Who Was John Lee Love, The African American Who Invented Pencil Sharpener In 1894?



It was difficult to sharpen pencils before John Lee Love’s invention. The rotary blade sharpeners were popular. They were mounted on the walls, and to sharpen a pencil, one had to use two cylindrical cutting blades to smoothen the pencil.

Catherine Liao, a high pencil quality supplier, described how educators and others must rely on blades that are 23 degrees apart to shape the pencil into the shape of a cone in her LinkedIn piece.

When it came to the shape that people wanted their pencils to take, Love’s invention was a game changer. In 1894, wall-cranked sharpeners were replaced by hand-cranked sharpeners, which were widely used when Love’s invention hit the market. His work was mounted on a wooden frame.

The casing was designed with the user’s preferences in mind, and the sharpener was no larger than the height of the blade. Love’s invention, dubbed the “Love Sharpener,” could fit into the user’s palm and the casings stored the shreds of the pencil shavings until the individual decided to dispose of them.

According to BlackPast, Love applied for a patent for his invention on November 23, 1897. Since then, the Love Sharpener has been regarded as a user-friendly and hands-on device.

Love’s hand-cranked pencil sharpener was not his only invention. He also introduced an improved plasterer’s hawk, a tool used by masons and plasterers. This invention was a metal or wood board with a handle for smoothing surfaces. In 1895, Love applied for a patent for his plastering hawk design. Love attached the plasterer’s hawk with a foldable aluminum and a detachable handle to make it easier for the mason to carry. When compared to the later ones, the earlier ones were more difficult to use.

According to historians, little is known about Love’s early life. There are no records of his birthplace or date of birth. He is thought to have been born between 1865 and 1877, during Reconstruction.

In Fall River, Massachusetts, he worked as a carpenter. Despite the fact that his invention is widely used by many people around the world, he has not received the recognition he deserves. His pencil sharpener designs are what modern manufacturers have improved and are using to market their brands.

Love died in a car accident on December 26, 1931, near Charlotte, North Carolina.


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