My Collection – Photos and Commentary

Clark’s Indelible Pencil

I’m back!

One of the first wooden pencils I ever spent a chunk of money on was a very old and unusual one that I had never seen before, from the Clark Indelible Pencil Company of Northampton, Massachusetts.  I obtained several varieties since then.

These specialized pencils were made for writing permanently on cloth and other materials.

The active part of the pencil is integrated with a protective tube:

Clark's Tubes

Clark's Pencils

A patent from 1866 (http://todayinsci.com/Events/Patent/IndeliblePencilPatent56180.htm) describes in detail how the pencil was made.  The indelible ingredient in the lead is silver nitrate.  I remember this substance from my high school Chemistry class because it gave us permanent (until the skin wore off) stains on our hands.

At first I thought that the leads were square.  But the patent describes how round leads were made from paste pressed into a mold, then placed into sawed grooves and enclosed with a strip of wood (clearly visible in the fourth pencil insert).  Hence, it’s a round lead (with cementing material) in a square hole.

Some of the pencils have second insert, a soft chalky substance in a paper tube.  I think this is probably gypsum.  The patent talks about gypsum as an ingredient of the lead, where it forms a compound that prevents softening due to atmospheric moisture.  Instructions on the label seem to describe the substance being rubbed on a dampened area of the cloth prior to writing.  Maybe it is gypsum helping to stabilize the mark. —

Clark's InstructionsClark's InstructionsClark's Instructions

A box with French labels, showing that Clark’s pencils were sold by A.W. Faber in Paris:

Clark's French LabelsClark's French Labels

The sixth pencil in the first photo is one of the newer ones.  The label suggests some new uses, including marking toothbrushes (no more disgusting mix-ups!) and umbrellas.  It came with this price list:

Clarks Price List

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3 responses

  1. Very cool! I love the protective cases.

    July 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

  2. Fantastic in both sides, as pencils and old patent !

    July 14, 2013 at 9:51 am

  3. …and good explanation and understandig for patent ;-)

    July 17, 2013 at 2:13 am

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