Excellent piece from the Made-in-Chicago Museum on the Giant Pencil Sharpener by APSCO.
There were definitely some of these (or at least a similar iteration) still in use at my elementary school classroom in the mid-nineties. I loved the manual crank and how the loud, grating noise interrupted my teacher mid-sentence.
For many of us, the sight of an old desk-mounted, mechanical pencil sharpener brings back some high-sensory childhood memories—the thrilling turn of the crank, the low roar of rotating metal, the confusingly alluring scent of fresh cedar shavings.
Maybe you were a kid in the 1930s, or, more likely, you attended a cash-strapped public school that was still using the same classroom supplies 50 years later. Either way, the odds are good that you encountered one of these durable devices made by the Automatic Pencil Sharpener Company, aka APSCO—a brand so prominent, it was like the No. 2 Pencil of pencil sharpeners.
The Made In Chicago Museum currently has four different APSCO sharpeners in our collection, including the popular “Giant” brand featured on this page, as well as a “Gem” and a pair of iconic “Chicago” models—all dating from the 1920s or ‘30s. The most recent patent date on our Giant here is 1921, lining it up with one of the more dramatic and controversial periods in APSCO’s history.