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Presto Model 40 Stapler

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newspaper ad from 1948. That $1.89 stapler would cost $19.53 in 2018 dollars.

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figure 1

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bottom of rubber base, note the patent numbers

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chrome Presto 40

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newspaper ad from 1956

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a rather dilapidated Presto 40 Stapler box

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This month’s post is courtesy of my trusty Underwood No 5 s/n 2392412-5.  If you go to the Antique Typewriter’s Collectors page on Facebook or on the American Stationer’s Facebook page, then back a month or so you can see a picture of her.  She is my mechanical pride and joy, has a wonderful feel, and types like a charm.  I had her professionally serviced at Cambridge Typewriter about 7 weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier.

Ajax Stapler

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By the late 1930’s there were a number of stapler manufacturers that made high-quality, high-cost staplers.  Companies such as Acme, Arrow, Bostitch, Hotchkiss, Markwell, and Speed Fastener all made ranges of staplers for almost any need.   However, all of their offerings were relatively expensive, especially for your average consumer.  What wasn’t available were low-cost, basic staplers for the buying public.  Enter the newcomers.

Around 1939 Metal Specialties Manufacturing Co and Consolidated Staple Co each introduced low-cost, low-quality, pressed-steel, basic staplers in the Presto DeLuxe and the Flash 3-in-1.  They weren’t the only ones who entered this market though.  Another company by the name of Ajax Tool & Die Co  jumped-in with their offering – the Ajax Streamline Stapler.

newspaper ad from 1939

The Ajax measures 6″ L x 2.25″ W x 3.438″ H and weighs 14 ounces empty.  It was made entirely of pressed steel and had a rubber base cover and a rubber plunger cover.  The Ajax Stapler was available in five different colors:  black, blue, maroon, green, and brown.

Despite being made of the same materials, the Ajax Stapler was superior in almost every way to its similarly built competition.  And while the stated purpose of patent 2,239,935 is “to provide a novel and simplified type of stapler which can readily be manufactured of simple  stampings, requiring few parts, providing substantially complete enclosure for the operating mechanism, and avoiding any possibility of stoppage“, the Ajax Tool & Die manufactured a stapler that was downright primitive in its mechanics.  However, unlike the Presto and Flash it was much more successful in implementing this purpose.  If cost was your main consideration when purchasing a stapler, then the Ajax stapler was the best deal.  There is one feature that is unique to this fastener and that is the retraction spring located on the front.  The purpose of this spring is to retract any partially engaged staples (when you don’t fully press down the plunger) in order to prevent jamming and clogging.  It’s a very simple, but surprisingly effective feature.  I think that is how I would describe the Ajax – very simple but surprisingly effective.

magazine ad from 1940

magazine ad from 1940

The earliest known advertisement is from May 1939 and the last known advertisement is from October 1941.  While it’s possible that you would still have been able to find the Ajax for sale after 1941 it would probably only have been as a clearance item.  Ajax Tool & Die Co seems to have suddenly stopped producing this stapler.  Now, it could have been due to poor sales but as noted the Ajax was a much better quality fastener then its competition.  The most likely explanation for the Ajax Stapler’s demise is because in December 1941 the U.S. officially entered World War II.  Beginning around 1941 all U.S. manufacturers of every kind would have started devoting 90-100% of their production capacity for war material.  Smaller companies like Ajax would have quickly discovered two things; 1. they would make more money manufacturing parts, etc. for the U.S. war effort and; 2. that the materials needed to make consumer goods (i.e. steel in this case) would have been severely rationed making it nearly impossible for them to manufacture enough staplers to make them profitable.  The choice for a smaller operation like Ajax Tool & Die was obvious.

Ajax Tool & Die Co was acquired by Acme Steel in 1947 and by 1948 a variant of the Ajax was being sold by Metal Specialties Manufacturing Co as the Presto 40 stapler.  Great design never really just disappears.

