Uranium Containing Pencil (ca. 1960)


This advertising pencil has a plastic container at one end that contains a sample of uranium ore. It was produced for the Eberly Sales Corporation by the Kingston Pencil Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In 1957, the Kingston Pencil Company received a license from the Atomic Energy Commission that authorized them to possess up to 24 tons of uranium ore. Nevertheless, it seems that their one and only purchase was for 2,400 pounds of ore from the Daybuck Company of Spokane Washington. The ore was ground up in a rock crusher that belonged to a farmer in Rossville, Georgia. At least in some cases, a green dye was added to the ore to give it a “romantic” appearance.

Pencil close-up
Pencil close-up

Each pencil contained 1.5 to 2.5 grams of 1.7% ore (ca. 0.02 uCi). A memorandum from the Atomic Energy Commission in 1960 estimated that if the entire sample were ingested, the incorporated uranium would only amount to 1/25,000 of the permissible body burden. Nevertheless, that same year the New York Times reported that the Erie County (New York) Health Department had ordered the confiscation of similar pencils advertising the Chicken Delight restaurants. The county Health Commissioner claimed that the ore was toxic and “posed a significant hazard if ingested by a child.” The pencils read “Chicken Delight conduction method has done for the food business what uranium ore has done for AEC.”

Pencil close-up


  • Memorandum from J.O. Delaney, Nuclear Materials Branch, Atomic Energy Commission. November 1960.
  • Memo from James Turner, Health Protection Branch, Atomic Energy Commission. September 1959.
  • Compliance Inspection Report. United States Atomic Energy Commission. Form AEC-417, August 1956.
  • Pencils Radioactive. New York Times October 30, 1960.