history of the pencil

Utterly Amazing Web Series: History of the Pencil


A web series chronicling the history and origins of popular stuff. In this episode of “The Utterly Amazing Web Series,” the history of the common, not so common pencil.

This video covers the etymology of the word “pencil” as well as the origin of graphite as a writing implement. It gives explanation as to how pencils write, muses on an early misunderstanding around the place of graphite on the periodic table, documents the creation of pencil lead from powdered graphite and clay – especially as a result of the French Revolution. It details the standard measure of modern pencil grades, reveals the history of modern pencil construction and manufacturing since The War of 1812, gives pencil use statistics in modern times, talks about the use of incensed cedar as the popular choice of casing material in modern American style pencils due to early 1900’s era deforestation, and reveals miscellaneous facts about the variety and assortment of pencils and accessories available to consumers in the present day.

Special thanks to the Early Office Museum and The Pencil Pages for assistance with images.


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