Friday, December 15, 2017
The paper clip is a pretty simple everyday object, or so we think.
Paperclips owe their success to the fact that they fill a need...there are billions of pieces of paper that need to be clipped together. A close challenger may be staples, but once you’ve clipped the papers together, you’re probably going to have to unclip them at some point and they leave little holes in the paper. Plus, the unclipping process requires a tool of some sort unless you are willing to risk breaking a fingernail or stabbing yourself.
Most everyday objects evolve over time, but paper clips have remained pretty much the same. Back in the old days when clerks worked endless hours at a thankless task they stored bundles of paper, often tied with string, in pigeon holed desks. Then somebody came up with the idea of fastening papers together with a straight pin. The pin-making business was greatly helped along with the advent of mechanized technology.
In the old days one man drew the iron wire, another straightened it, another cut it and another sharpened it. A pretty slow process. It was actually a 10-part process that took 10 individuals and they produced about 48,000 pins a day. An 8 ounce box cost about $0.40, so they were cheap and disposable. The main problem was that they rusted leaving little stains on whatever the were stuck in.
It wasn't until 1855 that the availability of low-cost steel with the strength and flexibility to make tracks, pipes, wire, etc. became available. It was a boon for manufacturers who could then make rust-free hooks, safety pins, clothes hangers, and paper clips.
But it wasn't until 1899 that a patent was issued to William Middlebrook for the design of the machinery that was used to make paper clips. He sold the patent to Cushman and Denison, office-supply manufacturers, and they trademarked the design as Gem clips in 1904.
Middlebrook’s patent drawing shows the clip as we know it today, but they weren't the only design for paperclips around. The Gem clip has faced competition, but it's never been beat. Oh, there's been a few minor enhancements: ridged clips patented in 1921 grip paper better. Clips with a bent-up lip are easier to slip on, but they make stacks bulky.
A “time-saving” clip was patented in 1992 has two loops on either end, but they didn't sell. The Gothic clip, patented in 1933, had a pointed inner loop and longer legs and it was claimed it was less likely to bend and tear the paper. It's still used by some. And then there are paper clips that are coated with different color vinyl.
Paper clips also have other handy uses; they can be twisted, pulled apart and used as a tool for many applications like picking locks or cleaning under your fingernails. In the military we made a “short-timer chain.” When you got to 90 days left on your enlistment, you made a chain of 90 paperclips and every day took one off. Another use is straightened out they make a good, short piece of wire. In fact, as I type this my reading glasses have tiny pieces of a paperclip serving as replacements for the screws that fell out of the ear pieces.
Choosing the right paper clip may seem like a no-brain decision, but it's not. To get the right clip for the job is going to require some thought. If you work at a place like I used to it may take a meeting of company executives.
Paper clips come in different sizes and are sized by number:
•Jumbo = 1-3/4 inches long
•No. 1 = 1-3/8 inches long
•No. 2 = 1-1/8 inches long
•No. 3 = 15/16 inches long
Finishes are non-skid and smooth:
•Nonskid: ridges, which prevent sliding and they keep papers in place.
•Smooth: most basic paper clip. They have a smooth surface without the ridges.
•Plastic coated: coated with plastic.
•Economy: the basic paper clip we usually think of. Just bare wire.
•Premium: a higher quality made with heavy gauge wire that offers superior holding power.
•Recycled: Eco-friendly made from recycled materials.
Quantity: A box usually contains 100, but sometimes they are sold by the sleeve with 10 boxes per pack. One office supply store gives the following instructions:
If you order one pack of Universal No. 1 paper clips you will get 10 boxes (1,000 clips). If you would like to purchase them by the box use the same item number but add BX at the end. So UNV-xxxxxBX will give you one individual box of 100 paper clips. They admit it gets confusing so their phone number is listed and you're invited to call them.
Dispensers in case you don't want to keep them in the box they came in.
•Basic magnet dispenser: holds 100 paper clips
•Push button dispenser: dispenses the clip with the touch of a button.
•Two-compartment dispenser: has two compartments...presumably for different sizes.
•Clip cups and other items for storing paper clips.
For more interesting facts about paper clips than you will probably ever need visit Paper Clip History.