Pencils: My Magnificent Obsession

Writing has never been one of my strong points. I always wait until the last minute to get started on essays and I’ve started countless personal journals that have never seen more than three entries.


“Problem? I don’t have a problem.”

Ironically, I’ve had an enthusiastic obsession with writing implements for as long as I can remember, especially pens and pencils.

The universe certainly has a funny sense of humor.

I like to buy up old pencils at estate sales. Any pencils that are not of immediate interest go into a big box, which is the “miscellaneous/uncategorized” section of my pencil collection. I sort through these when I have the time to do so. A few weeks ago, I was going through the box, partly just for fun and partly with the intention of pruning out any unwanted pencils. I came across a big bundle of blue pencils that I’ve had for a long time.

When I first got these pencils, I glanced at them and didn’t think much of them. They appeared to be fairly unremarkable, very general-looking pencils with some guy’s name imprinted on them along with a blurry picture of some sort. I had nearly donated them several times before, but some of the blue pencils were in their original packaging, which boasted that these pencils had been “sanitized under germicidal ultraviolet.” I thought that was hilarious, so in the end, I always kept them.


Clean pencils are important


I pulled out the sealed case of “sanitized” pencils, just so I could look at them and have a little laugh. I looked at the pencils and wondered why anyone would need to have their personalized pencils sanitized. As a germophobe, I can relate, but getting your pencils professionally sanitized seems a little like overkill. I thought, “Whoever this guy was, apparently named Martin, must have been sort of paranoid because not only did he get his pencils sanitized, he had ‘Denver’ imprinted on his pencils after his name!”

I sat there, trying to imagine what Martin would have been like. I looked at the pencils again, to see if I could figure out what the little picture on the pencils were. I’d looked at the little pictures before, but I could never figure out what they were. I laid out the opened ones on the table, print-side up.

I had been examining the pencils for just a few moments when something in my mind clicked, fell into place, and manifested itself as an audible gasp of astonishment.


Those little pictures were rockets.

The imaginary paranoid man named Martin dissolved. In his place, the words “Lockheed-Martin” and “Titan ICBMs” embedded themselves like splinters. I quickly jumped up, went to my computer, and started researching in a frenzy for nearly four hours.

My findings in short: These pencils were made for The Glenn L. Martin Company, which later became the Martin-Marietta Corporation in 1961, which then became Lockheed-Martin in 1995. The Martin Company produced the first multistage intercontinental ballistic missile, the Titan I rocket, which made its first flight on February 6, 1959. They also produced the Titan II rocket, which were originally used as an ICBM but then were used as a medium-lift space launch vehicle when they were decommissioned as ICBMs. Most notably, all twelve Gemini capsules were launched by Titan II rockets.

Pencils lined up according to hypothesized date of production, oldest at top. First three have Titan I rockets, last one has the Titan II rocket

Pencils lined up according to hypothesized date of production, oldest at top. First three have Titan I rockets, last one has the Titan II rocket

I am also fairly certain that these pencils were not designed for promotional or advertising purposes, but rather for employee use. They are much too simply designed in comparison to the standard advertising pencils of that time period. Also, I had acquired a large amount of drafting and engineering tools from the same estate, which seems to indicate that this man worked for The Martin Company/Martin-Marietta at least through the development of the Titan II rockets.

English: An LGM-25C Titan II missile is launch...

An LGM-25C Titan II missile is launched. VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, now my problem is, what shall I do with these marvelous pieces of history? I’m sure I’ll come up with something.


Categories: History

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5 replies

  1. The idea that they were sanitized calls up all sorts of cold war intrigue. Wouldn’t sprinkling some anthrax spores or small pox on pencils be a great way to kill off some important scientists?

  2. The Universe is expanding. Good for you! You will never run out of space to store your pencils…

  3. At first glance your pencil collection looks like a collection of ammunition boxes in a gun safe.

    • Haha! Well, you know what they say about writing utensils being mightier than traditional weaponry, or something. 🙂 That picture shows just a fraction of my collection, although sometimes I do wish I had a gun safe because I’m getting increasingly worried about what will happen if my apartment ever catches on fire.

  4. Did they sanitize all the office equipment? My goodness.

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