Can You Identify These 1950s School Supplies?

About this Quiz

Oh, the nostalgia! What do you actually remember about 1950s schools? Back then, of course, school years were about a month shorter than they are today, Charlotte's Web was all the rage, the average teacher earned just 4,000 dollars a year, and students went into classrooms armed with book straps instead of backpacks, and gazed, glass-eyed at overhead projectors instead of powerpoint presentations. Don't get us started on the glory days of pencil sharpeners. Are you up to the challenge? Only 7% of our quiz takers can correctly name all of these quaint contraptions.

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1. Gasp! Today's maps would never show "West Africa," but a 1950's __________ just might.

cmccarthy2001 /
  1. Compass
  2. Lunch Box
  3. Globe
  4. Balloon
True Story: globes have actually been around since Ancient Greece, long before the earth was believed to be 'round.'
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2. This is remembered lovingly for the sound fingernails made against it:

Fotorech /
  1. An Etch-A-Sketch
  2. A Blackboard
  3. A Dry Erase Board
  4. A Blueboard
Blackboards were _actually_ black in the 1950s. It wasn't until the 1960s that they turned green. Why? Manufacturers began using a more affordable, green porcelain-based enamel that was both less likely to break, and easier to erase the chalk off of. Oh, the joys of progress.
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3. How did this desperate student correct her mistake?

Bill /
  1. Correction Fluid
  2. She had to start over
  3. Ctrl-Alt-Delete
  4. Concealer
Also called white out, "correction fluid" was invented in 1951 shortly after the typewriter. You can thank frustrated American woman typist, Bette Nesmith Graham, for the miracle. It soon became a coveted possession of grammar students all over the world.
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4. This student was using _________ to memorize vocabulary.

nerd alert /
  1. HisText Book
  2. A Smartphone App
  3. Flashcards
  4. A Computer
Flash cards, first used by Quakers in classrooms in the 1800s, became all the craze when educational magazines began to promote them in the 1920s. The Great Depression, of course, couldn't have been good on sales, but flash cards were back on track by the 1950s, when thousands of tormented students beegan using them for French, German, and Latin classes.
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5. Want to keep your milk cold? Put it in a:

Billion Photos /
  1. A Water Bottle
  2. Vial
  3. A Thermos
  4. A Dixie Cup
Thermoses, the brainchild of 1800s chemists who wanted to find ways to contain liquified gas, were especially popular during World War II, when they were used to store insulin, tissues and blood plasma. By the 50's children were using them for much more docile purposes: orange juice, apple juice, and milk.
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6. What's the best thing to use to inspect dead insects?
  1. A Telescope
  2. Eyes
  3. Glasses
  4. A Magnifying Glass
Because the human eye can only focus to within 6 inches in front of them, magnifying glasses were, and remain, essential science class tools. Fun fact? The greater the diameter of a magnifying glass, the less powers it has to amplify.
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7. This device "bound" paper together:

warrenrandalcarr /
  1. A Paper Back Binder
  2. A Six-ringed Binder
  3. A Sketch Book
  4. Three-ringed Binder
Today, 40 - 60 million 3-ringed binders are sold in the United States each year. That's roughly 1 binder for every 5 people living in the country.
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8. Using __________, Kathy painted this for her pops in art class:

Color Brush /
  1. Number 2 Pencils
  2. Oil Paints
  3. Water Color Paints
  4. Crayola Crayons
Even people back in the stone ages liked to use water colors! While today they are made with a mix of powdered pigments and glue, in the Middle Ages, artists made water colors by grinding earth vegetables and fibers with eggs. Yum!
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9. What would the school librarian jealously organize in here?

