The ads from circa 1911 showed the benefits of the Blaisdell Paper Pencils: when the tip gets worn out all the user needed to do is unwrap a little more of the pencil, and another tip is made. These self-sharpening pencils were not the first ones on the market – those came out from a discovery of graphite, mistakenly called lead, in England in the mid-16th century. For a while, the UK held a monopoly on graphite and pencils, but by the late 19th century they reached across Europe and into the United States.
On this day, November 18, in 1895, Frederick E. Blaisdell of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was granted patent No. 549,952 for a paper pencil, (the type better known as “china markers” today) as well as patent number 550,212 for a machine for manufacturing pencils.
There was something about the pencil that attracted the brightest minds to it. Thomas Edison was well known to prefer Eagle Pencil, producing especially for him a model thicker and softer than their usual offerings. The author Vladimir Nabokov wrote all manuscripts (usually several times over) in pencil, as did John Steinbeck, who reportedly went through as much as 60 pencils in a day. And the Artists Vincent Van Gogh went on record as saying he preferred only Faber pencils, for their “capital black.”