Have you ever wondered why pencils have a yellow color, what they are made of, and how they came into our world? If you did, this is the right place to be. Back in 1858, Hymen L. Lipman made and patented the very first pencil. At that point, a single pencil with an eraser cost $100,000!

Considering how many fortunes are spent on little things that now come at almost no price, it is understandable how such an invention raised high interest in people. Not long after this, the pencil became the favorite instrument for writing in the world. Right now, it already comes in various forms, sizes and even colors, with a myriad of accessories that come with it.

After the eraser that took part in an item called a pencil, people came up with individual erasers, pencil sharpeners, and even an industrial pencil sharpener to make things that much easier. The story behind this tool is very interesting, and naturally, there are plenty of items you can choose from for your pencil collection. And while you can read hundreds of electric pencil sharpener reviews and select the best electric pencil sharpener for you, there’s still a lot you don’t know about the actual writing instrument.

This article won’t tell you what’s the best electric pencil sharpener for the classroom or tell you which pencil eraser is the best you can get. Instead, we will tell you about some extraordinary facts related to pencils. Enjoy!

1. The Word Has a Latin Origin

The word ‘pencil’ has a Latin origin. It comes from the word penicillus, which means ‘little tail.’

2. Pencils are the Reason Why We Have ‘Rubber’

Erasers became an accessory for pencils in 1858. Before that, writers used to carry around baguettes wherever they went. A stale baguette could be easily turned into breadcrumbs, which were the erasers before the actual pencil ‘rubber’ came along.

It is said that the first eraser made of rubber was used by accident. When a writer tried to reach for the baguette crumbs to erase something, he accidentally picked up a sample of the Para tree – the caoutchouc. This substance erased the pencil marks off of his paper almost instantly and better than anything else he had tried. From that moment, the rubber was introduced in our world.

3. Traditional Pencils are Yellow

If you paid attention, you’ve probably noticed that most pencils are yellow. Even though nowadays pencils come in many colors and shapes, yellow pencils used to be a tradition in the past. Since the late 1800s, pencil tycoons needed their customers to know that the pencils were made of high-quality lead, which is why they chose the color that was associated with the Chinese royalty – yellow.


4. NASA Tried to Send Pencils in Space

According to a Scientific American report, NASA ordered mechanical pencils back in 1965. They paid $128.89 per pencil to Houston’s Tycam Engineering Manufacturing, or a total of $4.382.50 to devolve a ‘space-pen.’ Pencils are quite versatile and can be used upside down, underwater, and in zero gravity, so it is no wonder why NASA decided to tap into this amazing potential. However, after the huge public outcry when the Apollo 1 cabin went under fire in 1967, pencils were literally grounded because they are considered ‘too flammable.’

5. Pencil Sharpeners Had People Arrested

During World War II, the rotary sharpeners for pencils were literally banned in Great Britain. The use of graphite and wood in them was considered excessive, which is why people who owned a pencil sharpener were arrested and even imprisoned. In other words, if you lived at that time and your pencil was blunt, you’d have to sharpen it with a knife.

6. No Lead in the Pencil Lead

Some believe that if you stab someone with a pencil, you are at risk of lead poisoning. This isn’t true. A pencil does not contain lead, but a combination of graphite and clay. Still, you’d get a lawsuit if you intentionally stab people with them!

7. How Pencils Work

The marks made by pencils are done by the graphite flecks which are just thousandths of one inch wide. When you use the pencil, these small flecks stick to the paper fibers.

8. Americans Sell More Pencils with Eraser Tips than Europeans

No one knows the real reason behind this, but most of the pencils sold in America nowadays have an eraser tip, while those in Europe rarely have one. People in Europe simply buy a separate eraser to use with their pencils.

9. An Average Pencil Can Write around 45.000 Words

Ever wondered how much you can actually write with a single pencil? An average pencil can draw one line that is around 35 miles in length, or write 45.000 words. No one has really tested this statistic, so it is just an estimate based on the graphite contained in a pencil.


10. Pencils Were Part of the Basic Equipment during the Civil War

During the Civil War, Union soldiers used pencils as part of their most basic equipment.

11. Hemingway and Thoreau Wrote with Pencils

Hemingway had a big love for pencils, and he wasn’t shy about sharing it. Henry David Thoreau used a pencil to write the popular Walden, most likely because his father owned a business for making pencils in Boston.

12. Most Pencils are made in China

Back in 2004, the factories in China made 10 billion pencils, which can easily circle the earth over 40 times.

13. The World’s Largest Pencil

The largest pencil in the world is called Castell 9000. It is currently on display near Kuala Lumpur, at its manufacturer’s plant. It is 65 feet high and made of polymer and Malaysian wood.


Did you know any of these interesting facts about pencils? Pencils have been a part of our world for a long time and based on what you’ve just learned; it is no wonder why they are so popular and irreplaceable among humans.