homestead1997 /
  1. Mice
  2. Books
  3. Her Afternoon Snacks
  4. Shoes
You can thank the French Revolution for these beauties! The first library card catalogue was created in France, after the Revolution, when the country's new government confiscated all religious books from churches. By the 1950s, library cards, indexed painstakingly into card catalogues, were school house essentials. Digital indexing, of course, was not yet possible. The first digital card catalogue was not invented until the 1980s!
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10. Uhoh! Mistakes are hard to fix on a:

pellethepoet /
  1. Desktop Computer
  2. Typewriter
  3. Laptop
  4. Notebook
By the 1950s, educators believed that the use of a typewriter in the classroom would stimulate children's interest in spelling, writing, and reading, and reduce behavioural problems. Of course, unlike laptops today, typewriters had no internet or gaming capabilities.
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11. Congrats! You get a:

CrackerClips Stock Media /
  1. A Star Sticker
  2. A Golden Coin
  3. A Dinosaur
  4. A Symbol of Abject Failure
A gold star is the pinnacle of academic achievement, and a visual reminder of just _who_ in the class is a teacher's pet, and who needs to do just a _little bit more_ studying. The downside? Not getting a gold star often generates disappointment, resentment, and mistrust among dejected students.
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12. What kind of books are these?

benchart /
  1. Romance Novels
  2. Comic Books
  3. The Harry Potter Series
  4. Textbooks
While textbooks still exist within many classrooms today, they are increasingly going digital. Pearson, one of the world's biggest textbook publishers, is leading the charge, having announced a "digital first" strategy. That's a weight off our backs!
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13. This is a part of a:

Coyau /
  1. Paper Shredder
  2. Electric Pencil Sharpener
  3. Eraser
  4. Crank Pencil Sharpener
Remember, before tablets and laptops, when pencils were all the rage? Crank pencil sharpeners were the answer to all of the classroom's most pressing questions.
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14. Don't have any paper? Then you don't need these:
  1. Rubber Band
  2. Paper Clip
  3. Staple
  4. Clothespin
Paperclips, as mundane as they are now, were a powerful symbol of resistance against the Nazis during World War II. As the story goes, Norwegians started wearing paper clips instead of buttons on their clothing to protest Nazi occupation of their country. In doing so, they risked imprisonment. Why? Paper clips were both a symbol of unity (get it?), and were thought to be a Norwegian invention.
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15. What should you color this in with?
  1. Dry Erase Markers
  2. Crayola Crayons
  3. A Ball Point Pen
  4. Oil Paints
The first box of Crayola Crayons hit stores in 1903, and sold for a nickel a piece. Today, a vintage box of crayons can be worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Another worthwhile tidbit? Crayola is responsible for manufacturing over 700 colors in the course of its history!
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16. Before every kid had their own laptop, they used:

Frank Fiedler /
  1. Writing Boards
  2. Tree Bark
  3. Stone & Chisel
  4. Smartphones
Individual writing boards, once used by ancient Babylonian students (who inscribed lessons on clay tablets), did not go out of style until well after the 1950s. Writing boards spread across the United States in the 1800s when a new railroad system allowed slate to be shipped cross-country from quarries in Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Virginia.
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17. Before email, you needed these to fasten pages together:

Maxop-Plus /
  1. A Stapler
  2. A Staple Remover
  3. Chewing Gum
  4. Rubber Cement
Mostly used as a school or office supply, staplers are sometimes also used to staple skin together during surgery (not your normal household stapler, or course). While the stapler boasts a pragmatic name today, it used to be called the "Hotchkiss," after an American company that mass-produced these delights.
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18. This is most likely:

  1. White out
  2. Milk
  3. Paste
  4. Joe's secret formula
For those of you who have been dying to know, here's the difference between glue and paste. Paste is thicker, and easier to use than glue, which is runnier and takes a bit more expertise to use. Paste is also, occasionally, edible, making it safer for younger kids.
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19. Oh shucks! Tim moved my _________ . Now I can't find my place.
  1. Book Placeholder
  2. Book Mark
  3. String
  4. Index Tab
While digitization will most likely make these school supplies obsolete, book marks used to be a staple in any child's book bag. You must be itching to know what the oldest preserved bookmark in history is. As it turns out, Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England was quite the reader. You can still take a look at a fringed silk book that was specially gifted to her.
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20. The old-fashioned version of ctrl. alt. delete:
  1. Rubber Eraser
  2. My Dog Ate My Homework
  3. A Paper Shredder
  4. White Out
Here's a fun fact. Erasers are able to wipe away pencil markings because erasers' molecules are stickier than papers' molecules. The older fashioned version of ctrl. alt. delte? Chunks of rubber or wax.
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21. No, it's not a belt, it's a:

