Who Invented the Paper Clip?

Our modern day paper clip owes its beginnings to William D. Middlebrook. Its patent is dated on November 9, 1899. It is interesting that for over a hundred years, in spite of humble beginnings, no one has yet been able to create a more efficient way to hold loose sheets of paper. We’ll look into who invented the paper clip and its humble beginnings.


Early Beginnings

Some consider Samuel Fay as the either the forerunner or the man himself who invented the paper clip. However, if you look at the patent he obtained dated April 23, 1867 he called the device as a Ticket Fastener. The original idea that Fay had was to have the ticket fastener attach tickets to garments. In the description of the fastener you’ll find that as an additional use, it could be hold pieces of paper together.

Samuel Fay was not the only one who submitted or invented the paper clip’s predecessors or devices like unto it. There were in fact some other 50 designs that were patented that would seem to be early precursors. The difference however is that the designs submitted prior to that of William Middlebrook’s don’t even come close to what the modern day paper clip would look like.

Birth of the Paper Clip


As mentioned earlier, William Middlebrook is credited as the one who invented the paper clip we know today. He in fact not only invented the paper clip but also the machine that would make paper clips. The drawings on the patent distinctly portray our modern day paper clip. The patent William Middlebrook obtained was for both the paper clip and its production machine.

Coming of the GEM

In the year 1899 the manufacturing company Cushman and Denison bought William Middlebrook’s patent. In that same year they also trademarked the name ‘GEM’ for the new paper clip. They then introduced a further improvement to the design. The points on the prior design were rounded off thus avoiding catches and scratches or even tears on the papers that were held.

Their new brand rose to prominence by the year 1907. By this time millions of paper clips have been sold the world over. A huge challenge to the Gem brand came in 1934 when the Gothic clip was introduced. It was called by that name due to its loops that resemble Gothic arches. There were also other brands and designs that challenged the original including colorful plastic clips and different shaped ones. However, the original still works more efficiently thus Middlebrook is the rightful man who invented the paper clip of today.