Who Invented the Paperclip?

A paperclip how we know it today.
A paperclip how we know it today.

The paper clip is believed to have been invented by Johan Vaaler in 1899. His passion for new ideas resulted in him being nicknamed “innovator” in his youthful age. Vaaler created the paper clip from a wire in 1899 and immediately applied for a German patent which he received that same year. He later applied for and received an American patent for his invention in 1901. The invention of the paperclip happened when Vaaler was an employee at a local invention office in Norway. Although he was the first person to patent a paperclip design, it is believed that other unpatented designs may have existed before his invention.

Inventions Leading To The Creation Of The Paper Clip

As early as the 13th century, people had various ways of putting documents together such as the use of ribbons, melting wax, and straight pins. Ribbons would be tied through papers at the upper left corner to hold them together. Waxing made the use of ribbons more effective. Ribbons and wax were used for nearly 60 decades after before the straight pin was invented by John Ireland Howe in 1835. John Vaaler came up with the idea of the paperclip from Howe’s straight pin invention. He bent the wire into a hoop shape and used it to secure papers together. However, the paperclip was not widely distributed until a machine was developed in England by the Gem Company that facilitated mass manufacturing and standardization of the paperclip. The company also pioneered the global distribution of paperclips. Besides, Gem Company is also credited with the design of the first double oval-shaped paperclip which has become the most popular paperclip today. The oval-shaped paperclip is commonly referred to as “Gem”.

Biography Of John Vaaler

Vaaler was born on March 15, 1866, in Aurskog-Holand which is located in Akershus, Norway. He later went to Christiania University where he graduated after taking a course in electronics, science, and mathematics. Valer started his career in 1892 when he got a job as a patent examiner at the Alfred Jorgen Bryn’s patent office in Oslo. He died on March 14, 1910 in Kristiania (present-day Oslo) at age 43. All his life, his career revolved around invention and patenting. A challenge which he had to deal with in his lifetime was the controversy about the real inventors of the paperclip. At some point, the Gem Company confronted him about the issue. However, hundreds of years later, Vaaler is still credited with the invention of the paperclip due to the patents that exist.

Uses Of The Paper Clip

The primary use of the paperclip as alluded above is the holding of paper sheets together. It has become a common part of stationary in the majority of the offices in the globe. The metal used to make the paperclips can be easily unfolded. In its unfolded form, a paperclip helps in lock picking and may even be used to unfasten handcuffs. Another function of the paperclip is on electric devices such as smartphones where it is used to eject or reset sim-cards.


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