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We have Napoleon officer Nicholas Jacques Conte to thank for the versatile pencil and for mechanical pencil history. In 1795, a banner year in pencil history, Conte successfully produced pencils when he ground graphite, mixed it with special types of clay, pressed the mix into sticks and baked them in a kiln. This recipe is used by pencil manufacturers today. Conte's process is responsible for the history of lead pencil and the retractable pencil leads we use today. Conte's method allowed pencils to be made to any hardness or softness, which helped pencil-wielding artists and draftsmen. The history of the pencil doesn't end there. Conte's process has been refined to produce specialty pencil leads that can write on movie film, cloth, cellophane and plastics. Although the Faber family, of Faber Castell fame, popularized Conte's process, Conte is a hero in the history of pencils.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|