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Pencils - A Sketchy History!
This story appears in the issue of School LIVE.
Pencils have an interesting story of evolution, spread over 2000 years. Though their forms and designs have changed with the times, these pencils have been used to record information continuously for centuries.

Finding Graphite:

In the early 1500s, pure graphite was discovered in Borrowdale, England. At the time, its importance and usage was unknown. Later, people discovered that using graphite left marks darker and more consistent than those left by lead. The earliest usage of graphite came with marking numbers on the sheep so as to keep track of the herd. During this time, graphite was wrapped with a string and used as a writing tool.

Wooding The Graphite:

It was in 1567 when Conrad Gesner, a Swiss physician, and naturalist made a structural change to the pencil. It was noticed that writing with graphite wrapped with a string kept breaking the graphite. To make it durable and convenient, Gesner proposed the idea of casing the graphite in a wooden covering. 

The Glorious Grahite Sticks:

In 1662, Nuremberg (Germany) became the first place to begin the production of graphite sticks. They made these sticks with a mixture of graphite, sulphur, and antimony. Faber Castell (established in 1761) became the first of the many companies in Germany to start manufacturing pencils during the industrial revolution. By the 19th century, more companies got into manufacturing pencils. 

The French Revolution:

In November 1795, pencils got the French touch! It was French chemist Nicholas Jacques Conté, who patented the mixture of powdered graphite and clay. This mixture was then baked in a kiln which gave rise to our modern-day pencils.

American Homecoming:

Though the concept of casing the graphite material in a wooden casing came long back, the first-ever wooden pencil was made in America. In Massachusetts, a wooden cabinet maker William Monroe and his friend Ebenezer Wood are credited for making America’s first wooden pencil. The classic, hexagonal shape and design of their pencil remains in common use till date. 

Plugging the Pencil Eraser Combo:

In 1858, Hyman Lipman of Philadelphia patented the eraser and attached it to the pencil. These erasers were called ‘plugs’ but were not made of actual rubber. They were made from synthetic rubber or vinyl.

Adding Color To The Graphite Stick:

Staedtler, a German company owned by Johann Sebastian invented the first colored oil pastel pencil in 1834. By 1924, Faber Castell launched the first art color pencils which were then used by artists. Colored pencils were made of chalk, clay or wax mixed with binders and color pigments. 

Raising the red flag to identify the bullies.



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