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Published on July 7th, 2014 | by Sally Wenham

There’s More To Paperclips Than You Think

The humble paperclip is a frequent sight around any office or workplace these days. In fact, here at the Post Office Shop we would probably go as far to say that they’re office essentials!

However, how many of you know when paperclips were invented for instance? Today we are going to give you a bit of an insight and some interesting trivia about this much loved piece of stationery (when they’re not getting tangled up in your drawer that is).

For many years prior to the invention of the paperclip items like straight metal pins, twine and ribbon were used to bind loose papers together. However, these methods generally resulted in the paper being damaged in some way.

A patent for what we would recognize most closely with the paperclips we use today was issued on 9 November 1899 to William D. Middlebrook of Waterbury, Connecticut in the USA.  Middlebrook had also invented a machine to produce the paperclip along with the item itself and in his designs he specified that the patent was to apply to both items.

A manufacturing company named Cushman and Dennison purchased Middlebrook’s patent and trademarked the name Gem for their new acquisition. By 1907 the Gem paperclip was widely used in most offices and marketed as an item which would “securely hold your letters, documents or memoranda without perforation or mutilation until you wish to release them.”

In 1899 a Norwegian named Johan Vaaler patented a version of the paperclip; Vaaler had to patent his invention in Germany because there wasn’t a Norwegian patent office at the time. He had designed many manifestations of a paperclip including ones in triangular and square forms along with one that closely resembled the modern paperclips we use today. Vaalers invention however didn’t use the loop within a loop form which we are familiar with.

However, Vaalers paperclips held a rather large significance during the Second World War. When Norway was under German occupation, its citizens were prohibited from wearing buttons which were imprinted with the Kings initials. Because of this, many Norwegians began fastening paperclips to their lapels instead as a show of opposition to the occupation. Because of this, being seen brandishing a paperclip on your clothing was an offence which warranted arrest!

So there you are, there is more to the humble paperclip than you first thought!

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