Bundle of 11 pencils, wrapped with a paper label “Munroe’s Best Premium Pencils.” Munroe was a cabinetmaker in Concord until he turned to the more profitable career of pencil making.
William Munroe (Monroe) trained as a cabinet maker in Boston in the 1790s and set up shop in Concord in 1800. Munroe realized in 1812 that he could make more furniture than he could sell and therefore set out to find a new trade. He began making pencils which he sold wholesale and quickly went from an income of $700 a year to an income of $7000, wealth normally unattainable by a craftsman.
Pencils have two parts, the casing, which is made of cedar, and the lead, which is made principally of graphite. For the casings, Munroe’s journeymen made planks of the cedar about one-quarter inch thick (veneers, as he called them) and cut grooves in them with a plane.
Munroe compounded his leads of American and English graphite, glue, and Bayberry wax, mixing them in brass pots with large spoons. The lead was troweled into the grooves cut in the veneers, and planed off. The capping veneer was glued on, the planks cut into long rods, and the rods cut into pencil length.
William Munroe at first had difficulty finding good red cedar and graphite but eventually found supplies. In 1840 he had on hand twenty tons of cedar that came from “the Mississippa” by way of New York, which with the graphite he also had was -enough to make more than a million pencils the next year.