The Dastardly Past: on this day, the pencil.

The Dastardly Past:  on this day, the pencil.

chandler_2624086b Raymond Chandler with pipe in mouth and pencil poised.

In the olden days, writing mysteries (or anything else) wasn’t even possible without a pad and pencil.  Even today, many authors prefer the flexibility of outlining, brainstorming, writing, editing, or revising with a pencil in their hands.  And with pencils come erasers.  Naturally.  We don’t even think about it.  Before the 1850s, however, we’d have had to.

Pencils and erasers were two separate items until Hyman L. Lipman, a stationer in Philadelphia, came up with the idea of combining them.  (He was a wizard of a stationer, also establishing the first envelope company in the United States.)  Lipman received a patent for his idea on March 30, 1858.  His model differed from today’s Ticonderogas in the placement of the eraser.  Rather than using a metal collar to attach a rubber tip to the end of a pencil, he actually inserted the rubber into one end of the hollow core that held the lead.  Despite this difference, he was onto something.  So much so that it’s hard to even imagine life without it.

hymen_lipman_patent