School Supplies continued

Lead pencils were only used for making ruled lines on writing paper. Wood covered carbon pencils arrived in America in the mid 1800s. The first American pencil factory opened in New York in 1860. Quill pens made from flight feathers were eventually replaced by ones with metal tips. By 1860 they were being mass produced and ink wells built into desks.

Many schoolboys carried pocketknives, known as penknives, to school where they might use them for making quill pens or other acceptable tasks. A girls' knife would have a buttonhook used for sewing activities. Like today, however, if they were misused the knife would end up in the schoolmaster's desk.

Missing School

Truancy and absenteeism were problems then as they are today, but usually for different reasons. Although parents were required to send their children to school, sometimes kids were needed at home or on the farm, so attendance was often inconsistent. It was difficult to enforce early laws made to keep kids in school.

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