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The History of Built-In Pencil Erasers

In 1858, stationer Hymen Lipman patented a new type of pencil with a rubber plug embedded in one end of its wooden shaft. An entrepreneur named Joseph Reckendorfer purchased the patent from Lipman for $100,000 on the assumption that the creation would become a hit. However, in 1875, the Supreme Court ruled that the eraser-tipped pencil didn’t count as a legitimate invention because it simply combined two existing technologies. Because Reckendorfer lost his patent case, he was unable to profit from his investment and various companies, including A. W. Faber, were able to use Lipman’s original design without paying royalties. However, just as Reckendorfer had predicted, the new style of pencil did eventually become a hit and by the 1920s, almost all pencils sold in the United States included built-in erasers. That trend has continued today, with virtually all American pencils being made this way, but interestingly, pencils with built-in erasers are all but unheard of in most other countries.

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