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The History of Notebooks

The history of notebooks began way back in 100 BC, when paper was invented in China. Then in 1690, William Rittenhouse opened the first paper mill in North America. In 1770, John Tetlow received a patent for a machine that created lines on paper, which previously had to be tediously created by hand. The earliest known pocket diary can be traced back to Lewis and Clark’s famous journey west in the early 1800s. In the 1860s, the composition notebook debuted in France and Germany — its famous marble pattern was inspired by printing techniques from early China and Japan. The first legal pads were created by Thomas W. Holley in 1888; he used leftover scraps from the paper mill where he worked. It is thought that the spiral notebook debuted around 1924; an English inventor named Edward Podosek is often credited for the innovation. Mead started mass-producing composition notebooks in the 1970s and decided to keep the marble cover that had been around since the 1860s. The Trapper Keeper debuted in 1978 and brightly-colored Paper King memo books hit store shelves in the mid-1980s. Lisa Frank notebooks debuted in 1987 and went on to achieve massive popularity in the 1990s. Moleskine notebooks showed up at retail stores in 1997 and Mead’s Five-Star notebooks, which became very popular among students, debuted in the 2000s. And although digitally-enabled options like Rocketbook (which debuted in 2015) now exist, old-fashioned paper notebooks remain a staple item in our lives.

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