18 December 2012

A brief history of the pencil business

[In the mid-1500s] a storm in the northern English town of Borrowdale uprooted an oak tree, revealing a dark substance that local shepherds started using to mark their flocks. Before long, chunks of graphite were being sold around Europe as an amazing new way of writing.

Scribblers initially wrapped "black lead" in string to protect it and keep fingers clean. Soon, joiners began crafting wooden holders for ever-smaller slivers of the increasingly expensive carbon. The first man known to have registered a pencil business was the Nuremberg carpenter Friedrich Staedtler.
A 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal detailed the long and sometimes acrimonious history of lead  pencil production by rival firms Staedtler Mars GmbH and Faber-Castell AG

There's a well-done, interesting video at the link, but I can't seem to locate an embed code for it.  A tip of the hat to reader pom, who found the embed code -


  1. My family history book shows an ancestor recorded as a pencil maker in Birmingham in 1777!

  2. [iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="512" height="288" src="http://live.wsj.com/public/page/embed-4951BAF1_1F0A_47FF_88C0_350964106339.html"></iframe]


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