WATCH: The Bizarre Reason Pencils Are Yellow
No, it's not so you can spot them when they roll onto the floor.
If you've ever stared at your No. 2 pencil and wondered "why are pencils yellow?" you can take solace in the fact that around 210 people a month are typing that very question into an online search engine and contemplating this along with you.
But really, why are pencils yellow? Is the yellow meant to evoke the sunny cheer of back-to-school season? Is it so the pencils are easy to spot when you drop your writing utensils on the floor? Or is the yellow some sort of special anti-decay varnish? None of the above. As it turns out, there's actually some fascinating history behind the signature yellow color of No. 2 pencils.
"During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils contained Chinese graphite," explains a post on Pencils.com, an online retailer of writing supplies. "In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils bright yellow to communicate this 'regal' feeling and association with China."
Apparently, as Arsty.net also explains, Czech pencil manufacturer Hardtmuth Pencil first painted their pencils yellow circa 1889 to advertise this Chinese connection and indicate the graphite's sourcing from China. "To further emphasize [the pencils' regal lineage] Hardtmuth dubbed its new line of yellow pencils 'Koh-I-Noor' after the world-famous yellow-flecked diamond from the British Crown Jewels," writes Gabrielle Hick. "So popular was its yellow pencil that the company actually changed its own name to Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth."