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Research Source Cards and Note Cards
Source Cards and Note Cards
(The sample article written from these notes is at the end.)


First, the research topic and the six questions:

WOODEN TOOTHPICKS

1. Who invented wooden toothpicks?
2. How long have toothpicks been used?
3. How are they made?
4. What kind of wood are they made of? Have toothpicks always been made of wood?
5. Where did the invention occur?
6. How did the inventor get the idea? (Why did he or she invent them?)

I looked at books, magazines, websites, and encyclopedias. I found three sources that answer my questions, plus other questions that I didn't think of until I was doing my research.

Here are sample source cards with the note cards from each source underneath. Notice how each source card is numbered to match the note cards. (Note: I have used different colors for the two types of cards to make this page easier to understand, but there is no need for you to take any extra steps like this. The information on the cards makes it clear what type each card is.)



1

James, Peter and Nick Thorpe. Ancient Inventions. New York: Ballantine, 1994.

1

How long have toothpicks been used?
- Toothpicks were used in 3000 B.C. in Sumer.
- During the Roman Empire, people carried sets of personal hygiene items which included an ear scoop, tweezers, a nail cleaner, and a toothpick.

                                                                                                 


(I do not have permission to reproduce this original source, but continue down the page to see the other sources.)





2

Hubbell, Sue and Jack Williams. "Let Us Now Praise the Romantic, Artful, Versatile Toothpick." Smithsonian. January, 1997: 76-79.

2

Who invented wooden toothpicks?
- Charles Forster was working in Brazil in the mid-1800's when he came upon a box of handmade wooden toothpicks from Portugal. He brought the idea to America. Charles Forster invented a machine to make toothpicks from birch logs.

2

How long have toothpicks been used?
- Neanderthal teeth show evidence of being picked with some kind of tool.
- Throughout history, people have used toothpicks made of ivory, gold, and other materials. Individuals would keep a personal toothpick which was reused.
- Toothpicks of goose quills were made in France sometime in the 1800's as a low-cost version.
- Forster made his invention in 1869 in Boston.

2

Where did the invention occur?
- Forster made his invention in Boston. He later moved his operation to Strong, Maine, since his wood came from Maine.

2

What kind of wood are they made of?
- White birch.

2

Miscellaneous Facts
- Today, 20 million toothpicks on average are created in one day at the plant in Strong.

2

Miscellaneous Facts
- The first restaurant to order toothpicks from Forster was the Union Oyster House in Boston.

[Students of Berkshire Middle School are allowed to use the orignal source text for personal use through the school's subsription to Ebsco. If you are a Berkshire student who knows the password for Mr. Fisher's site (you know, the backwards one), click here to view the original article.]



3

"Forster History." Diamond Brands.com. 1998. Diamond Brands Incorporated. May 18, 2002. .

3

How did the inventor get the idea?
- Charles Forster came across handmade toothpicks from Brazil that were made from orange trees. He thought disposable toothipicks were a good idea.

3

Who makes toothpicks today?
- The company started by Charles Forster is now owned by Diamond Brands. It manufactures 7.2 billion toothpicks each year.

3

How long have toothpicks been used?
- Forster's factory in Strong, Maine, opened in 1887.

3

How did Forster market his product?
- Forster paid diners to ask for toothpicks in restaurants, then complain loudly when none were available. Restaurant owners began to buy toothpicks in order to keep their customers happy.

(Click here for a snapshot of the website on the day I used it. You can also go to www.diamondbrands.com and follow the links for Forster history.)


Notice that two different sources give different information about where the handmade toothpicks came from. I had to take that into account when I wrote my newspaper article. I also took notes on facts that I thought added interest to my report, even though they are not directly related to my original questions.

Once I had the information I thought I needed, I put my cards in the order that I thought would make a good explanation of the facts. Information on the same question goes together, no matter what source that information came from. Then I put the most important information first, and added less important details as I went. This is where I found which facts I would leave out of the article, too. Remember, the focus of my article is on Forster's work. Even though he didn't invent wooden toothpicks, he found a way to make them quickly in large quantities.

Here is the article I wrote:

Disposable Wooden Toothpicks Are Plentiful, Inexpensive

     Wooden toothpicks are everywhere these days. Charles Forster is the man to thank for this.

     Forster changed the way many people groom their teeth when he created his machine that turns birch logs into huge quantities of toothpicks. Although he didn't invent wooden toothpicks, he did come up with a method of making them available cheaply and in large quantities. Because of his invention, it is no longer necessary to carry a personal, reusable toothpick.

     Forster came up with his invention in 1869. Today, toothpicks are still made in Strong, Maine, where Forster moved from Boston in 1887 so he could be closer to the white birch that he used for his product. Through the use of steam, logs of birch are softened so much that the wood actually bends. This allows Forster's machine to cut the logs into long strings of wood. The next stage of the process cuts these strings into toothpick-sized sections. After the wood is dried, another machine sharpens the ends of the dowels to points, and the toothpick is complete.

     Mr. Forster got the idea for making mass quantities of wooden toothpicks while in Brazil, when he came across some handmade wooden toothpicks that were produced in either Portugal or Brazil. Use of disposable toothpicks have since caught on, but this didn't happen immediately. As a matter of fact, Forster had to create the market for his product. He hired diners to complain loudly to restaurant managers that toothpicks weren't available in their restaurants. This led restaurants to buy Forster's toothpicks.

     Toothpicks of different materials have been around for much of human history. Teeth of Neanderthals have been found which show signs of being picked with some type of tool. Toothpicks are also known to have been used in Sumer--part of what is now present-day Iraq--as long ago as 3000 B.C.E., and it was fashionable for citizens of the Roman empire to carry a toothpick as part of a personal set of grooming tools. Mr. Forster's toothpicks, though, have made the personal toothpick a thing of the past, now that disposable toothpicks are available to all.

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