Our gargantuan Xerox copier has a little sensor stapler: you stick the corner of the paper that you want to staple under the staple symbol, and it staples with a rapid ferocity not unlike a Basque rebel biting into a Little Debbi Snack Cake. It will accommodate '50 max.' 51 papers will cause the copier to break down. It is, by far, my favorite piece of office equipment.

History of the stapler

Staplers: easy to use, relatively cheap, and a great weapon against those looseleaf papers which can blow around the room and create a mess. We know what they're like today, but gather round old mella and she'll tell you a tale of what it was like before the modern stapler (gasp).

In the 1200s, papers were attached to each other by means of a ribbon passing through a hole at the top of each page. Then came the troublesome method of sealing each page to the next with a wax and ribbon combination. Not exactly reliable and easy to do, but this way of 'stapling' was obviously considered adequate (those wacky old guys) as there was no headway made on the battle against looseleaf until the 1700s.

According to members.spree.com/sip/scag/stapler01.htm( "The first web page dedicated to antique staplers"), the 1700s introduced the idea of a metal-based staple and stapler combination. Invented for King Louis XV of France, the individual staples were hand made and inscribed with the royal insignia. Fancy.

The stapler continued its slow technological evolution as it remained unchanged for another hundred years, when cast iron individual staples were introduced. Yet another hundred years later, the first connected row of staples appeared. This style is common today, and is called "the herringbone series" as a result of the appearance of the inter-connected metal staples.

In 1905, a stapler that looks vaguely like the modern form was invented by the B. Jahn Manufacturing Company, Connecticut. Except the staples were difficult to separate and the top of the tool had to be pounded with a mallet to dislodge the staples into the intended paper target. It wasn't until 1920 that Swingline invented the staple row connected by glue instead of metal, ultimately making the separation of the staples easier, rendering the mallet useless in the war against dislodging staples. And what a war it was!

Then, finally, in 1930, the modern stapler (albeit a bulkier, heavier item) was introduced. This type, circulated by Swingline, had the little "trapdoor" (officially the 'open channel system') kind of stapler loading system, and this revolutionary tool led to the 50s electric stapler, and ultimately the copy machine staple technology.

Random stapler facts:

  • The most expensive domestic stapler ever sold is the 1919 Remington, which was bought for $760 on eBay recently. The type name was the "Spool' o' wire" (great name!).
  • "Office Space", Mike Judge's 1999 movie, features a stapler which is the bane of the character Milton's existence. He continually yearns for it as it appears and reappears on his desk: perhaps the first time a stapler plays a starring role in a movie?
  • There are few websites dedicated to the humble stapler, but those which exist brag about their love of staplers (eg, http://www.calcampus.com/stapler: "The biggest serious website totally about stapler information". This is where i got most of this information).

The most advanced staplers I know of in use today are the circumferential staplers used by surgeons to anatomose sections of bowel together. Commonly used in anterior resections where the lower part of the colon is removed because of colon cancer, this nifty device comes in two parts. One bit goes to the remaining piece of colon after resection and is sewn in place, while the other bit goes in through the anus to the end of the remaining rectum. Then, the two bits are rejoined (a sharp bit pierces the sewn together bits of colon/rectum and it fits together with the other bit already in the proximal colon) and the device is closed tightly. Then, in one smooth motion, the stapler does a circumferential stapling of the two bits of GI tract and cuts out the intervening (doughnut shaped) bit of tissue in between the staples. A good seal is formed from the multiple, small, double or triple layered staples.

What's all this for? It saves more than half an hour's worth of the surgeon's time and has better results (in terms of operation morbidity and mortality) than the old method of sewing by hand.

Even discounting the above, surgeons have all sorts of great staplers. There are staplers for all sorts of surgical procedures. The simplest, and likely the most used ones are the "clips to skin" type where little metal staples are substituted for stitches on the skin, typically used when the wound is large, the operation has gone overtime and everyone involved just wants to finish up quickly and go home. Then there are the circumferential staplers that I've mentioned above and there are also linear staplers with a cutter in between, used for stapling shut a piece of bowel and cutting it in between, ensuring that no faecal material falls out during the process. Nifty. There are also vascular staplers which are basically clip appliers that are used to occlude arteries or veins.

All in the name of saving time and effort.

A stapler is a device that, suprisingly, webster 1913 didn't define. The basic construction is usually of plastic and metal, and includes a base for a top arm to swing down upon. The base has a curved piece of metal to allow the arms of a staple to bend around to "lock" peices of paper together. When pressure is applied to the top arm, it swings down, and the mechanical workings inside push a single staple through an apeture and into your target (such as your thumb).

But who am I kidding, who doesn't know what a stapler is? Let's hear something interesting.

It is believed that in the 1200s, people attempted to fasten papers together with a short ribbon. Each piece of paper had a cut in the upper left hand corner. A process was used to seal and connect the papers with wax and ribbons. Although this method was used for almost 600 hundred years, it is unknown who developed this early fastening method.

During the 1700s, a stapler machine or fastener was made for the exclusive use of King Louis XV of France. Each staple was handmade and inscribed with the royal court's insignia. For some reason, this device was never introduced to the masses.

In 1841, Samuel Slocum patented his invention of sticking pins on paper - early inspiration for the stapler. The first true stapler was the McGill Single Stroke Staple Press, which could load a single staple and drive the staple through two pieces of paper. Patents were issued for this invention in 1866 and 1879.

Novelty Mfg Co. received patents for their stapler in 1866, with others following in the 1880s and 1890s. Although their fastener loaded one staple at a time, it was recommended for binding books, papers, and pamphlets, as well as for putting down carpets and upholstering furniture.

Charles H. Gould also gets credit for inventing the stapler. In 1868 he invented the wire stitcher for use in binding magazines. Gould's wire stitcher used uncut wire, which then cut and inserted the wire in the folds of the magazine as well as folding the wire ends over. Gould's invention is considered the predecessor of the modern stapler.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, different stapling machines were being manufactured in larger quantities. In 1905 an American manufacturer, B. Jahn Mfg. Co., developed what would turn out to be the most popular stapler of its time. His stapler could hold Twenty-five tin-coated, metal staples, and were placed in a modern-like tray within the stapler. It wasn't easy to use, though; every time a staple was needed, the operator hit the stapler with a mallet.

The actual word "stapler" came into its own in 1909. Before that time, these products were called fasteners or a "Hotchkiss" after the American company that created them.

It wasn't until 1914, that the stapler gained a presence in American offices. Companies thought that only one stapler was all that was needed for an office of 500 people! The first office staplers were not easy for office workers to use because they had loose or paper-wrapped staples.

Fortunately in 1923, the Boston Wire Stitcher Co. introduced an easier model. In time, manufacturers also developed another innovation - - staples that were glued in a strip for easy handling.

In the late 1930s, Swingline created a product in which the stapler would open up on top, and one could drop in a strip of staples. Twenty years later, electric staplers were introduced. Although electric staplers filled the need for faster productivity and accuracy, the basic principle of these earlier staplers remained the same.
"... Old-fashioned law offices in the UK (and a few in the US) are still fastening Wills together with ribbon-and-wax, on the grounds of general coolness, and also, it's harder to tamper with." - SEF

"... In Japan, a stapler is sometimes called a 'hochikisu'... that is, like Hotchkiss." - exceptinsects

Most of this information was gleaned from www.swingline.com

Sta"pler (?), n.


A dealer in staple goods.


One employed to assort wool according to its staple.


© Webster 1913.

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