Gallery of Oddities: Interesting Things in Harvard's Closets

Thoreau's Pencil

harvard collections

(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

harvard collections

(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.

Wynne Parry
Wynne was a reporter at The Stamford Advocate. She has interned at Discover magazine and has freelanced for The New York Times and Scientific American's web site. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Utah.