Pages of history are filled with the famous and infamous—authors and artists, inventors and adventurers—making their mark and expressing themselves with cedar pencils.

VIPs (Very Important Pencil People)Famous Pencil users

Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci frequently sketched in pencil.

  • Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci frequently sketched in pencil.
  • Founding father and printer by trade, Benjamin Franklin, advertised pencils for sale in his Pennsylvania Gazette as far back as 1729.
  • Before leading the American Revolution and becoming first president, George Washington used a three-inch pencil to survey the Ohio Territory in 1762.
  • When Meriwether Lewis set out with William Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase, his packing list of mathematical instruments and other supplies included “1 Set of Small Slates & pencils”.
  • Henry David Thoreau may be best known for writing Walden, but back in the day, he held the reputation of manufacturing the hardest, blackest pencils in the United States!
  • President Ulysses S. Grant is said to have preferred to sketch out battle plans in pencil when he was a General for the Union Army during the Civil War. Pencils were standard issue for soldiers as well.
  • One of Thomas Edison’s brightest ideas was to keep a three-inch-long pencil in his vest pocket just to jot down notes!
  • John Steinbeck, who wrote “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Cannery Row”, used as many as 60 cedar pencils every day!
  • Ernest Hemingway, author of “The Old Man and the Sea” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, also favored cedar pencils for writing down thoughts and for taking notes while reporting on the Spanish Civil War.


Looking for more famous pencil people!

If you know others who’ve made their mark on history with pencils, send us the story here to include in the future!