The paperclip

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 May, 2010, 12:00am

From pins to clips

If you have a pile of paper you want to keep together, the easiest way is to reach for a paperclip. But until not so long ago people used a pin. Pins work, but they leave a hole in the paper - and sometimes in your fingers.

There are many claims about the invention of the paperclip. But nobody knows who first came up with the idea. Clips to hold paper together appeared in the 1860s and 1870s in the United States. But they didn't really catch on with the public until the 1890s.

In the early 1890s, a US company called Gem introduced a clip that fast became the best-seller in America.

Meanwhile, in Norway

Norway has long claimed to be the home of the paperclip. A Norwegian named John Vaaler got a patent for his paperclip in Germany and the US in 1902. He did not know the Gem paperclip was already selling well - and was sturdier than his invention.

The Gem clip became the best-selling paperclip in the world - even in Norway. But this did not stop the Norwegians from thinking one of their own had invented the paperclip.

When the Germans occupied Norway during the second world war, it was forbidden to wear pins with pictures of the exiled Norwegian king. So the Norwegians began to wear paperclips on their shirt collars. The clip became a symbol of Norwegians sticking together and loyalty to their king.

Project Paperclip

In 1998, eighth-grade students at Whitwell Middle School in the US started doing extra-curricular activities to learn about the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the mass murder of 6 million Jews by the German Nazis during the war. Six million is an awfully big number to imagine. So one student came up with the idea of collecting 6 million paperclips.

The students began to bring the paperclips in to school. They wrote letters and organised campaigns. As the word spread, people from all over the world began to send paperclips. In the end, they received 30 million paperclips. They used them to create their own Holocaust School.

Check out Whitwell Middle School and their project on the internet:

Now do this ...

1 The paperclip did not come into widespread use until ...

a. the 1950s.

b. the 1890s.

c. the 1860s.

2 The paperclip is ... innovation.

a. a Norwegian

b. a British

c. an American

3. When an American school began collecting paperclips for a Holocaust project, they eventually received ...

a. 6 million.

b. 100 million.

c. 30 million.


May 17

1. a, 2. c, 3. b