POV: One man’s unusual collection

A sampling of some of the more unusual paperclips in Roger Wilber’s collection.

A sampling of some of the more unusual paperclips in Roger Wilber’s collection. Roger Wilber

Shortly after this time, I switched employment to the NYS Research Library. An elderly man, who often visited the library doing research, took an interest in my hobby and passed on old clips he found while doing his research. When shopping, we’d go to the stationery section checking for “new” varieties.

As time went by, I added more paper clips, each section containing different shapes, colors or designs. I began to get clips for gifts from others who’d heard of my unique collection. I soon ran out of room in that first album, necessitating a second and then a third.

When my son was at school, a teacher had a large apple-shaped paperclip extoling “Love To Teach.” He asked for it for his father’s collection and was told to come back on the last day of school and ask for it at that time. He did just that. That paperclip holds a special place in my collection.

That’s tells the why and the how. What about the when? When did the paperclip start?

Working at a research library, I was able to use my lunchtimes researching U.S. Patent information. I found that in the 1850s, what we today call a clipboard was then referred to as a paperclip. By the 1860s, an odd-shaped variation of today’s paperclip was patented. Soon, there was an onslaught of different shapes patented for different purposes. One patent was of a paperclip that “slid on a string” to keep cards or papers in order. Another clip was made “to screw into the doorway of a house” so newspapers could be slipped into them (quite large, needless to say).

There were basically two different types of paperclips: one where you pinched one end closed while the other end opened, and another that lay flat and the papers slip between two pieces of metal (later plastic). I decided to focus my collection on the second type, though I do have examples of designs dating to the 1800s, some of which look more like pins than clips.

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