By Garland Pollard
At Staples yesterday, I bought a manual Boston Pencil Sharpener. It was $15.98; the model was the X-Acto KS. I got this manual one after an electric sharpener died. I hate to think how much electricity I wasted with the electric one over the years.
After I screwed it in the wall, it was a big hit with my five-year-old, and everyone else in the house who had suffered from the scourge of dull pencils.
It looks remarkably like the classic Boston KS that I remember in most of the classrooms; the only thing odd was the X-ACTO name on the sharpener. X-ACTO is a great brand and every desk ought to have one, but it doesn’t have much to do with Boston sharpeners, and it shouldn’t be on a Boston sharpener.
It seems well made, and comes with a two-year warranty. That being said, it was made in China, and I would certain have paid a few more dollars for it to be made in the U.S. The joy of using a pencil is not just in the writing with it, but the whole process. If Boston promised me a lifetime warranty, and made it REALLY well, I would have paid $25 for it.
China or not, every house in America ought to have one of these, as well as every classroom. I would love to see research on how many American houses still have manual sharpeners.
Great History from OfficeMuseum.com
Boston was founded in 1899; in 1999 they celebrated with a 100th anniversary sharpener. In 1913, their sharpener, the Boston Pencil Pointer, was selling for about $6. In the past, people were used to more expensive sharpeners or having to sharpen pencils by knife, which wasted the lead.
Time was when every classroom in the U.S. had a sharpener, most probably a Boston KS. We found a great photo of an old Boston sharpener from the excellent office history website www.officemuseum.com. The site has all sorts of great history on old office products, including some of the other old brands of pencil sharpeners, including A.B. Dick, Jupiter, Webster, Lakeside, Climax, APSCO, Babcock, McDivitt, Beebe, Everett, Graffco, Dima, Iduna, Olympic, Dixon, Gem and others.
Boston goes down with the classic American desk brands that I want to have near me, including Swingline staplers, Artgum erasers and other assorted great pencil brands like the Dixon Ticonderoga and Venus Velvet. (There are other pen brands that are favorites, but not all are American.)
Some brands are no longer cool or interesting; for instance Mucilage comes in a cruddy looking bottle, and is no longer that funky nipple-topped LePage’s Mucilage, the brand I trusted.
Today, Boston is owned by Elmer’s Products, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. not only makes Boston but also makes Krazy Glue, X-ACTO knives and Bienfang arts and crafts products.
Elmer’s is growing. They recently purchased the English brand James Galt & Co. Ltd. (see www.jamesgalt.com). Galt dates from 1836; James Galt himself was born in Ayrshire and set up as an educational retailer in Manchester in 1836.