It’s the day of the big test…you have prepared for weeks. You have butterflies in your stomach but it’s okay because you are ready to go. You even have two nicely sharpened pencils sitting on your desk. You begin the test and …SNAP…your pencil point breaks. Not to worry you have a back-up. As you reach for it, it begins to roll off your desk and hits the floor point down..ugh another pencil broken. What shall you do? You could pull out your penknife and whittle the tip to a nice point, but alas, you can’t have a pen knife in school are you crazy! ANd what would you do with the shavings? Suddenly it dawns on you, raise your hand and ask to use the classroom pencil sharpener. Crisis averted. You can now get back to that test.
We’ve all been there, and until recently I never knew who to thank. On this day in 1897 the first mechanical pencil sharpener was invented by John Lee Love, an African American inventor from Fall River, MA. John Lee Love designed the "Love Sharpener." Love's invention was the very simple, portable pencil sharpener that many artists still use. The pencil is put into the opening of the sharpener and rotated by hand, and the shavings stay inside the sharpener. Love's sharpener was patented on November 23, 1897 (U.S. Patent # 594,114). Prior to that invention pencils had to be sharpened with the ever handy pen knife. Similar to the way carpenter pencils (you know those funny rectangular ones) still are.
I don't know about you but I love a nice sharp No.2 pencil. In fact I hate to write with one when it gets even the slightest worn down. I still sketch card ideas with a pencil and even write out my grocery list with one. I know that I personally am glad I don't need to pick up all those shavings as well.
Since we are a group that promotes the lost art of the personal greeting I thought we should take a moment and thank Mr. Love for his brilliant invention. If you are really curious about the timeline of the pencil sharpener you can find a complete history of the mechanical pencil sharpener at the Early Office Museum website. While you are waiting for that site to load, sharpen your pencils to take some notes and smile at how easy it is!