Jonas Trepanier contributing to the Researcher
You use them almost every day, maybe even every day, but have you ever thought about where the pencil comes from? I’d be very surprised if you knew too much of anything relating to the graphite-wielding wood rods we call pencils.
We owe the pencil to an old Roman tool known as the stylus. The stylus was a metal rod that used lead to leave marks on papyrus (early paper). Graphite, the material modern pencils use, became widespread in 1564, England. The material was valued for the darker marks it left on the paper and became used instead of lead. Although graphite left a better visible mark on the papyrus, it was very brittle and soft, thus they decided to use wood to keep the graphite in and the wood-covered pencil was born.
America’s first wooden pencil was created by William Monroe in 1812, after trade with Britain ceased (note the year). Monroe lived in Boston and used his skills as a cabinet maker to create the first American Pencil. The company Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (now Dixon Ticonderoga), and other companies help push the mass production of pencils to the world and by the 19th century an active pencil industry had formed.
Here is a fun story about why pencils are yellow. Originally the pencil was unpainted to show off higher quality wood. In the 1800’s the highest quality of graphite came from China, pencil marketers wanted a way to advertise that they used Chinese graphite, to get better sales. Koh-I-Noor, a European marketer, created a yellow pencil because in China the color yellow represented royalty and respect, and the tradition caught on.
And that’s the history of the pencil, below are some facts I thought were interesting while researching. If you want to learn more about pencils, or if you're just bored you can go to pencils.com (yes that’s a real thing).
Pencils: Interesting Facts