chatelaine, pencil

chatelaine, pencil

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Usage conditions apply
The loop on the end of this mechanical pencil suggests that it was worn on a chain or a ribbon around the neck, while its design indicates its use by a woman, perhaps during office work. It is both a tool—a writing instrument useful to have at hand as a person moves around—and a decorative personal accessory. Made of silver, if worn around the neck this small pencil would be visible in ways that signified the position and work of its wearer while also registering almost as jewelry, an expression of individual style. It could have been given as a gift for the long service of a professional secretary or to a school teacher.
Retractable, mechanical pencils like this have a long history, but became mass produced during the last decades of the 19th century. Their manufacturers claimed they would improve the efficiency of office workers because they did not need to stop work to sharpen them. They were ever-sharp. Nicer versions made of sliver, glass, enamel or even gold were often given as gifts.
Object Name
chatelaine, pencil
date made
Physical Description
silver, pencil lea (overall material)
overall: 3 3/8 in x 1/2 in; x 8.5725 cm x 1.27 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Women's History
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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