I, Pencil by Leonard Read, is an essay on the life cycle of a pencil. Written in a way that references all the strings attached and people involved in the back-story of this simple, everyday object; this story is an excellent text to tie products to global social and environmental concerns. And it was written in 1958.
“Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others.”
I, Pencil is referenced in this TED talk by Matt Ridley about the collective effort that leads to innovation,