Ajax Stapler box

Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. Goldblatt Bros. Department Store (1939, May), advertisement, The Hammond Times, page 13
  2. Wasson’s (1939, September), advertisement, The Indianapolis Star, page 7
  3. Famous-Barr Co (1940, January), advertisement, Louis Dispatch, page 3G
  4. Printers Supply Co (1940, April), advertisement, The Rotarian, page 58
  5. Famous-Barr Co (1941, October), advertisement, Louis Dispatch, page 12A

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Markwell RX 45 Fastener

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Markwell is a company with a long and fascinating history.  It began in 1919 when two brothers, Lou and Abe Obstfeld, went into partnership making marking devices.  Both brothers had a background in these industries and wanted to strike out on their own.  As a matter of fact, this manufacturing of marking devices is the origin of the company name, Mark-Well.  Their entry into the stapler business began when they discovered a stapler company, Acme, and contracted with them to make Markwell’s first fastener, the Model 176 Tacker in 1920.  It should be noted that Markwell is still in business today.

In the 1920’s the brothers hired their first employee, William Drypolcher.  William went to night school while employed at Markwell and successfully studied to become an engineer. In 1929 he filed his first patent application which was for a stapler that was later released by Markwell and would end up being called the “RTP”.  He continued filing patents for staplers and stapler-related items, such as staple removers, through the early 1950’s.

newspaper advertisement from February 19, 1935. Note the mention of the RB-2 which is an RTP type stapler but clearly showing an illustration of the RX 45

That brings us to 1934 and a patent that was filed for Mr. Drypolcher on September 19.  This patent wasn’t granted until four years later but Markwell didn’t wait that long to start manufacturing .  The earliest advertisement for the Markwell RX 45 stapler was from February 19, 1935 – only five months from the patent filing date.  It is entirely plausible that manufacturing took place as early as 1934.

1937 magazine ad

The RX 45 was advertised from 1935 to 1943.  It is a light-duty desk stapler that can staple, pin and tack. Weighing 10 ounces empty and measuring 5″ L x 1.875″ W x 3.125″ H it is made entirely of nickel-plated steel.  This all-steel construction coupled with a very utilitarian design made the RX 45 tough and dependable. This stapler was replaced after the war with newer model staplers.

I had mentioned above that Markwell’s earliest fastener, the Model 176, was made for them by Acme.  Starting in the early 1930’s they arranged with the Boston Wire Stitcher Co, or Bostitch, to manufacture all of their staplers for them.  This arrangement continued until 1994 when Bostitch informed Markwell that it would cease manufacturing fasteners for Markwell.

1943 newspaper advertisement

The RX 45 uses a proprietary size staple, coincidentally called the “RX” staple.  They can still be found if you look hard enough.

The RX 45 didn’t get a cool name like “Staple Master” or “Pacemaker” like its younger siblings but that doesn’t take anything away from this great little stapler.  If you find one today it is likely to work just as well now as it did 80 years ago.

Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. White and Leonard Stationery (1935, February), advertisement, The Salisbury Times, page 8
  2. Deming Drug Co (1937, March), advertisement, The Deming Headlight, page 16
  3. Jeffersonian Democrat (1939, February), advertisement, The Jeffersonian Democrat, page 10
  4. Olney Enterprise (1941, May), advertisement, Olney Enterprise, page 5
  5. Butte Bottlers Supply Co (1943, February), advertisement, Montana Standard, page 2
  6. Opland, Sam (2011, June). Markwell Manufacturing Co Inc Historical Notes. Retrieved from http://mrkwll.com/history/history.html

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The Ring Paper Clip (Rinklips)

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…”I started [collecting paper clips] about two weeks ago and I believe there are 57 varieties – not the pickle kind, either.  Every time I get a new one I drop it into this little box.  I have a clip, a double clip, a clipper clip and rinklip.  I have a cross and a double cross and enough other kinds to form a clip menagerie.  Wonderful where all these fool things come from!

