This article has forgotten more about the Trapper Keeper than I will ever know

There’s a fascinating article in Mental Floss published last week with an exhaustive history of the Trapper Keeper. Because I’ve written about Yikes! pencils before, and I used Trapper Keepers around the same time as Yikes, this is definitely relevant to my interests.

Trapper Keeper

I definitely learned things from this; facts that make me feel dumb that I didn’t know it before. Like: did you know that a “Trapper” is Mead’s name for their pocket folder with vertical pockets rather than the horizontal pockets in most folders? Therefore, a Trapper Keeper is the binder that lets you keep all of your papers together.

Duh. I knew that all of my Trapper Keepers had folders with vertical pockets, but I had no recollection of them being called “Trappers”. Doesn’t this seem like something I should know?

If I would have seen this commercial, I would have known that:

Turns out, this commercial is older than I am. Which brings me to my second facepalm moment:

Trapper Keepers are way older than I thought:

Launched in 1978 by the Mead Corporation (which was acquired by ACCO Brands in 2012), Trapper Keeper notebooks are brightly colored three-ring binders that hold folders called Trappers and close with a flap. From the start, they were an enormous success: For several years after their nationwide release, Mead sold over $100 million of the folders and notebooks a year. To date, some 75 million Trapper Keepers have flown off store shelves.

That’s at least a full ten years before they ever entered my consciousness (Well, and a full five years before I was born, in 1983). I don’t recall trapper keeps ever looking like this:

The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article. The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article.

I remember the ones that looks like they were designed by Commander Mark from Imagination Station: like this or this or, famously, this one featured prominently in “Napoleon Dynamite”:

It's pretty much my favorite Trapper Keeper.

I had this exact Trapper Keeper.

Oh, and I had this one too:Red dots IN SPAAAAACE

You don’t know how thrilled I am to have so many things in common with Napoleon Dynamite.

I had a very close relationship with my Trapper Keeper. It was with me six hours a day, five days a week, and kept m life organized. Eventually, I moved onto other binder organizers that were more collegiate-looking and less youthful. Gone were the lasers and psychedelic 90s spacescapes, replaced by navy blue fabric.

If you, like me, had a Trapper Keeper, you should definitely check out the full article. It’s fascinating, and brings back so many memories.

The History of the Trapper Keeper | MentalFloss.com

Kickstarter Rainbow Pencils: What does it MEAN?!

Kickstarter is such an interesting place. From documentaries about Juggalos to more 3D printers than you can shake an extruded plastic stick at, anyone with an idea, cursory video production skills and an internet connection can sign up for a project.

And I love it.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of scribomechanica fans out there who have Kickstarter projects. I won’t go into all of the pens you can find being made there (Brad at Pen Addict has a really great list already assembled — I am partial to the gorgeous Render K by Karas Kustoms), but our inky brethren can pledge to their hearts’ delight.

While pickings are admittedly slimmer, pencil lovers can still find some gems. I’ve written about a few of them before, like a pencil ruler or the Sprout pencil. Why, just yesterday, Pencil Revolution shared this gorgeous notebook with a funny name that just reached its funding goal.

So I’m excited to share this one. This pencil’s only purpose seems to lie in its novel aesthetics, though it’s utterly charming.

It seems simple enough — it’s a rainbow pencil:

Lisa Frank pencils

Oh god, not these. Lisa Frank has nothing on this project. It’s much more understated. Like a kiwi.

Yeah, a kiwi.

When you buy your Kiwi at the supermarket, it’s just a simple, brown hairy thing, right? But you slice it open, and there’s an unexpected shock of color.

Rainbow pencils by Duncan Shotton Design.

These pencils are similar. They have a plain, matte white (or black) barrel. Very tasteful. Then when you start sharpening with your handheld blade sharpener…

POW.

Rainbow pencils by Duncan Shotton Design.

I love me some GIFs, so I was extra excited to see that the Kickstarter page had one of this pencil!

Made with layers of recycled paper, this pencil creates a rainbow as your sharpen it. According to the designer:

Rainbow Pencils function like regular wooden pencils, and are the same size and weight, but they’re not made from wood, they’re made from layers of recycled waste paper. In the United States alone, over 7 million cubic feet of wood are used every year to manufacture wooden pencils. With rainbow pencils, not only do all those trees not need to be cut down, but the huge amount of paper that might otherwise be thrown into landfill, can be recycled and put to good use. Each pencil has a 6-layer rainbow core and comes finished in either black or white.

What a fun way to be environmentally friendly! Most of the recycled paper pencils I’ve used before involved newsprint, so aesthetically, it either looked like newspaper, or mottled gray paper. It definitely lacks the aesthetics of a cedar pencil — no fragrance and no tight woodgrain look.

This rainbow pencil helps with that. I certainly can’t speak to the performance of the pencil, but if delight is in the details, then sharpening this would be a joy.

Head on over to their Kickstarter page to check out the pledge levels and to watch the video!

Rainbow Pencils by Duncan Shotton | Kickstarter.com

Old Staedtler factory footage

Screencap from "STAEDTLER pencil production in 1950 Part 2". I love old pencil packaging. Why can't they wrap them up like this anymore?

Screencap from “STAEDTLER pencil production in 1950 Part 2”. I love old pencil packaging. Why can’t they wrap them up like this anymore?

Speaking of Pencil Revolution, there was a great comment thread on a post where we discussed the bevy of How It’s Made videos on YouTube about making pencils! Sean from Contrapuntalism linked to these fantastic old 1950s silent films from the Staedtler factory on how they made pencils back then.

(UPDATE: Sean first saw it linked from the great German pencil blog, Lexikaliker, back in 2010.)

There is no sound, and the intertitles are in German, but I think you get the idea, especially after watching the more modern video posted with English narration.

Here they are, in two parts. (Warning: be prepared for the bizarre music playing during part 2)

(Sean warned us when he shared the link, but I still wasn’t prepared for Christian rapper Soul P to start blaring in an ancient black-and-white film about making wood case pencils.)

It surprised me that this film is from 1950 — with the production quality, and the general look and feel of the factory, I would have guessed that it was much earlier, like from the 1920s or 30s. But then I realized I was looking at it through an American culture lens; it looks, to me, like it took place during the Great Depression. And the decade preceding this film was rough on Germany — the government lost a war, unprecedented in scope, was toppled, and the entire population had a huge financial, political and moral mess to deal with. This was a bad time for Germany.

The films are fascinating. Thanks, Sean, for pointing them out!

(In case the videos didn’t embed for you, here are links to YouTube: Part 1 | Part 2)

The Atlantic loves Pencil Revolution

Comrade John, the proprietor at Pencil Revolution, scored a big victory for Pencilism last week when The Atlantic online wrote about his site in their article, “The World’s Best Website About Pencils“.

Gamber says that part of the joy of pencils is the “physical experience” of them: “sharpening them, wearing them down as they sort-of-scratch across a page, making a minor mess erasing their marks.” And there’s the smell too, with its Madeleine-level nostalgia power. “Cedar pencils smell wonderfully, and such a scent from childhood always seems to affect us strongly. I get eager for recess and a chocolate milk sometimes when I smell my pencilcase,” Gamber writes. [Link]

I’ve been a faithful reader of the Pencil Revolution ever since I discovered it back in 2006, before ever blogging on my own, and sites like John’s set the bar high.

Congratulations, John — this is some well-deserved mainstream recognition!

Check out the article:
The World’s Best Website About Pencils | The Atlantic