Back to school shopping not only consists of new clothes, shoes, and backpacks. It includes some of the most basic school supplies, such as pencils and paper. Over time these essential products have evolved from what they once were. The history behind these items may even interest those who would rather have back to school supplies be history.
Invention of Crayons
It’s hard to imagine a primary back to school list without crayons being included on it. Since their invention in 1903, the number of Crayola crayons in a classroom has only multiplied. Originally a package of eight basic colors, these highly secret formulated three inch wax rods have become almost a necessity.
The company of Binney & Smith created the crayons specifically for school children. Upon visiting schools the company recognized the need and adapted their already in use black marking crayon into multiple colors, labeling their boxes, “for educational color work.”
The Crayola Factory near Easton, Pennsylvania, currently makes about twelve million crayons per day. It is stated in the book Timeless Toys that a Yale University study cited crayons as being number 18 on a list of 20 most recognizable scents. These colorful sticks will continue to be on school supply lists for years to come.
Invention of the Glue Stick
Another popular item which appears on most school lists is the glue stick. Although glue-like substances date back thousands of years, the first glue stick wasn’t invented until 1969 by the German Company Henkel. For teachers this replaced the drippy, messy, liquid tube glue.
Invention of Scissors
Since learning often requires hands on activities and crafts, scissors are needed in a classroom. Like glue, these pivotal devices date back many years. Crude versions of scissors were discovered in ancient Egypt dating to around 1500 B.C. Improvements, like the production of shear steel in the 1740’s by Benjamin Huntsman, have been made; making scissors the precise cutting tools they are today.
Pencil and Paper
Even now, the first day of school cannot do without some form of writing materials. Since paper was scarce in colonial America, children heading back to school would each carry a slate board and slate pencil to the classroom. The slate board was a thin flat layer of shale rock within a narrow wooden frame. The slate pencil, used like chalk today, was a long slender piece of shale.
Along with their slates, many children also carried what was known as a hornbook. Primary hornbooks contained the ABC’s, frequent letter combinations, and the Lord’s Prayer. This information was then written on a sheet of parchment, placed on a piece of wood and covered by a slim transparent layer of cow’s horn for protection.
These three items, the slate board, slate pencil, and the hornbook, is an example of what one of the first back to school supply lists could have looked like. The present day list has grown much longer, especially with recent budget cuts. Currently some parents even have to supply tissues, hand soap, and paper towels. One of the favorite objects which has been added to the list though, is crayons.
Going Back to School
As children go back to school they will fill their backpacks with all the necessary items required for a full day of learning. Certain to be in all backpacks will be the pencil and the paper which was first invented by the Chinese in 105 A.D.
These products, having also gone through many improvements, continue to be fundamental for education. Possibly the most valued change, if a mistake is made, is the attachment of the eraser on the other end of the pencil. This was attributed to Hyman Lipman of America in 1858. He must have known the best way of learning is by the making of mistakes and so included the eraser to the most important item for school.