Harry Truman is believed to have been the first United States President to use the autopen as a way of responding to mail and signing cheques. Autopen devices are used today by politicians and fundraisers to sign letters to constituents written by administrative assistants and clerical staff, and by celebrities such as movie stars, music stars and astronauts to sign photographs. A company named Studio Fanmail uses autopens to reproduce celebrity autographs onto pictures of the celebrity.
The reason for employing an autopen is typically emotive, intended to form a compromise between making every signature by hand, which can take up a great deal of time for the signer, and printing a digital scan of the autograph, which can be felt impersonal by the recipient.
Today's autopens are often used to allow someone to be in two places at once. A politician can be travelling while his staff sign letters on his behalf. Donald Rumsfeld used an autopen to sign letters to the families of people killed in action. When questioned on the subject, he stated it was inappropriate and began to sign the letters personally. Queen Elizabeth II typically signs Christmas cards by autopen.
Further developing the class of devices known as autopens, Canadian author Margaret Atwood developed a device called the Longpen, which allows audio and video conversation between the fan and author while a book is being signed remotely.
Wielding Power and Prestige With the Stroke of an Autopen; Signature Device, After Role in HUD Scandal, Becomes Status Symbol
Aug 22, 1989; Workers at the Department of Housing and Urban Development say they quickly realized that Deborah Gore Dean, executive assistant...