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The Paperclip We Use Today Was Never Patented

National Paperclip Day is observed each year on May 29.  Yes, even the paperclip has its own day of honor. It is about that well-known piece of curved wire that keeps our papers together and helps keep us organized.

  • While there are much earlier claims to the invention of the paperclip, according to the Early Office Museum, the first patent for a “bent wire paper clip” was presented to Samuel B. Fay in the United States in 1867.   The original intention of Fay’s clip was to attach tickets to fabric.
  • However, U.S. patent 64,088 recognized that it could also be used to attach papers together.
  • There were as many as 50 others that received patents for similar designs prior to 1899. One other notable name receiving a patent for his paperclip design in the United States was Erlman J. Wright in 1877.  At that time, his clip was advertised for use in fastening newspapers.
  • The Gem paperclip, which was most likely in production in Britain in the early 1870s by The Gem Manufacturing Company, was never patented.  It is the most common type of wire paper clip and is still in use today.
  • It was introduced to the United States around 1892 and in 1904, Cushman & Denison registered a trademark for the “Gem” name in connection with paper clips.  Paperclips are still sometimes called “Gem clips.”
  • During the Second World War, wearing a paperclip could have got you into serious trouble. The people living in countries under Nazi German occupation were forbidden from wearing badges or pins depicting national symbols. The paperclip, a seemingly meaningless piece of stationery, became used as a symbol of unity due to the fact that it is used for binding things together. Wearing paperclips became banned once the Germans cottoned on to the reasons for them being worn.
  • Operation Paperclip was an American operation to fly German scientists out of Germany and over to the USA after the Second World War. The Americans wanted to make use of the scientific and engineering intellect and expertise of the Germans, and to ensure that they didn’t fall into the hands of the Soviet Union. One of them, Wernher von Braun, was a rocket scientist who would assist the Americans with developing the rockets that would eventually take people to the Moon. Von Braun also worked on ideas for manned missions to Mars.
  • The paperclip is widely used as the symbol for an attachment in most email services.
  • The largest paper clip was displayed in Oslo, Norway in 1989, and was made from iron, and was 7 metres (22 feet, 11 inches) long and weighed 602 kg (1327 pounds).
  • There have been 65 different types of paper clips identified by the Early Office Museum and listed on their website. From the first patent in 1867, to the Vee-Clip first marketed in 1966, to an unidentified Serbian clip from 2008, the clips vary vastly in design, shape and size.
  • from the early 13th century people had created various methods to ensure documents were kept together. These included tying ribbons though the paper, and melting wax to secure the papers in place. For nearly 600 years, these were the methods used to secure papers
  • The next paper invention was that of the straight pin. A machine that could mass-produce straight pins was invented in 1835 by John Ireland Howe. Although straight pins were originally designed for sewing and tailoring, people began using them as a quick and easy way to secure papers.


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