Friday, January 23, 2015

History in your desk drawer 1: Staple Removers

Staple removers, from left to right:  Ace (U.S.A.), Bates (U.S.A.), Swingline (China), Stanley-Bostich (China), No Name (Unknown). Notice how the metal has gotten thinner, a full .020 between the heaviest and the lightest gauge. Also, both the Ace and Bates have the plastic "wings" riveted onto the puller, while all the others depend on glue.  Progress is fine...

The Ace has the patent number stamped on it:

The patent goes all the way back to 1936.  The inventor, a Chicagoan named William G. Pankonin, also held patents for the Ace stapler made by the Ace Fastener Corporation, also of Chicago.  So, it seems likely that Ace was the first to produce and market this device.  (Ace is still around, now as Ace Fastener & Manufacturing, Inc. out of Camden, N.J.)

Incorporated in 1890, the Bates Manufacturing Company operated out of Orange, New Jersey making and selling automatic hand-held numbering machines.  

Bates Manufacturing Company
Beginning in 1892, they were largely acquired by the Edison Phonograph Works.  The original company was dissolved in 1922 when it was purchased by Clarence Williams, who remained its president until 1958. At some point, it seems that they relocated to Hackettstown, 40 miles west in the same state.  The company was acquired by the General Binding Corporation (GBC) in 1993.

The company that was to become Swingline was founded by Jack Linsky as the Parrot Speed Fastener Company in 1925 in New York City.  It opened its first factory on Long Island in 1931.  In 1939, it produced a revolutionary stapler that used rows of staples glued together, which were inserted from the top.  The Swingline name only came along in 1956.  

In 1970, Mr. Linsky sold his company to American Brands, which also bought Wilson-Jones in 1972.  (The deal made Mr. Linsky very wealthy, and he once owned one of the largest collections of Fabergé eggs in America. When he died in 1982, his wife donated their $60 million collection of European art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)  American Brands acquired ACCO (originally the American Clip Company, a manufacturer of paper clips) in 1987, making Swingline a division of ACCO World.  In 1999, American Brands closed the Swingline factory in Queen's and the famous bright red Swingline factory sign, a long-time landmark for commuters crossing the Queensboro Bridge from Manhattan, was taken down. Almost 500 workers lost their jobs.  The highest paid workers were only making $10 an hour and the factory was still turning a profit, but the corporation decided even greater dividends could be achieved by moving operations to Mexico.  Today, all of Swingline's production takes place in China.

Bostitch dates back to the Boston Wire Stitcher Company, founded by Thomas Briggs in 1896 in Arlington, Massachusetts.  He had invented a Wire Stitcher to use for fastening books, calendars, hat boxes and whatever.  A foot-operated stapling machine came along in 1903 and a desk stapler in 1913. 

Museum of Texas Tech University

In 1924, they introduced the first cemented strip staples (a decade before Swingline).  During World War II, they manufactured parts for, and assembled, the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.  In 1948, the company combined its name into "Bostitch."  In 1966 they were acquired by Textron, from which Stanley purchased the firm in 1986.  Stanley now makes the Bostitch staple removers in China.

Update, March 30, 2017.  A recent find, an APSCO (Automatic Pencil Sharpener Company) 200 tool marked "Toronto, Ont Can" and "Made in Sweden."  That tells me that APSCO had a Canadian subsidiary, and that at least some of their office tools were made in Sweden.  The company's gone, and I've yet to find much information on it.

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