“Some of them are as intricate as a Chinese puzzle and as obstinate as a Missouri mule.  You have to worry along and tease with them, coax and wheedle, pat them on the back as if they were balky animals.  Every time a man gets a piece of wire twisted into some awkward shape he gets a patent of it and sells it as a paper clip.”  selection from Many Paper Clips, Sedalia Democrat-Sentinel, February 7, 1907

The end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century saw a virtual explosion of new patents for the newest type of office item – the paper clip.  It’s odd to think that an everyday item such as this was once a new and exciting addition to the office supply pantheon but it was.  So, why did it take so long for the paperclip to be invented?  This modest office supply could not exist until steel wire with the proper tensity was available along with the machinery to bend this wire into the various shapes used by the makers of these clips.  It was this combination, along with a need for such an item, that made these a staple office item within a few years of their introduction.

While the universally known “gem” clip is the undisputed king of paper clips, there were a surprisingly large number of other designs that have been produced over the years.  One of the more successful clip variants manufactured was the Ring Paper Clip, or Rinklip.

Rinklips were first sold by the Ring Paper Clip Company of Providence, Rhode Island.  They were manufactured by the A.A. Weeks Manufacturing Company.  It may not come as a surprise to learn that the president of the A.A. Weeks Manufacturing Co, Frank A. Weeks, was also the Treasurer of the Ring Paper Clip Company.  Joshua B. Hale is listed on the patents as the inventor of the Rinklip. But not only did J.B. Hale invent the ring clip but also the machine to make them.

ad from 1905 industry magazine

Rinklips were first produced in 1905.  At the time only one size and one design was advertised – the flat-topped ring clip.

ad from 1907 industry magazine

By December 1906 three sizes were available:  little, commercial, and banker.  This turned out to be a clever bit of marketing as all other paper clips used numbers to designate sizes (e.g. the No. 3 Gem Clip).  Commercial Rinklips measured .625″ diameter while Banker Rinklips measured 1″ diameter.  The Little Rinklip was approximately .4″ diameter.

1921 office supply catalog

From 1921 onwards a numbering system was used to designate the different sizes.  These ran from No. 0 to No. 4.  Numbers 2,3, and 4 corresponded directly to the old system of little, commercial, and banker.  Actually, it was common for the No. 4 clips to be called Banker Rinklips throughout its manufacturing history.

If you look on the internet or read books published that discuss the history of paper clips you will find that there is some confusion over the actual inventor of the Ring Clip.  This is understandable and exists for two main reasons:

  1. There is a patent granted to George W. McGill in 1903, patent 731598, wherein he patents a clip design that is similar to the Rinklip.

figures from McGill’s patent 731598

  1. While the patent date is printed on boxes of Rinklips the actual patent number was not easily found nor was it known that there were two patents granted for Rinklips and one additional one for the method of producing them.

The USPTO granted two patents to J.B. Hale and the Ring Paper Clip Company for the Rinklip. Furthermore, George W. McGill was not only a prodigious inventor but a practicing patent attorney and he had shown no reluctance to take people to court over actual and supposed patent infringements in the past – including A.A. Weeks.  However, there is no evidence that he did so in this regard.  The fact that two patents were granted and that G.W. McGill didn’t feel that the production of these clips warranted legal action on his part show that McGill should not be considered the inventor of the Rinklip.

I believe this confusion came about for a few reasons;

  1. The patents for the Rinklip were extremely difficult to find and only recently discovered by me.
  2. The patent for G.W. McGill’s patent was very easily found and shows a very similar clip. Actually, a review of McGill’s patents from around that year will show that he patented virtually every known type of paper clip ever conceived.  Even designs previously patented.
  3. The book “Adventures in Stationery” by James Ward on page 11 states that McGill patented and produced the Ring Clip. I believe it’s possible that McGill produced “a” ring clip, but is not the inventor or producer of the Rinklip.

oakville ring clip box wm sm

Ring paper clips were produced by other companies in later years.  Both Oakville and Monarch were producing them in the 1960’s.  They were widely available at least through the 1980’s and likely for decades beyond.  However, they are essentially extinct today which is unfortunate since they are actually one of the better paper clip designs ever to be produced.

