The Remarkable History of the Pencil


NPR recently explored the history of the pencil. What they came up with is a fascinating story, which goes back hundreds of years. In fact graphite, the mineral used in pencils that we still call “lead”, goes back even further — all the way to the very beginning of the universe.

If you have a few spare moments, check out their story and the video below. I don’t think you have to be an office supply geek like us to find it fascinating.

Pencils were originally painted to help mask the low quality of their wood — only the fanciest pencils went unvarnished. But at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, an Austro-Hungarian pencil company unveiled a new luxury pencil. It was made with the finest materials and named Koh-I-Noor after the largest diamond known at that time — a diamond that would soon adorn the British crown. And this finest of pencils was painted yellow — perhaps to honor the empire’s flag. The marketing strategy worked, at first. Yellow came to be associated with quality. But soon, copycats were painting their pencils yellow too.

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Greg Bussmann
About Greg Bussmann 339 Articles
Greg Bussmann is a Marketing Specialist at Office Essentials. He is a lifelong, proud St. Louisan, a technology enthusiast, and father to four teenage daughters. He spends his spare time providing rides, chaperoning dates and trying to keep track of his credit cards. He also enjoys watching the St. Louis Cardinals when it's his turn to use the remote. Email Greg anytime.