In “20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Pencils,” we asserted that “the average pencil holds enough graphite to draw a line about 35 miles long or to write roughly 45,000 words. History does not record anyone testing this statistic.” That claim is now—as Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler would say—”inoperative.”
Keith Eldred organized a group of volunteers working around the clock at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to transcribe the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird with one standard-issue Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. (Actually, for part of the transcription it wasn’t exactly “standard issue”: when the pencil got too short to hold, the plucky transcribers lashed it to a wooden splint and taped that to a flat-nosed, unused pencil, thus forming the “Bi-conderoga.” Somewhere, Richard Dean Anderson is clapping.)
After one month and 100,000 words, the volunteers finally finished. Eldred recently took a victory lap on NPR.