at the time the bill was signed. The amendment authorized semiannual payment of the annual appropriation, allowed a reasonable sum of the appropriation to be used for salaries and expenses of experts and staff assisting special committees, stated that the ex-officio trustees are members of the Board of Trustees only for purposes of administering this Act, and struck out "the sum not to exceed $400,000" and replaced it with "such sum as the Congress may determine." The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind was originally passed in 1879. It was only the second piece of federal legislation addressing special education (the first created Gallaudet University). The Act originally created a fund of $10,000 from which students across the U.S. could draw to get accessible educational materials from APH. The fund, we call it the “Federal Quota”, had been enlarged several times over the ensuing 82 years, but by 1961, Congress realized it needed the flexibility to adjust the fund’s size without amending the Act on an annual basis.

By FY2014, the Federal Quota Fund was authorized at $24.5 million and served over 60,000 students nationwide.


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