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The History of Pencil Sharpeners

The first pencil sharpener was a knife. French mathematician Bernard Lassimonne patented a pencil sharpener of his own design in 1828, but it was slow-working and therefore didn’t really catch on. However, a French inventor named Thierry des Estivaux improved upon Lassimonne’s design by replacing the metal files with one blade inside a cone-shaped metal container, creating the prism sharpener, which we still use as a hand sharpener to this day. In 1851, Walter K. Foster of Bangor, Maine further improved on the prism sharpener's design, patented it, and started mass-producing pencil sharpeners in 1857. Several variations and improvements followed, with one of the most significant being John Lee Love’s crank-powered pencil sharpener, which he invented in the early 1900s. The first electric pencil sharpeners were invented around 1910 and were first produced commercially in 1917. They were mostly used in large offices and didn’t become available to the public for several more decades. Today, pencil sharpeners are still a common sight in classrooms, although they are less common in offices and other spaces now dominated by digitization.

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