The Toothpick by Henry Petroski
Technology and Culture

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A celebration culture and technology, as seen through the history of the humble yet ubiquitous toothpick, from the best-selling author of The Pencil.

From ancient Rome, where emperor Nero made his entrance into a banquet hall with a silver toothpick in his mouth, to nineteenth-century Boston, where Charles Forster, the father of the American wooden toothpick industry, ensured toothpicks appeared in every restaurant, the toothpick has been an omnipresent, yet often overlooked part of our daily lives. Here, with an engineer's eye for detail and a poet's flair for language, Henry Petroski takes us on an incredible tour of this most interesting invention. Along the way, he peers inside today's surprisingly secretive toothpick-manufacturing industry, and explores a treasure trove of the toothpick's unintended uses and perils, from sandwiches to martinis and beyond.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Henry Petroski

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Henry Petroski's previous books include To Engineer Is Human, which was developed into a BBC television documentary; The Pencil; The Evolution of Useful Things; and Engineers of Dreams. Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University.
Published November 26, 2008 by Vintage. 464 pages
Genres: History, Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Generous illustrations add texture to the sometimes dry, almost textbook-worthy narrative flow as Petroski examines the toothpick’s boundless uses, from freeing stubborn debris and serving hors d’oeuvres to testing baked goods for doneness or skewering unsympathetic cellmates.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

The author entertainingly traces the use, design, materials, manufacture, and cultural connotations of the handy utensil from the Rome of Nero to 16th-century Portugal (where industrious nuns created a local cottage industry), from 19th-century Cambridge, Massachusetts (where toothpick tycoon Cha...

Oct 15 2007 | Read Full Review of The Toothpick: Technology and...

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