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Sharp History

1915-1919 : Invention of Ever-Sharp Pencil

A Writing Instrument Ahead of its Time

World's First Mechanical Pencils

The mechanical pencil is well known today throughout the world, largely thanks to Sharp's founder Tokuji Hayakawa. By developing an original lead-thrusting device and inserting it into a metallic shaft, he revolutionized one of the world's most convenient devices. At the time there was another mechanical pencil available, but it was made of celluloid and was very awkward, aesthetically unappealing and too fragile for everyday use. Using his knowledge of metals and metallurgy, he improved upon the construction and appearance of the existing device and in 1915, produced a mechanical pencil made of nickel. The "Hayakawa mechanical pencil" was patented and marketed as the "screw pencil" or "propelling pencil."

A Great Success in Europe and America

Contrary to expectations, initial sales of mechanical pencils were sluggish. Stationers criticized its metallic outer shaft for being cold to the touch in winter or clashing with the traditional kimono. Nevertheless, Tokuji Hayakawa persevered.

Resistance to the pencil stopped abruptly when a large order was received from a trading firm in Yokohama. This was prompted by the pencil's popularity in Europe and the United States. Hearing of the demand in the West, Japanese wholesalers began to snap up the pencils as soon as they came off the production line. Demand quickly exceeded supply as wholesalers everywhere pressed him for more of his products.

The inventor established a new company, Hayakawa Brothers Shokai, which focused entirely on manufacturing metallic mechanical pencils.

The Ever-Sharp Pencil

Through progressive improvements including the development of thin lead in 1916, the metallic mechanical pencil grew into the consummate modern writing instrument. It was one of the most innovative and popular writing devices of its time, combining flamboyant style with practicality.

It was renamed the "Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil," later simply the "Ever-Sharp Pencil." This first product marks the true genesis of Sharp Corporation. Today the Sharp name and trademark are recognized around the world -- all thanks to an ingenious refinement made to one of mankind's oldest and most valued tools, the pencil.

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