American History, One Pencil at a Time...

The story of 20th century America, it turns out, can be told through the stories of the countless local shops and services that ordered a few dozen humble pencils to use around the store, office, or factory floor. We are Jessica Letkemann and Chris Alan Jones, a husband-and-wife team with creative digital day jobs in Manhattan but a strong affinity for analog ephemera in our personal time. We found ourselves pumping more and more quarters into the CW PENCIL ENTERPRISE vintage pencil vending machine on the weekend, amazed as we discovered more and more artifacts of odd, interesting, and quietly historic businesses mostly from 1930-1980. Soon we found ourselves with hundreds.

The more we amassed, the more we wanted to share their backstories. What is the deal with that all night funeral parlor commemorated with a glow-in-the-dark pencil? Does the WWII-era alphanumeric telephone number for Chicago's best museum still work? Was this battered brown No. 2 benefiting blind New Yorkers the origin of the phrase "selling pencils on the corner"?  Graphite Confidential is our chronicle and time machine, marveling from our 21st century digital perch at these quotidian analog objects that have survived because never they needed an upgrade, never expired, and — long after your phone battery has died — will still sharpen up just fine and capture human imagination for generations to come.   

-Jessica Letkemann & Chris Alan Jones