The Toothpick : Technology and Culture

Petroski, Henry

9780307266361

ISBN 10: 0307266362 / 0-307-26636-2
ISBN 13: 9780307266361

Publication Date: 2008

Editorial Reviews:
Synopsis:

Like "The Pencil," Henry Petroski's "The Toothpick" is a celebration of a humble yet elegant device. As old as mankind and as universal as eating, this useful and ubiquitous tool finally gets its due in this wide-ranging and compulsively readable book. Here is the unexpected story of the simplest of implements--whether made of grass, gold, quill, or wood--a story of engineering and design, of culture and class, and a lesson in how to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary. Petroski takes us back to ancient Rome, where the emperor Nero makes his entrance into a banquet hall with a silver toothpick in his mouth; and to a more recent time in Spain, where a young senorita uses the delicately pointed instrument to protect her virtue from someone trying to steal a kiss. He introduces us to Charles Forster, a nineteenth-century Bostonian and father of the American toothpick industry, who hires Harvard students to demand toothpicks in area restaurants--thereby making their availability in eating establishments as expected as condiments. And Petroski takes us inside the surprisingly secretive toothpick-manufacturing industry, in which one small town's factories can turn out 200 million wooden toothpicks a day using methods that, except for computer controls, haven't changed much in almost 150 years. He also explores a treasure trove of the toothpick's unintended uses and perils, from sandwiches to martinis and beyond. With an engineer's eye for detail and a poet's flair for language, Petroski has earned his reputation as a writer who explains our world--from the tallest buildings to the lowliest toothpick--to us.


 

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