SadiePorter /
  1. Book Strap
  2. A Whip
  3. A Scarf
  4. A Backpack
By the 1950s, book straps were a definitively retro statement. Only the hipsters used them. Book straps' had reached their heyday in the early 1900s, when students used the belts to bind their books and sling them over their shoulders. Ouch. By the 1950s, leather satchels were what all the popular kids were using.
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22. A multimedia class in the 1950s might use a:

Paisit Teeraphatsakool /
  1. A Cassette Player
  2. A DVD Player
  3. A Radio
  4. A Powerpoint Presentation
Despite modern technology, radios may be more popular today than in the 1950s. In fact, over 90% of U.S. adults listen to at least one of over 15,500 radio stations a day. It's a 14 billion dollar industry (which is about 14 times the worth of the Miami Marlins Baseball team).
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23. Oh dear! Is it that time of year again? Consult your:

DutchScenery /
  1. Desk Calendar
  2. Wall Calendar
  3. Agenda
  4. Iphone
A school's desk calendar, of course, would only have been used for average of 6.64 hours a day, during the average 155 days that a school in the United States ran during the 1950s.
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24. You can also use this supply to hide love letters:

Hurst Photo /
  1. Satchel
  2. Backpack
  3. Lunch Box
  4. Treasure Chest
Back in the 1800s, miners and construction workers used metal tins to protect their lunches from debris. Children, who wanted to copy their parents, began taking their lunches to school in metal tins, too. Volia, the lunch box! Of course, it wasn't until the 50s, when lunch boxes started boasting kids' favorite T.V. shows, that they really became a _thing_.
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25. To make his first move, David needs:

  1. Chalk
  2. Oil Pastel
  3. Candy
  4. Finger Paints
Blackboard chalk is really just calcium sulfate in its dehydrated form.That's a naturally occurring calcium salt. In other forms, calcium sulfate can be used as a soil conditioner. Dentists also use this compound as an impression material, and doctors use it for making casts.
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26. Somebody was having fun with the:

Chanwit Issarasuwipakorn /
  1. Adhesive Machine
  2. Staple Remover
  3. 3-Hole Punch
  4. Blow Torch
While staplers have been around since the 1800s, it took a lot longer for humans to come up with the staple remover. It wasn't until the early 1900s that the first of their kind appeared on the market.
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27. Only recommended for final drafts, this is a:
  1. A Fountain Pen
  2. A Stylus
  3. A Number 2 Pencil
  4. Eyeliner
Today's ball point pens can write an average of 45,000 words before they pass onto another life. The ball in the ballpoint pen is actually the pen's most important feature: not only does it prevent the ink from drying, but it also ensures that the pen's ink flows out at controlled rate.
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28. Have you ever made a ___________ ball?
  1. Hair Elastic
  2. Pick Up Stick
  3. Rubber Band
  4. Silly String
By 1901, _57 million_ rubber bands were sold world wide. Almost certainly because they are also excellent sling shots, rubber bands remain one of the world's most-produced products. Rubber band balls are nothing to laugh at either. The biggest rubber band balls ever made are over 15 feet in circumference, and weigh around 3,000 pounds.
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29. A student could use this to fix her torn notebook:

Picsfive /
  1. Moon Tape
  2. Adhesive Tape
  3. Glue
  4. Silly Putty
Scotch tape became a household product in the 1930s, when money-strapped American households began using it to fix items from books to toys, to ripped money. Before tape, people used tree bark, egg whites, and animal-based glues to mend things.
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30. This math class tool has made lots of us cry:

