Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting to the Point

My sidebar says today is Pencil Day. Since I am a total writing instrument geek, I wanted to dig into this one a bit, and do you know what I found? No one agrees on when, exactly, Pencil Day is. Furthermore, there isn't even agreement on the name of the day to celebrate this most taken-for-granted tool.

One source has it listed as being #2 Pencil Day, celebrated on August 17th, though it doesn't list why.

Another source has it listed as Pencil Day, a one-time event held on December 11, 2007 as part of a campaign to support the Writer's Guild of America strike (the one that made us - and the networks - realize the true geniuses behind our favorite shows). 

Still another source says Free Pencil Day is celebrated annually on March 30, in honor of the first patent on the modern pencil.

And then there is the source that gave me November 19th as the official Pencil Day, and listed the invention date as 1895.

Well, I don't know about you, but that many discrepancies bug me. However, let's just agree to disagree on date and name, and move on to some cool stuff about pencils:

Pencil Facts
  • Once pencil can write 45,000 words, or draw a line 35 miles long.
  • A pencil can write in zero gravity, upside-down, or underwater.
  • "Lead" in the pencil is actually non-toxic graphite. 
  • Modern pencils come in over 350 varieties - each designed for a specific use.
  • Pencils have been mass-produced in Europe since 1622.
  • The first U.S. pencils were made in 1812.

Pencil Ancestry?
  • 1565 marks the first record of a pencil, documented by Conrad Gesner, created from a piece of graphite fitted into a wood casing.
  • In 1795, N.J. Conte produced a crude prototype of a pencil using a pulverized graphite base.
  • A patent was issued to Hymen Lipman on March 30, 1858 for a pencil with one writing end and one eraser end.

Pencil Trivia
  • Do you know why 75% of all pencils are yellow? During the 1800's, the best graphite came from China, whose people associate yellow with royalty and respect. Therefore, a pencil painted yellow became known as the best money could buy.
  • Are there left-handed pencils? Maybe, according to the Dixon Ticonderoga Company (who makes my all-time fave pencil for writing - yellow, #2 5/10). They say that on a right-handed pencil, the imprinted words read from the point to the eraser. Just the opposite for a lefty pencil.
  • Pencil markings don't fade in sunlight.

I know. You feel totally enlightened now, don't you? So go out there and enjoy what's left of Pencil Day...whenever it is.

Sources (in addition to the links above):

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