Scanning Around With Gene: Staples of the Twentieth-Century Office
Thanks to a new day job that involves a lot more traditional office work, a friend recently gave me a red Swingline Model 747 stapler. It's the stapler model that plays a prominent role in the movie “Office Space” and has become an icon for frustrating office life. I can heartily recommend both the movie and the stapler.
There was no such thing as a red Swingline stapler when the movie was made -- the prop department spray painted a black model. But high demand from fans of the movie prompted Swingline to release a red model in 2002. (Other companies had colored staplers much earlier.)
In honor of frustrated office workers everywhere, today I’ll look at a 1957 information packet from a stapler and pencil-sharpener distributor called Lockwood Sales Corporation. Click on any image for a larger view.
The first thing I noticed about “stapler art” is that the logos of stapler manufacturers are pretty interesting. Here, from a price list, are my favorites.
The first stapler may have been created in the 1700s for King Louis XV of France, though it was nothing like the staplers we know today. Over the centuries various ways of binding paper together were tried, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that staplers of the modern variety began appearing.
The E. H. Hotchkiss Company was one of the early “modern” stapler manufacturers, and it introduced a number of innovations in stapling.
Swingline came up with the idea of a stapler that opened on the top, allowing for easy access to the staple compartment. Here are several Swingline models from 1957, including my favorite, the compact “Tot”.
The Bates Coloramic did offer a red model in 1957, along with other popular color choices.
And though they're not exactly in the same category, I decided to include a few examples of 1957 pencil sharpeners, which I also consider classic office-equipment designs. When I was growing up, every home had a pencil sharpener mounted on the wall, usually near the telephone or in the kitchen.
People still staple things and they still, I assume, sharpen pencils, but these devices aren't quite so commonplace anymore. In the digital era we are, to some degree, decreasing our use of such tools. At some point we may even have to come up with a more modern version of the term “paper pusher.” But for now I am closely guarding my red Swingline, which has become much coveted by co-workers as it sits on my desk, proudly.