Felix Mittermeier /
  1. A Ruler
  2. A Pointy Thing
  3. A Calculator
  4. A Compass
Galileo may be responsible for the invention of the compass. The iconic scientist is thought to have invented the dreaded school supply while working at Accademia Delia, teaching mathematics to noblemen bound for the military.
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31. Chrissie used _________ to create this Christmas miracle:

r. nial bradshaw /
  1. Lined Paper
  2. Graph Paper
  3. Craft Paper
  4. Foil
Craft paper, also known as construction paper, has been a classroom essential since the late 1800s, when manufacturers began marketing particularly 'foldable' papers, that were produced by mixing colors with the pulp of the paper, so that the pigment would not rub off. Craft paper was once serious business, meant to teach students the scientific laws of color.
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32. In the picture, you see a glue stick, a glue bottle and the following:

wishfullythinking /
  1. Rubber Cement
  2. Rat Poison
  3. Honey
  4. Turpentine
Why does rubber cement smell so bad? Because of the way it is made, suspending synthetic rubber polymers in a solvent. The solvent -- acetone, hexane, toluene -- is what produces the adhesive's distinctive aroma.
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33. What was pressed into ink to reward an outstanding essay?

mevem /
  1. A Unicorn Stamp
  2. A Rubberband
  3. A Glue Stick
  4. An Apple
Used in schools for art projects, and to reward overachieving students, stamps can actually be traced back to 100 AD, in ancient China. Sadly, the Chinese did not invent the Unicorn.
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34. This is a close up of a:
  1. Dictionary
  2. A Sketch Book
  3. A Computer Screen
  4. A French Textbook
Did you know it took the creators of the _Oxford English Dictionary_ nearly 50 years to finish the tome? True story. Also true? Today's Oxford English Dictionary contains around 171,476 words. That's a lot to choose from when writing your next English essay.
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35. If Joe had used his _________, he never would have dropped his pencils!

Tim Parkinson /
  1. Thermos
  2. Eraser Tin
  3. Lunch Box
  4. Pencil Tin
Pencil tins were invented, predictably, to prevent lead pencils from smudging the inside of backpacks. According to legend, pencils themselves originated when English shepherds in the 16th century discovered graphite on an uprooted tree. They used it for marking their sheep.
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36. Before shredders, these came in handy for making documents "disappear"...

Matt Benoit /
  1. A Plastic Sleeve
  2. Scissors
  3. A Picture Frame
  4. A Three-ringed Binder
Scissors, a word which comes from the latin 'cisoria,’ or ‘cutting instrument,’ have been around long before the 1950s, of course. They have most likely been destroying things since at least 1500 B.C. in Ancient Egypt, when historians believe they were invented.
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37. This math class essential is:
  1. A Calculator
  2. An Abracadabra
  3. A Baby Toy
  4. An Abacus
Supposedly the oldest counting device on the planet (used by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese), abacuses were still used in the 1950s to teach small children the principals of addition and subtraction. It's just that useful. If you were wondering what to call a person who uses an abacus, there's a word for that. He or she is an abacist.
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38. What tool is hanging over the blackboard in this geography classroom?
  1. A Projector
  2. A Pull Down Map
  3. A Booby Trap
  4. A Blackout Curtain
Remember geography? Students used a variety of pull down maps, like the one represented in the picture, to study location, physical systems, human systems, environment and society. You might have learned, for example, that 90% of all of the earth's population live in the Northern Hemisphere, or that Russia spans 11 time zones.
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39. This script page was copied using a:

Leslie Slape /
  1. A Ditto Machine
  2. A Pen
  3. A 3D Printer
  4. Blue Paint
The precursor to the copying machine, ditto machines (also known as spirit duplicators) were once revered by school teachers and students alike. While ditto machines have long since bitten the dust, we pay homage to them every time we CC someone in an email. CC actually stands for carbon copy, which were sheets of film, glazed with waxy ink on one side. These were essential to the ditto machine's copying process.
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40. White kind of ruler is this?

