The School Supplies of Yesteryear

Schools today are in many ways unlike the schools of the past. The Internet and distance learning has changed how many classrooms operate. Students today use a variety of school supplies that folks a century ago wouldn’t have had. Likewise there are quite a few school supplies from the old days that students now have never used at all. Here are a few of those school supplies of yesteryear.


In the old days the teacher and students would have been using quills made from feathers. These were cheap or free and one could cut new points whenever the end got too dull to write neatly with.

Pen Knives

To keep those quills ready for action students used small pocket knives to create new points. Unlike in today’s schools, this small weapon was not considered a threat. But, times were different back then. Using small knives on quill pens is why some people even today call pocket knives “pen knives”.

Wooden Pens

After a time many people began using the more durable wooden pens instead of quills. A fine metal nib was attached to a wooden handle via a slot and the nib dipped in a bottle or well of ink, much like today’s calligraphy pens.

Fountain Pens

A must for the teachers (and even some older students), they would have carried with them a fountain pen at all times. These could be quite elegant, and they produced great results. But, they did have the drawback of occasionally leaking in a most catastrophic manner.

Pocket Protectors

The solution to leaking pens was to use pocket protectors. These little sleeves were made from leather or plastic and were used for keeping fountain pens from leaking onto one’s pocket. This was in the days before ball point pens came out- though many people continued using them once fountain pens went out of fashion.


An alternative to using pens was to have the students use small slate boards. The students would write on them using chalk. The advantages were that they could be kept at school and used by any student. Slates were also infinitely reusable, but they also had to be wiped clean frequently- thus erasing whatever had been recently written on them. Still they were much better than nothing at all.

Pencil Boxes

Today we use pencil cases, but back in the day children had little rectangular wooden boxes for their pencils.

Composition Notebooks

These thin notebooks were staples of education for more than a century. Some models even had convenient charts in the front with conversions for distances and measurements, the times tables, grammar rules, and/or other helpful information that students otherwise wouldn’t have been able to quickly look up (unless they had a reference book on hand at all times).

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