Ads From The 1800s

After a move, a job change, and another baby on the way - I am back!  Sorry for the long hiatus, but I am hoping to keep up a bit more with Ads From The 1800s! 

This Planetary Pencil Pointer Advertisement has to be one of my favorites!  I find myself snickering every time I read the tag line: Now a woman can sharpen a pencil.  Because she couldn't before?  Apparently not!  I know every time I need a pencil sharpened, I ask my husband to do it.  I suppose whittling was "un-ladylike" and downright "dangerous" for a woman to do.  I suppose I like to live on the edge since I do my fair share of whittling here and there. 


This is a great advertisement on a number of levels.  Much like some of the other featured advertisements, this gives us a look into the culture and social norms of the day.  We quickly learn that sharpening pencils (or other writing implements) involved sandpaper, knives, and files; this was not something undertaken by those of the fairer sex.  Furthermore, we hear a term that you don't generally find today - a "draughting room" (see below).  "Draughting" is the older spelling of our modern-day "drafting," and a "draughting room" was a place where drafters would compose plans explaining how various pieces of machinery function or how to construct something.  It was basically their place of work. 

Here is a page from American Engineer and Railroad Journal, Volume 77 describing some particular draughting rooms, namely those associated with the railroad ("What Motive Power Officers Are Thinking About):

Now that I am done with that digression, here is a bit more about this particular pencil sharpener.  Many different types of pencil sharpeners were being manufactured in the second half of the 19th century.  These included abrading machines, machines with milling cutters, machines with blades, etc.  Many of these devices weighed over 5 pounds!  Not exactly portable!  Here is a quote from The Early Office Museum, describing this particular sharpener: "The A. B. Dick Planetary Pencil Pointer was patented in 1896 and sold until the mid-1910s. Unlike the Gem and Perfect, which were designed so that the pencil revolved, this antique pencil sharpener held the pencil stationary while two milling disks described what is known as 'planetary motion' around the end of the pencil. Like a planet, which revolves about its own axis while it orbits the sun, the cutters on a Planetary revolve about their axes while they orbit the tip of the pencil. This motion is displayed in the moving picture to the left.  The Planetary is 5” tall and weighs 2 lb. 10 oz."

The Early Office Museum has a lot of particularly interesting articles and webpages on our topic today, and you can read some of them here:
The History of The Lead Pencil
Antique Small Pencil Sharpeners (1837-1921)
(Larger) Antique Pencil Sharpeners

They also have a wide variety of other office implements and machinery that you might enjoy.  Two versions of the Planetary Pencil Sharpener are pictured below.  On a side note, if you own one of these antiques, they tend to go for about $200+ on eBay! 

Nancy Koder

Who knew sharpening pencils was so scandalous! Sometimes I still prefer a sharp knife to a "new-fangled" pencil sharpener.


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