Who Invented the Chalkboard?

Mr. James Pillans is regarded as the inventor of the chalkboard (or blackboard). He was the Headmaster of a high school in Edinburgh, Scotland. However, the experts on the history of the chalkboard aren’t sure when he invented it.

Blackboard and Chalkboard
The word chalkboard is used mainly in the United States. It started to be used around 1935-40. In other countries and regions, blackboard is the term employed. The word blackboard has been in use for a much longer period. Records show it was being utilized as far back as 1815.

Spread of the Chalkboard
Exactly how Pillans conceived of the chalkboard isn’t clear. But it’s known he was using it to teach geography in the school and that he was using a chalk. The device was first employed in the US in 1801. A teacher at West Point named George Baron used the chalkboard for his math class.

However the history of the chalkboard began, its use became widespread. This is understandable. Prior to 1801, teachers couldn’t present their concepts and ideas in a visual manner. In most classes, students employed slates. The material was made of wood and covered with black grit. Other slates were made of porcelain. It was where students used to write their lessons.

Because there were no chalkboards, the teaching process was tedious. If a teacher wanted the students to solve a math equation, they would go to every student. The instructor would write the math problem on the slate. To make matters worse, not all students had slates.

The first school in California was inaugurated in 1846. Because the students and teachers didn’t have slates, the students had to write their answers on their hands. As the history of the chalkboard will indicate, this situation caused a lot of problems. It’s no surprise that the chalkboard became popular.

The Chalkboard Becomes Ubiquitous
Teachers and school administrators quickly realized how convenient it can be. The device allowed them to explain concepts easily to large numbers of students. The chalk allowed them to replace the chalkboard’s contents too.

Soon, schools started ordering the chalkboards from Europe in large quantities. Shipping was becoming more convenient too as railroad systems became commonplace.

Fifty years after its introduction to the US, the chalkboard had become a mainstay in almost all schools. The history of the chalkboard showed that its use would spread to the business world.

In business offices and seminars, the chalkboard was used to express ideas and vital points in the discussion. Mathematicians and scientists also started using the chalkboard to write down their formulas and equations. In several organizations, the chalkboard became a means for people to flesh out ideas and thoughts.

During the 1960s, steel blackboards were invented. The green color also became prevalent as it was less stressful on the eyes. It was also around this time that the term chalkboards became very popular in the US.

The history of the chalkboard has been marked by innovations and transformation. However its primary purpose of educating hasn’t changed.