Slate Pencils, Box of 5

<< >>
These five slate pencils are wrapped in paper decorated like the American flag and stored in a cardboard box with an American flag design. In the 19th century, schoolchildren used pencils made from a soft stone or slate to write letters and numbers on their slates, personal-sized blackboards. Students wiped away their work after it was checked by the teacher; reusable slates were thus less expensive than large quantities of paper, and slate pencils were generally more available than chalk. In the United States, slate pencils were manufactured at least as early as 1844 and at least as late as the 1910s.
Edith R. Meggers of Washington, D.C., bequeathed this box of pencils to the Smithsonian in 1974. The dates of other objects in her bequest suggest these pencils were made around 1900. Meggers worked in the Building Technology Division of the National Bureau of Standards in the 1950s and 1960s. She and her husband endowed the William F. and Edith R. Meggers Project Award of the American Institute of Physics, which funds projects for the improvement of high-school physics teaching in the United States.
References: Early Office Museum, "History of the Lead Pencil,"; Peter Davies, "Writing Slates and Schooling," Australasian Historical Archaeology 23 (2005): 63–69; Charlotte E. Moore, "Meggers, William Frederick," Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography (2008),; Edith R. Meggers, Selected Bibliography on Building Construction and Maintenance, 3rd ed., National Bureau of Standards Building Materials and Structures Report 140 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1959).
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1900
place made
United States
Physical Description
slate (overall material)
cardboard (box material)
overall: 1 cm x 3.6 cm x 15 cm; 13/32 in x 1 13/32 in x 5 29/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Edith R. Meggers
writing implements
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Pens and Pencils
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object