During the first week of school, most people are gathering supplies for their classes. Mostly because teachers tell you what you’ll need for the school year and what you’re expected to have, whether it be on a syllabus or if they tell you in class. Though, has it always been that way? People use binders and folders all the time, but where did that come from?
According to the website schooliseasy.com, the earliest school supply known is the hornbook. It was made in England in 1450, and was the earliest version of what we now call a notebook.
A hornbook is a wooden tablet with a cover made from a piece of horn, hence the name. Usually it had the alphabet carved on the front, or some other inscription which could be a prayer or something other people wanted students to memorize.
It was the most basic school supply, and there weren’t very many school supplies invented, mostly because not many people had access to education back then. It’s a common pattern in these supplies because of how hard it was to get an education.
When education later became more popular and available, more school supplies started popping up in the 1800s, such as writing slates, chalk and a few schoolbooks.
Pencils were unheard of in schools, so instead they used a type of chalkboard. This was about the time of the one-room schoolhouse, where classes were particularly small. Usually all students would have with them was a writing slate, a few schoolbooks tied together by a leather strap or belt, and a tin lunch box.
Books were harder to come by too, so they didn’t have very many. They also had to bring their own lunches in a tin pail — the school didn’t provide anything.
Skipping on to the early 1900s, students started bringing paper and pencils. This time, they brought schoolbooks for each subject. Taking notes and learning had become much easier, though they still didn’t have an easier way to carry their stuff around. It was still their books and a leather belt.
Later in the century, specifically in 1943, folders appeared. They finally had a way to store papers more efficiently, and it was much easier to carry around.
The first type of folders produced were called “Pee-Chee” folders. They had pictures of students playing sports on the front and came only in peach. They became the Pee-Chee folders after people started calling them that.
Around this same time, another company had started making writing tablets with lines made to help beginners. Though most people couldn’t afford them, they did well in the 1950s and ’60s.
Because of the company’s success, they started selling lined paper in the form of a spiral notebook.
A decade later “Trapper Keeper” binders were introduced — another new way of organizing papers that became popular in the ’70s.
Another decade passed and another new way of carrying things around was selling; backpacks. Backpacks became very popular and eventually dominated what students used to carry books around. A definite upgrade from the leather belts.
School supplies have revolutionized the way we learn. And the ways they help us learn has absolutely changed a lot, too.
Even if the school supplies of today seem to be so drastically different from what was used 200 years ago, you can trace back similarities through the origins of our modern ways of education. I am excited to see how it will evolve.