An ancient Roman writing instrument, the stylus, gave rise to the modern pencil. Some early styluses were made of lead. When graphite was documented in Borrowdale, England, in 1564, the mineral replaced the heavy metal. Graphite left a darker mark on papyrus, but it was so soft that it crumbled easily. To protect the graphite, a holder had to be fashioned for it. The first holders were nothing more than string wound around graphite sticks. Later, hollow wooden sticks replaced the string, and the early modern pencil made its historical debut, its mass production following in 1662 in Nuremberg, Germany.
Although Henry David Thoreau made his own pencils, the first one to be machine-made was manufactured by William Monroe in 1812, when war with England put an end to English imports. By the end of the 19th century, pencils were being mass-produced in the United States. Made of red cedar, they weren’t painted until 1890, the better to exhibit their fine finish. When they began to be painted, bright yellow was chosen because the color is associated with Chinese royalty, and the finest graphite came from China. Yellow pencils signified the royal quality of the mineral.
Who would have ever suspected that the wooden pencil had been around that long? Not I, certainly ! Another surprising fact from the folks over at Listverse ! Thank you again !
Coffee out on the patio again this morning, OK?