Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. No re-opening date is available at this time. Check our website and social media for updates.

Pen Knife

Pen Knife

Usage conditions apply
This 5" steel knife blade probably has a celluloid (rather than an ivory) handle. It was received with a sizable collection of mathematical drawing instruments, but makers of drawing instruments did not typically advertise knives in their catalogs. This object may have been useful for sharpening pen quills and pencils. Draftsmen also used knives as erasers, but the blade on this example is shaped differently from the blades on the "steel erasers" depicted in Keuffel & Esser and Dietzgen catalogs. Compare to the knife in 1990.0690.01.
Currently not on view
Object Name
pen knife
date made
early 20th century
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 12.5 cm x 1.2 cm x 1.2 cm; 4 29/32 in x 15/32 in x 15/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Ruth A. Ming
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Pens and Pencils
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object