Who invented the Stapler? (Invention Timeline Explained)

It’s hard to argue with the overall value and usefulness of a stapler. It’s a staple (pun intended) of the modern office, and it’s hard to imagine handling documents without the ever-handy stapler. Have you ever wondered about the evolution of the stapler? We’ll be taking a look at the overall timeline, as well as some facts about everyone’s favorite office device. 

Who invented the stapler?

George McGill is credited with inventing the first proper stapler. The interesting thing about the stapler is how there are many other stories pointing toward its development that there’s quite a lot more to talk about than the invention of the first true stapler. It’s a bit of a winding road, but it’s well worth learning about!

The stapler’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • King Louis XV of France
    The first functioning stapler

    The very first functioning stapler was created for King Louis XV of France. The fascinating thing is that the device — despite being documented — was never found. It was likely willed to his grandson, and the trail ends there.

  • George McGill
    Reinvention of the stapler

    With the use of paper increasing as time went on, George McGill got the patent for the first Single-Stroke Staple Press. Rather than the modern stapler we know, it looked more like a printing press.

  • Henry Heyl
    Patented the next stage of the stapler

    The patent of the stapler from Henry Heyl showcases the push-down design we’re more familiar with. It even came with the springs.

  • Jack Linsky
    Inventor of the top-loaded stapler

    Created the top-loaded stapler in 1937. The so-called Swingline design eventually became the industry standard for staplers.

When was the stapler invented?

The first true stapler was invented in 1866. It’s a little strange to think that a device mimicking the stapler existed years before that, but the modern stapler as we know it started in 1866. Known as the Single-Stroke Staple Press, its patent was procured by George McGill. 

A brief history of the stapler

For as long as people have had paper, there’s always been a need to keep everything more organized and keep all the documents together. King Louis XV of France was in need of such a device, and so the first functioning stapler press was made for him in the 1700s. It even used golden staples! Unfortunately, any record of this stapler is lost, and it’s highly unlikely that this device will ever be found.

That said, it wasn’t until around 1866 when the first true stapler was invented. As a paper fastener it certainly got the job done, and it got a lot of people talking in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. It started the proverbial boom for the stapler, as all sorts of designs started popping up. Most notably, the design for the slam-down handle was introduced by Henry Heyl in 1877. It’s a much closer design to the stapler we know today.

When tax reporting became mandatory in 1913, it became standard business practice to start filing paper and make sure that everything was organized.

Interestingly enough, the desire for organized paperwork increased due to the war. The demand increased right before WW1, as well as during and after. The economy grew after WW1, which meant staplers became a hot commodity in homes, offices, warehouses, and just about anywhere you can expect staplers.

The stapler timeline

  1. The 1700s
    The stapler of King Louis XV of France

    The first device that mimicked the stapler was developed for King Louis XV of France.

  2. 1866
    The patent for the first true stapler

    The first staple press was patented in 1866, which paved the way for the stapler boom.

  3. 1877
    Development of the smash-down stapler

    The familiar smash-down design of the stapler was patented in 1877.

  4. 1913
    Sixteenth Amendment

    The date when federal income tax reporting became mandatory, resulting in the desire for more staplers.

  5. 1937

    The Swingline stapler is introduced, which is the first top-loaded device.

Where was the stapler invented?

The first stapler was introduced in Pennsylvania, though it was patented in Washington DC. The great thing about the very first staple press is it showed the world just how much it needed a stapler — especially with the rise of proper documentation.

The importance of the stapler

  • The natural evolution after paper

    The need for staplers rose around the same time as the development of paper. There was always a need to stack paper together and keep them bound, but it took a long time before a proper design for the stapler appeared in history.

  • A device that everyone needs

    It’s easy to neglect the importance of the stapler. However, the stapler boom showed just how much everyone needed it. It’s the reason why it was commonplace in homes, offices, warehouses — you name it.

  • A device built for constant experimentation

    The stapler is a device that has enjoyed so much attention over the 1900s. People were always looking to make advancements, which was why the smash-down stapler was invented just one year after the staple press was showcased.

  • Staplers are timeless

    Staplers are timeless in the same way that paper is timeless. Staplers have always been the best complement to paper, and they will continue to be the best device for many more years to come. There’s just something timeless about staplers.

Staplers by the numbers

  • 67,665The US patent number for the Single-Stroke Staple Press. 
  • 195,603Henry Heyl’s patent for the very first machines to act as modern staplers. While he might not necessarily have designed the first proper stapler, it’s certainly the closest to the modern counterpart.
  • 8The number of components you can find in the average office stapler. It’s a surprisingly small number of components, though the stapler experienced so many developmental changes that it’s essentially been perfected.
  • 2,033,050The patent number for the first staple remover, invented by Willaim Pankonin.
  • 1878The year when the very first magazine about staples were published. Everyone was so excited about the introduction of staplers that a magazine was published almost as soon as it was made.

Five facts about the stapler

  • The first successful stapler

    While staplers have always been necessary, it can be tricky to make anything a financial success. The very first commercial success for staplers came in 1877, with Henry Heyl’s patent.

  • Hospital staplers

    Just as staplers are often the most useful device for paper, there are also hospital staplers that work to staple skin after a surgical procedure. There’s even the circumferential stapler, which can be used for more precise tactics.

  • The mallet stapler

    One device known as the Jahn stapler had to be hit with a mallet to successfully set the staples. It wasn’t always easy to develop devices that could punch the staple in effectively. Such is the reason why the smash-down design worked so well.

  • The Japanese term

    The interesting thing about staplers is its timeless history. The Japanese were one of the first to understand the importance of staplers. They still call it Hotchkiss, which was the name of the first American company to invent staplers.

  • The very first ad

    Staplers are a commercial success, though it needed help from marketing ads to get the job done. The first ad for staplers was implemented in 1901 for American Munsey’s Magazine.

FAQ about staplers

  • Do all staplers use staples?

    There are some devices out there that don’t make use of metal staples to hold the paper together. It uses the paper to weave and secure the hole it punches.

  • What is the most expensive stapler?

    So far, the world’s most expensive stapler is the 1919 Remington. It was sold on eBay for $760.

  • What is the most advanced stapler?

    The most advanced stapler is currently used by hospitals to staple the bowels together in surgical procedures. It requires plenty of precision — thankfully, the circumferential stapler can get the job done.

  • What was King Louis XV’s staple machine like?

    While there isn’t too much information about the first staple machine, it’s known that the machine uses golden, handcrafted staples. It even uses precious stones!

  • Are regular staplers used in the hospital?

    Staplers are so useful that they’re often utilized in surgical procedures. While the circumferential stapler is certainly a specialist device, the typical stapler is still quite useful in surgical procedures. They can be used as a replacement for the suture whenever needed.

  • Was there a time when staplers weren’t popular?

    Surprisingly enough, when staplers were first introduced it took some time for people to get used to the idea. Even if it was undoubtedly useful, companies and offices were so used to traditional methods that they would buy only a single stapler to see what would happen. Needless to say, they started to get more and more when they realized just how much of an effect it had.

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