Joseph Dixon was born in 1799. His whole life, he was fascinated by new technologies, and never stopped inventing and discovering stuff. He was a BAD ASS.

Joseph did not invent the pencil, but he was the first to mass-produce them in the US. Originally, he made them in his mom's oven. In the 1820s, he and his wife made pencils by hand in their home. Dixon invented a machine that could produce 132 pencils a minute. Until 1876, Dixon's pencils (and almost all others) were square - easier to manufacture that way.

In 1827, he founded the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company in Salem, Massachusetts. He made lubricants, pencils, stove polish and graphite crucibles, vessels used for melting metals and minerals. These graphite crucibles were his own invention, and were a big deal because they were heat-resistant, thus excellently useful in the production of iron and steel. There was a gigantic demand for these crucibles during the Mexican-American War. He is credited as being instrumental in starting the United States’ steel industry. His crucibles were so successful that in 1847, Joseph built a factory in New Jersey, just to make more of them.

Joseph was a big fan of graphite. He discovered its use as a stove polish and an additive in lubricants, foundry facings, brake linings, oilless bearings, and non-corrosive paint.

During the 1860s, people still wrote mostly with quill pens and ink, even though pencils had been commercially available for thirty years. It wasn’t until the Civil War that the demand for a dry, clean, portable writing instrument became popular and led to the serious mass production of pencils. Dixon was, of course, the first to develop a fully automated pencil production line. In 1872, the company was making 86,000 pencils a day. By the 1870s, The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the world’s largest dealer and consumer of graphite and was famous worldwide for its superior product quality.

AND, as a printer and a photographer, he designed a mirror into a camera that was the forerunner of the viewfinder, patented a double-crank steam engine, evolved a method of printing banknotes to foil counterfeiters, and patented a new method for tunneling under water. Listed among his friends were such great American inventors as Robert Fulton, Samuel Morse, and Alexander Graham Bell.

At the time of Joseph Dixon’s death in 1869, The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the largest manufacturer of graphite products in the world. In 1982, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company merged with the Bryn Mawr Corporation, a Pennsylvania transportation and real estate company. Together, these companies formed the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, named after Joseph Dixon and its oldest brand-name pencil. Also the company is sometimes referred to as "Prang" but we still don't really know why. Regardless, the company is still going strong. -1869

thanks to:

Oh, yeah, it's also a poem. Don't know if it's intended to be about the same guy. Doubtful.

Joseph Dixon

Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology, 1916.

Who carved this shattered harp on my stone?
I died to you, no doubt. But how many harps and pianos
Wired I and tightened and disentangled for you,
Making them sweet again — with tuning fork or without?
Oh well! A harp leaps out of the ear of a man, you say,
But whence the ear that orders the length of the strings
To a magic of numbers flying before your thought
Through a door that closes against your breathless wonder?
Is there no Ear round the ear of a man, that it senses
Through strings and columns of air the soul of sound?
I thrill as I call it a tuning fork that catches
The waves of mingled music and light from afar,
The antennae of Thought that listens through utmost space.
Surely the concord that ruled my spirit is proof
Of an Ear that tuned me, able to tune me over
And use me again if I am worthy to use.

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