A #2 PENCIL AND A DREAM
CAN TAKE YOU ANYWHERE
The economic value of graphite was huge and the Royal Family knew it. They took over and guarded all the graphite mine deposits in the kingdom. But crude pencils were still made out of graphite sticks smuggled out of the mines. For years England maintained a monopoly on the production of stick pencils.
In 1795, Frenchman Nicholas Conte discovered a method of mixing graphite powder with clay and baking it in a kiln. By changing the ratio of powder and clay, the hardness of the pencil rod could be varied, thus giving us the wide range of pencil softness we have today. Sixty years later, Hymen Lipan invented the attached eraser fixed to the end of the pencil; although outside of America, people use pencils without attached erasers.
Many famous people chose pencils over pens. Benjamin Franklin sold pencils, George Washington surveyed with them; John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Vladimir Nabokov only wrote with pencils, and Henry David Thoreau actually designed pencils before becoming a recluse; his father owned a pencil making company.
Here is some interesting pencil trivia for you:
The average pencil holds enough graphite to draw a line 35 miles long or write 45,000 words, depending on how often and how much you sharpened it. (We wonder who tested this theory?)
Eberhard Faber built the first American factory to mass-produce pencils in 1861. Just in time to make pencils standard issue for every Union soldier during the Civil War.
Today, more than half of all lead pencils are made in China. They produce about 7 billion per year. (Enough so that each Chinese person can have their own)
Early American space missions included pencils among their tools but scientists were worried about the inflammability of wooden pencils in a pure oxygen environment. After the Apollo I fire, pencils were banned in favor of pens.
If you accidently stab yourself with a pencil point, don’t worry about lead poisoning. Lead pencils have never contained lead; only clay and graphite. BUT until a few years ago, the yellow paint used on the pencil may have contained lead, so it shouldn’t be chewed on.
The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser. So take heart, optimism is not dead.