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Gallery of Oddities: Interesting Things in Harvard's Closets

Thoreau's Pencil

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(Image credit: © Houghton Library, President and Fellows of Harvard College)

This pencil belonged to the writer Henry David Thoreau, who grew up in Concord, Mass., as the son of a pencil manufacturer. Thoreau invented a process of milling the graphite for the core of the pencil that prevented problematic smearing, but he did not patent it.

Piano Keys on a Telegraph

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(Image credit: © The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, President and Fellows of Harvard College )

This printing telegraph from the late 1800s contains a keyboard composed of piano keys. Before the invention of mechanical writing machines like typewriters, many devices relied on piano keys to function like a keyboard.