Pen Advertising Cube Museum, 1988–1991, Smithsonian Institution negative number DOR2013-17382.

Until the advent of computer-aided drafting, mathematicians and those doing mathematical tasks, such as mechanical or architectural drawing, needed writing implements to carry out their work. Pens and pencils may also be used in mathematics education. Others are important to us because they were owned by famous figures, such as Herman Hollerith. This one, however, tells us about mathematical fads and the people who promote them.

In 1980, the Ideal Toy Corporation began to distribute Rubik's Cube, a plastic six-sided and six-colored puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor Ernö Rubik. The item quickly became wildly popular around the world, prompting solution books, competitions, related merchandise, and even a television show. From 1988 to 1991, Cecil Smith (b. 1929), a visually impaired artist from Delta, Colorado, operated the Cube Museum to display his collection of Cubes and the patterns he formed with them. He advertised his facility on ballpoint pens.

This object and other pens and pencils from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History are now shown and described at the website http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/pens-and-pencils.

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Index of Mathematical Objects