Abilene News

Published 4:33 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 30 – By now, you all know that I love trivia. I recently saw a “Fun Fact” that stated, “In the United States, about 75% of pencils are painted yellow!” As the old saying goes, that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

The use of pencils dates back hundreds of years. Metal sticks made of lead were used by the ancient Egyptians and Romans to scratch messages on papyrus, an early form of paper. It is this early form that started us calling the medium lead. In fact, even though we have always referred to pencils as being “lead pencils” they do not contain lead at all.

In the early 1500s in England they started using graphite. As graphite started to dwindle, researchers started to search for a way to reconstitute graphite powder with other ingredients to make it go further.

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In 1662, in Germany powdered graphite was mixed with sulphur and other substances. Residual graphite is not poisonous, and graphite is harmless if swallowed. So, we can forget all those dire warnings about getting “lead poisoning” if we get stuck or marked by a pencil point.

The Italians first thought of wooden holders and came up with a carpenter's pencil that is used today. In 1790, an Austrian discovered a method of mixing powdered graphite with clay and forming the mixture into rods that was then fired in a kiln. This method of manufacture remains in use today.

American colonists imported pencils from Europe until after the American Revolution. It is believed that William Munroe, a cabinetmaker in Concord, MA, made the first American wood pencils in 1812. There were other entries into the pencil-making business, but Ebenezer Wood made the most lasting effort. He set out to automate the process and used the first circular saw in pencil production. Wood did not patent his process and gave the information to anyone who asked. One of those who “asked” was Eberhard Faber of New York, who became the leader in pencil production. That is a name we are very familiar with today.

On March 30, 1858, the first patent for attaching an eraser to the end of a pencil was issued. The metal band used to mate the eraser with the pencil is called a ferrule.

Now, to get back to the original statement that “75% of the pencils are painted yellow,” the tradition began in 1890 when the L. & C. Hardtmuth Company when they introduced their Koh-I-Noor brand named after the famous diamond. It was intended to be the world's best and most expensive pencil. The Koh-I-Noor was painted yellow. The color was distinctive and other companies soon copied it so that their pencils would be associated with this high-quality brand. As I look at the yellow pencils in my pencil cup, I see Dixon Oriole, PaperMate American, Skilcraft Bonded, and Venus.

Notable pencil users: Thomas Edison had his pencils specially made by Eagle Pencil. Each pencil was three inches long and thicker than standard pencils. John Steinbeck was an obsessive pencil user, using as many as 60 a day. Johnny Carson regularly played with pencils at his “Tonight Show” desk. These specially made pencils had erasers at both ends in order to avoid on-set accidents.

Friends And Neighbors

Jean and Shyrl Marston have returned home after a very relaxing week in Nags Head, NC. They were joined by their sister and aunt, Lois Mylum Hope.

On Sept. 26, Mt. Nebo Baptist Church celebrated Homecoming. Jeremy Harris, of Floyd, gave the message. It was wonderful to see Jeremy and all of the Harris family together. The service was very moving.

On Sept. 28, Violet Thackston and Glenda Ottaway, accompanied me to the Advisory Council meeting of the Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation, held at the Rustburg Cottage in Rustburg. I asked them to go with me to make a very special presentation. Violet, Glenda, and I are members of the Cardinal Quilt Guild of Prince Edward. As part of our on-going project to provide quilts to the children of the Patrick Henry Boys Girls Plantation we had the quilts ready for the girls at the Rustburg Cottage. (We have previously provided quilts to the girls at the Wylliesburg Cottage.) In addition to the quilts for the girls, we also took small quilts for the house parents' two small children.

But as a very special presentation, we made and donated a quilt to be used as a fund-raiser for the 50th Anniversary of the Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation in 2011. The Advisory Board members were thrilled to see and receive this quilt, as well as the quilts for the children. If anyone in the community does not know about the Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation, please give me a call and I will be happy to talk with you about it.

I note from the Prince Edward County Public School calendar that Sept. 27 was the end of the 1st six weeks so we should be seeing report cards on Oct. 7.

The Cardinal Quilt Guild of Prince Edward will hold their regular monthly meeting at 10 a.m. Tueday, Oct. 5, at the Douglas Presbyterian Church. All visitors, guests, and new members are welcome to join us. You do not have to be a skilled quilter to join this group.

Very Happy Birthday greetings go out to Madeline Slaydon who will be celebrating on Oct. 7.

A reminder that on Saturday, Oct. 9, from noon to 5 p.m., Douglas Presbyterian Church will be holding a Pork Barbecue. Come on out and enjoy a delicious barbecue sandwich, side dishes, drinks and dessert. In addition to the meal, there will be games, entertainment, and other activities.

In conjunction with the barbecue, there will be a quilt raffle benefiting Meals on Wheels. A beautiful quilt has been made by one our neighbors, Marilyn Philbrook. Tickets are $2 each. If you would like more information or to purchase raffle tickets, call Maureen at 434-223-9980 or Donna at 804-720-0287.

If you have any announcements or news that you would like to share, please call me at 223-2271 or e-mail me at kz5ro@kinex.net.