When Was the Pencil Invented?
Did you know that modern pencils owe it all to an ancient Roman writing instrument called a stylus? Scribes used this thin metal rod to leave a light, but readable mark on papyrus (an early form of paper).
Other early styluses were made of lead, which is what we still call pencil cores, even though they actually are made of non-toxic graphite. But pencil history doesn’t stop there…
Some 500 years ago, the merchants in the town of Cumberland, England, began marking their wares with a soft black stone called “graphite.” But this soft stone broke too easily, and stained the hand. Some unknown genius solved the problem by wrapping slender sticks of graphite with twine that was unwound as the graphite wore down.
Later, clay was mixed with the graphite to make it harder. Finally, in 1812, an American named William Monroe glued rods of molded graphite between tightly-fitting slats of wood—resulting in the first modern pencils. Another Concord native, famous author Henry David Thoreau, was also renowned for his pencil-making prowess.
The American pencil industry took off when The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (now Dixon Ticonderoga) and more pencil manufacturers started getting into the act and, towards the end of the 19th century, New York and New Jersey hosted several factories established by prominent German pencil manufacturers, including Faber-Castell, Eberhard Faber, Eagle Pencil Company (later Berol) and General Pencil Company.
The first mass-produced pencils were natural and unpainted to show off high-quality wood casings. But, by the 1890s, many pencil manufacturers started painting pencils and imprinting them with brand names.