1982 office supply catalog

To fasten paper using a ring clip you don’t insert the same way you would a gem clip.

insert from Rinklip box

Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. A. Weeks Manufacturing Co. (1905, December), advertisement, Geyer’s Stationer, page 3
  2. Editor, Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. Government Printing Office, 1906
  3. Editor, Big Store for New York, Geyer’s Stationer, page 1, 29 March 1906
  4. Syndicated Author, Many Paper Clips, Sedalia Democrat-Sentinel, page 3, 29 February 1907
  5. FP Burnap Stationery and Printing Co Catalog (1915), Kansas City, MO, page 107
  6. Wesbanco Catalog (1921), Oklahoma City, OK, page 77
  7. McClurg’s Catalog (1936), Chicago, IL, page 184
  8. Utility Supply Co. Catalog (1946), Chicago, IL, page 368
  9. Commercial Stationers and Office Outfitters Co Catalog (1955), Chicago, IL, page 316
  10. Wosco Catalog (1963), Greensburg, PA, page 115
  11. McDonald, Stingel and Bush Office Supply Catalog (1964), Saginaw, MI,page 362
  12. Syndicated Author, Behold the Lowly Paper Clip …It’s Still a ‘Gem’, Quad City Times, pages 12-13, 7 December 1975
  13. Hartford Office Supply Catalog (1982), Hartford, CT, page 5
  14. Ward, James. Adventures in Stationery: a Journey through Your Pencil Case. Profile Books, 2015.

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Acme No 2 Staple Binder

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Probably the most defining characteristic of any Acme stapler is how well-built it is.  I would wager that most of the Acme staplers ever made are probably still around.  And I believe the reason the early models may not get much use any more is entirely due to how difficult it is to find staples that can be used in these models.  They really are just that well-made.

The Acme No 2 Staple Binder is no exception.  The No 2 was made from nickel-plated cast iron and steel.  It was purposely built with fewer parts for simplicity and designed to be easy to fix and maintain.  It measures 11.25″ L x 2.188″ W x 7.5″ H and weighs 3.5 lbs.

This fastener was especially adapted for office work, at least according to all the advertisements.  However, it would have been just as much at home in a commercial or even industrial setting.

1908 ad from industry magazine

This was introduced in 1908 and the last known reference I know of is from 1946.  It used a proprietary size staple with a 7/16 size crown.  I have not found a modern equivalent that will fit in this stapler.

original type staples for Acme No 2

newer type magazine staples for Acme No 2

There were two different “versions” of  the No 2.  Essentially there is an “older” version 1 and a “newer” version 2.  The older version would have used the original type staples while later models of version 1 and all models of version 2 would have been designed to use the newer type staples (see figures above).  It should be noted that there was just one or two extremely minor differences between the models the main one being the cap thumb screw shown in the figure below.  The other noticeable difference being the outside end of the staple push rod.

highlighted is what to look for on the older version

When you hear folks say “they don’t make ’em like they used to” this is what they’re talking about.  The Acme No 2 is well-made, highly decorative, and perfectly designed for its function.  It’s no wonder why they were manufactured for 40 years.

Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. Editors (1908),Novelties for the Trade Acme Binder No. 2, The American Stationer, page 14
  2. Acme Staple Co. (1912, January), advertisement, Walden’s Stationer and Printer, page 35
  3. Burnap Stationery and Printing Co Catalog (1915), Kansas City, MO, page 111
  4. Acme Staple Co. (1922, October), advertisement, Geyer’s Stationer, page 59
  5. Out West Catalog (1922), Colorado Springs, CO, page 76
  6. McClurg’s Catalog (1935-1936), Chicago, IL, page 181
  7. Utility Supply Co. Catalog (1940), Chicago, IL, page 330
  8. Utility Supply Co. Catalog (1946), Chicago, IL, page 390

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American Stationer Has Published a Book!

