Staplers are such a common item these days. We all encounter them at the office and most of us also have one for use at home. Like any other everyday object, it’s easy to take them for granted and not wonder how and why they came to be so ubiquitous. That’s kind of a shame because the stapler has a pretty interesting history. Here is a brief look back at its fascinating origins.
Early beginnings. Ever since paper has been around, there undoubtedly has been a need to fasten sheets together. It is believed that, way back in the Middle Ages, people accomplished this by using wax and ribbons. However, the precursor of the modem stapler seems to have originated in the 18th century France. The country’s monarch, Louis XV, had a device handmade for the fastening of his personal documents and even used staples inscribed with the court’s insignia.
The 19th century. Although the stapler had illustrious, royal origins, it didn’t really come to be used by the public until the 19th century. In 1841, a man named Samuel Slocum received a patent for his document fastening method that consisted of threading pins through paper. Around 1866, a patent was issued to Joan Barbour for creating a bendable metal fastener, a precursor to the staples we use today. Around this same time, a paper fastener was created by the Patent Novelty Manufacturing Co. This device could only hold one staple at a time, but it could be used to fasten paper, as well as upholstery and boxes. However, the stapler itself was invented by one Charles H. Gould in 1879 and his invention was called the McGill Single-Stroke Staple Press. This particular device weighed almost three pounds and it was powerful enough to staple a couple of sheets together.
The 20th century. The word “stapler” didn’t enter the American lexicon until 1901. That’s when the word appeared in an issue of “Munsey’s Magazine” as part of an advertisement for a paper fastening device. However, the word didn’t become widely used until several years later. In 1905, the B. Jahn Manufacturing Co. issued the first stapler that could contain an entire strip of staples, which definitely made document fastening a lot easier and faster. Newer companies appeared in the 1920’s and 1930’s, including the Boston Wire Stitcher Co. and Swingline, which has become to best-known document fastening brand around. Swingline is credited with creating the first top-loading device, as well as creating products that have become pop culture landmarks, such as the red model in the cult classic Office Space. Electric models were invented in the 1950s, which made document fastening easier than ever.
The stapler has definitely had a long, colorful history, and in the 21st century, its place as an office product must-have is secure. From its royal origins to its modern-day popularity, this is one item that you’ll never look at the same way again and even appreciate more as you fasten those important documents.