The Toothpick (Paperback)

Technology and Culture

By Henry Petroski

Vintage, 9780307279439, 464pp.

Publication Date: November 4, 2008

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (10/16/2007)

List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


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.

About the Author

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. The author of a dozen previous books, he lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Praise For The Toothpick: Technology and Culture

"Offers rare insights into principles of engineering and design."—The Washington Post Book World“Delightful . . . Mr. Petroski combines historical narrative with technical expertise to compelling affect.” —New York Sun"I'll never look at a toothpick in the same way." —Jeri Krentz, The Charlotte Observer“Petroski writes . . . with the observant eye of an engineer and the imaginative heart of a novelist.” —Los Angeles Times