Inventions almost always come as a solution to a problem. In the case of paper clips, the problem was paper. Office clerks were responsible for organizing and managing hundreds of pieces of paper.
Before the paper clip, they used ribbon, string, or even straight pins to keep the papers in order. The ribbons and string were cumbersome. Pins rusted the paper and poked the fingers. Enter the paper chip.
- Before paper, people sent messages on clay or wax tablets that could be wiped clean and used again.
- Early paper was made of linen or cotton and was quite expensive. It was only used by the wealthy and it was generally used for books.
- With the coming of paper mills in the 19th century, paper became more widely available – and with it, the need for paper clips.
- The first patent for paper clips wasn’t actually for the clips but for the machines that would make them. In 1899, William Middlebrook received a patent for a machine that would make a paper clip. He called it the Gem Clip and it looked remarkably like the clips we use today.
- Paper clips couldn’t have been invented without the invention of commercial steel, which was strong, yet flexible, and cheap to produce.
- Other people developed paper clips, such as the Fay clip, the Wright clip, the Niagara clip, and the Common-Sense clip. All of them claimed to solve some problem. None of them have lasted as long as Middlebrook’s original design.
- Cumbersome: awkward
- Linen: a type of natural fabric
Questions and Answers
Question: Did anyone else help invent the paper clip?
Answer: For a long time, John Vaaler, a Norwegian patent office clerk, was believed to have invented the paper clip. He got a patent for a paper clip very similar to the Gem Clip, but his patent came later than Middlebrook’s.
Find out how paper clips are made.
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Declan, Tobin. " Who Invented Paper Clips? Fun Facts for Kids ." Easy Science for Kids, May 2019. Web. 20 May 2019. < https://easyscienceforkids.com/paper-clips/ >.
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Tobin, Declan. (2019). Who Invented Paper Clips? Fun Facts for Kids. Easy Science for Kids. Retrieved from https://easyscienceforkids.com/paper-clips/
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