Laborant /
  1. A Slide Rule
  2. A Tape Measurer
  3. A Seamstress Tape
  4. A Yard Stick
Slide rules used to be used in advanced mathematics classes -- before the advent of scientific calculators -- in order to perform such functions as: multiplication, division, roots, logarithms and trigonometry.
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41. Oh no! This textbook is breaking regulations. It needs a:

Undrey /
  1. Enamel
  2. Book Mark
  3. Makeover
  4. Book Cover
Remember paper bag book covers? Should you need a refresher, here's how you make one: 1. Choose a bag that is double the width of your book and 3 inches taller than its height. 2. Cut off the bottom of the bag. 3. Center the book on the paper. 4. Wrap the paper along all of the books edges, making sure to properly crease. 5. We'll let you take it from there...
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42. These sad pieces of paper are being held to the notice board by:
  1. Staples
  2. Adhesive Tape
  3. Needles
  4. Thumb Pins
First made out of glass and steel, thumb pins go by many names. They are otherwise known as push pins, thumb tacks, drawing pins, chart pins, and map tacks. As many distressed parents have since discovered, they are unfortunately dangerous when swallowed, and can lead to punctures in the digestive tract.
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43. Used for measuring angles in geometry class, this is:

Laborant /
  1. An Angle-Measurer
  2. Half Moon Scissors
  3. A Circle Ruler
  4. A Protractor
Protractors have been tormenting students for over 500 years. But without it, who knows if Columbus would have reached America. The tools were first used as navigation helpers for sailors during the 1600s. It wasn't until the 1700s that they made their way into math classrooms.
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44. Maybe because it's made out of wax, this is called a:

carol /
  1. A Quill
  2. A Grease Pencil
  3. Carbon Pencil
  4. A Number 2 Pencil
We hereby call for the comeback of the grease pencil! They're amazing! These moisture-resistant gems can write on just about any surface, including: porcelain, glass, rock, polished stone, metals, x rays, and film strips.
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45. These colorful pieces of paper are called:

Frannyanne /
  1. Cardboard
  2. Stickers
  3. Colored Paper
  4. Index Tabs
Index tabs were essential for organizing 3-ring binders, especially as the year went on, and on, and on, and the contents of the binder got more, and more, and more difficult to navigate. Today, of course, students are much more used to the virtual index tabs that appear on the top of web-pages to organize content.
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46. This non-digital filing system is a:

Scott Rothstein /
  1. A Clip Paper Holder
  2. Accordion Folder
  3. An Envelope
  4. Tape
A marvelous, expanding folder with pleated sides, the accordion folder was once a novelty. Marketeers suggested that they "dynamically" subdivided enclosed spaces. Now of course, a USB, or online, cloud-based storage, does the trick just fine.
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47. To create his signature look in art class, Ferdinand used a:

Irina Yazdan Mehr /
  1. Sticks
  2. Paint Sponge
  3. Paint Brushes
  4. His Fingers
A simple way to add texture to a work of art, paint sponges were an art class essential. If the grown-up you is dying to pick paint-sponging back up, consider redecorating your walls! Use a paint sponge to add a bit of punch to your otherwise mundane, household surfaces.
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48. Don't over think this one, it's called a:

GlitterandFrills /
  1. Paint Box
  2. Lunch Box
  3. Safe
  4. Jewelry Box
An art-class must-have (even today) paint boxes were filled with (don't hold your breath) paints and painting tools.
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49. Which of the following school supplies IS NOT in this picture?
  1. Rubber Eraser
  2. A pencil box
  3. Hole punch
  4. Colored pencil
The hole punch became popular during the railroad boom in the late 1800s, when conductors began using them to punch passengers' tickets. During the 1950s, they became crucial tools for organizing loose-leaf documents into much dreaded, 3-ring binders.
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50. What's this guy using?

The University of Western Ontario, Western Archives /
  1. Scissors
  2. A Trimming Board
  3. A Paper Beheader
  4. A Copying Machine
Trimming boards are also sometimes called paper guillotines, because they resemble the gruesome beheading device. Guillotines were infamous players in the French Revolution, when thousands of people were beheaded, including France's somewhat capricious last Queen, Marie Antoinette.
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