On this day: A revolution in pencils

March 30 1858: A pencil patent

By Jennifer Lipman, March 30, 2011

The pencil with the rubber attached to the top is an item so ubiquitous that few would consider where it came from. But, as with every household object, someone had to come up with the idea.

That someone was Hymen Lipman, a Jewish inventor who lived in Philadelphia. On March 30, he won the patent for his product, which placed a rubber atop the end of a wooden pencil.

He later sold the patent to businessman Joseph Reckendorfer, who later sued pencil manufacturer Faber for infringing on the copyright.

The case, which went to the United States Supreme Court, hung on whether such an item could be patented or was actually “only an aggregation of separate parts”.

In 1875 the court ruled against Reckendorfer because the pencil consisted “only of the application of a piece of rubber to one end of the same piece of wood” and did not produce “a different force, effect, or result in the combined forces”.

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Last updated: 10:46am, March 30 2011