Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Red lead

On January 3, 1888, Thomas Alva Edison wrote out a five-page list of “Things doing and to be done.” Among its items: “Red Lead pencils equal to graphite.”

As Henry Petroski notes in The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1989), Edison took his pencils seriously: “Edison’s pencils, which he ordered in lots of one thousand and always carried in his lower vest pocket, had very soft lead, were thicker than average, and were only about three inches long.” Graphite was one of the many materials Edison and his co-workers tested in the search for a suitable light-bulb filament.

I can find no evidence that Edison succeeded in his quest for a better red pencil. Not even an alchemist can turn wax into graphite.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

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