National Pencil Day
Pencils in their modern form have been around for hundreds of years, but they still don’t get the attention they deserve. They helped generations of people practice their writing skills and then when handwriting became less common, many people stopped using them altogether. Fortunately, despite digital media, many people depend on pencils for writing down measurements, learning to write, or for even writing a grocery list. So let’s take a moment to honor the humble pencil by celebrating its invention and continued use on National Pencil Day-a holiday that is celebrated annually on March 30th.
The History Of The Pencil
All throughout history, people have used various implements for writing. Sometimes this was a piece of charcoal or chalk, and other times it was a solid core of lead. The ancient Romans used a stylus, made out of thin metal, that they used for scratching into wax or papyrus tables. However, the first modern pencils didn’t come into existence until the 16th century.
In the early 1500s, a vein of graphite was discovered in Cumbria, England. This vein was solid enough that it could be sawed into strips. This substance was first thought to be lead, and that’s why it was called “plumbago,” a Latin word that means lead-ore. This had led to the misconception to this day that the substance in pencils is lead, when in fact it’s graphite.
In 1560, Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti made the blueprints for the first wood-encased carpentry pencil. Their plan involved carving two juniper wood halves, inserting a stick of graphite between them, and then gluing the halves together. This is a pencil-making method that is still in use today. Over the years, there would be various improvements made to the pencil, but it would be until the mid-19th century that the most remarkable improvement was put into use. This improvement was adding an eraser to the end of a pencil.
On March 30, 1858, the first patent for attaching an eraser to the end of the pencil was granted to Hymen Lipman. In 1862, he would then sell his patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for a tidy sum of $100,000. Reckendorfer would go on to sue pencil manufacturer Faber-Castell for infringement of the eraser patent. In 1875, Reckendorfer was ruled against by the Supreme Court of the United States and his patent was declared invalid.
National Pencil Day falls on March 30th because that’s the date that Lipman received the patent for attaching an eraser on a pencil and thereby constructing one of the first truly modern pencils. We’re unsure who decided that this holiday should be observed, but we’re glad they did because it draws much-needed attention to the pencil.
Observing National Pencil Day
Learning more about the history of the pencil or using the hashtag #NationalPencilDay on social media are both great ways of observing this holiday. Another great way to observe this holiday is by taking the time to draw or write with a pencil. Write a letter to a friend in pencil or do some pencil art on this day and let us bring the pencil back into the spotlight.