Pencil Day

What do some of the world’s greatest minds have in common with the rest of us average folk?  The pencil.

Today is the little known day of the ubiquitous writing utensil.

A descendant of the Greek stylus, the graphite pencil was once so sought after that in the 1700s workers smuggled graphite out of mines to be made into pencils.  After all, the pencil can write anytime, anywhere: under water, in space, doesn’t matter (not that 18th century mine workers needed to write in space).

The Italians were the first to encase the graphite in juniper wood (before that it was wrapped in sheepskin or string); in 1858 the eraser was attached to one in with a metal band called a ferrule (who knew?).

Pencil scarf (linked to a now dead page)

Why are they yellow?  By 1890 most pencils manufactured for the U.S. were yellow in color because yellow suggested the exotic quality of the Orient.

Benjamin Franklin advertised pencils in his Pennsylvania Gazette, and don’t you think he would have loved this scarf?

Thomas Edison custom ordered his from Eagle, and John Steinbeck first wrote everything he published with a pencil.

So where does the pencil stand now?

My theory is that if you enjoyed school as a kid, you love the pencil as an adult.  Simple and traditional, the basic pencil represents childhood and learning.  Every August when school supplies are prominently featured in stores everywhere, I get the overwhelming, nostalgic urge to buy all those cool pencils that I would have loved as a kid.

Speaking of, ten-year-old me would have been too mortified to wear these socks.

Now me thinks they’re fantastic and is rather sorry I didn’t come up with the idea first.

Happy Pencil Day!


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