By Paul Hagan
When elementary school became compulsory in the U.S. in 1918, school supplies were simpler. Books and something to write on pretty much made up the list. We should be so lucky with today’s back-to-school shopping. In the past 100 years, these dozen items greatly altered the notion of back to school necessities.
Spiral Notebook (1932)
The Spiral Binding Company put slate manufacturers out of business when they started mass-producing notebooks bound with coiled wire.
Licensed Lunchboxes (1935)
While lunchboxes existed as early as the 19th century, the first licensed character lunchbox aimed at school kids appeared in 1935, featuring a smiling Mickey Mouse carrying his own books and lunchbox to school.
Pee Chee Folders (1943)
As schoolwork accumulated, kids had to put their homework somewhere. Pee Chee dominated the market with pocketed folders featuring athletes and kids at play.
Pencil Boxes (1946)
While pencils and the means of carrying them existed, the pencil case was first patented in 1946 by Verona Pearl Amoth.
Inexpensive Ballpoint Pens (1950)
Ballpoint pens were a status symbol and could run today’s equivalent of hundreds of dollars. That all changed in 1950, when the Bic Cristal made its debut for $0.19 ($2.02 in today’s money).
Gone are the days of underlining like cavepeople. Long live the highlighter! It debuted in yellow and quickly grew into a rainbow of colors.
Glue Sticks (1969)
After generations of schoolchildren had been stuck with the old dab-and-smear method of gluing, the glue stick arrived and made arts and crafts so much simpler.
Pocket Calculators (1970)
Teachers’ claims that “you won’t always have a calculator with you” were finally proven false with the introduction of pocket calculators. The calculating world would change again in 1990, when Texas Instruments introduced the TI-81 graphing calculator.
Trapper Keepers (1978)
Then the world really changed.
Backpacks (early 1980s)
I know what you’re thinking, “backpacks existed before the 1980s!” But they didn’t become a schoolyard staple until the overwhelming number of books and supplies required something better than hands to carry.
Washable Markers (1987)
Crayola made class more fun when markers were introduced in 1978, but they made cleanup much easier when they introduced washable markers nine years later.
Headphones/earbuds (late 2000s)
While headphones have existed since 1919, they were made lightweight and portable with the introduction of the Walkman in 1979. Headphones transitioned to earbuds in 2001 in the iPod Era. In the last few years, schools have begun to require headphones or earbuds for students’ smart devices.
If back-to-school shopping is getting overwhelming, try visiting NPP partners like Office Depot and OfficeMax, who maintain up-to-date back-to-school and office supplies lists for local classrooms that can be purchased in one convenient place.