It was only a throwaway comment, but one thing that tickled my fancy about the presentation on the MAMA archaeological dig was the comment that paperclips were not used before the 1890’s.

Actually they were. While the machinery was for making what we now think of as the classic paperclip was patented in 1899, paperclips were around well before then, as can be seen in this stationer’s advert from the Quenbeyan Age of 1880

Screenshot 2018-08-20 16.39.04

and there are others from the late 1870’s. If you do a search for “paper clip” in Trove you get the following result:chart

The peak in the 1850’s are possibly an artifact caused by a sudden burst of adverts in a West Australian paper, the peak around 1880 probably represents paper clips becoming common and a normal stationery item. Certainly the date coincides with the group of late 1870s patents in the US for paper clips.

This of course didn’t mean that people stopped using pins entirely – even when I started work you would still occasionally get documents pinned together, and banks in France used to pin banknotes to payment slips well into the 1980’s.

Still it’s interesting to realise that something you think of as pretty mundane was once new and innovative …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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