The blackboard revolutionized education in the early part of the 19th century. Prior to their existence, teachers had no means of visually presenting information to a roomful of students other than scratching with a stick on the dirt floor. From the mid 1800s onward, the blackboard was the single most important educational tool, becoming a permanent fixture in schools nationwide.
In early days, some students would practice their sums and spelling on slabs of slate. Hand held slates were often a wood board painted over with black grit. Those who could afford it used actual slate, which is a type of layered rock. Early pencil boxes were boxes that held copying cards and writing tools like chalk or slate pencils with a slanted hinged slate top.
Paper was made from rags and was not always readily available. A machine was invented in 1844 that turned pulped wood into paper, making it cheaper and accessible for schools to use. Since there were no lined papers, teachers and students used rulers to make lines on paper during their spare time.
Martha's Vineyard Museum