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I’m excited to announce what is the first book of it’s kind ever published; Staplers, Stapling Machines, & Paper Fasteners Volume 1 – Illustrating and Documenting the Hotchkiss Line of Office and Industrial Stapling Machines.  This is currently available as an eBook exclusively on the Amazon Kindle platform and is available here.

I’ve wanted to create something like this for a long time now and decided that now is the time.  Maintaining the American Stationer is expensive both in time and money.  Many non-profit information sites will have a “Donate Now” button or some such trying get folks to help out by giving money.  I didn’t want to go that route.  I’m hoping you’ll help out but I will give you something in return, something I already know that you value because you’re here – knowledge.

By purchasing this book not only will you get material that is not, and will not, be available on the American Stationer, but you get a reference that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

You do not need a Kindle to read this book.  The Amazon Kindle app is freely available for all platforms.

While the book can be read on any kind of device, I’ve purposely designed it so that it will be easily readable on a smartphone.  Why?  When you’re out shopping antique stores, flea markets, auctions, etc. you will now have instant access to information about that antique Hotchkiss/Compo/Jones/Star fastener and can check to see if you already have it in your collection.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited this site over the years, sent me emails, shared information, visited Facebook, and those who commented both on this site and those who have commented and posted to the Facebook page.  I hope this is just the beginning of our journey and that there are many more years and many more posts yet to come!

Pinzit

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If you needed to bind a group of papers together today you would likely either use a clip of some kind (e.g. a paper clip or maybe a binder clip) or you would staple them together.  It’s unlikely you would consider any other method.  However, in the early 20th century your choices were much more diverse.  You might consider a dot of glue/mucilage on each page, a rubber band, a brass McGill paper fastener, a stapler, a paper clip of some kind, needle and thread, an eyelet, or maybe a metal pin.  All of these methods were used and it was mostly personal preference or office policy that determined which a person would use.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most used methods for fastening papers was with a pin.  You would simply fold or pinch the papers a bit and push a pin through them.  The most frequently used type of pin was a common pin but wedge, or bank, pins were just as popular.

from a 1929 office supply catalog

There were a number of machines introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to cater to individuals and offices that still used pins. One of the earliest was the Pin Stapling Tool, first advertised in 1896, which took a common pin, cut off the ends, bent it into a staple shape, and then inserted the newly-created staple into the papers.  At the turn of the century a very similar machine, the Century Stapling Machine, performed a very similar function.  However, these machines (and others like them) essentially took pins and turned them into staples.  In 1926 a machine was introduced that took wedge pins and essentially just automated the process of inserting them into papers.  This new machine was the Pinzit.

Measuring 7″ L x 2.375″ W x 5.5″ H and weighing 1 lb 14 ounces this is a substantial machine.  It was nickel-plated and made of steel and another non-ferrous metal, probably aluminum.  It had a felt-covered bottom that kept it from marking furniture.  It used glued-together wedge pins in strips of 25 that were loaded into a magazine which, according to ads, could hold 75 pins.  I have been able to load 100 pins in the machines I have though.  While the Pinzit was envisioned mainly as a paper fastener as evidenced by the patent, it seems to have been used just as much in the clothing industry.  This is likely why it was successful enough to keep being manufactured for as long as it was.

1939 newspaper ad

The Pinzit was first advertised in 1926 and the last known reference is an ad from 1939.  It was offered for $8.50 in 1929. In 2017 dollars that equates to $122.

Pinzit box version 1 (courtesy of Curtis Scaglione)

Pinzit box version 2 front

Pinzit box version 2 reverse

Pinzit box version 3

Much about the Pinzit and about the manufacturers of the Pinzit is unknown.  If you look at the figures above showing various boxes you’ll note that each references a different company.  The following companies are shown:

  • Pinzit Sales Corporation
  • Pinzit Company Inc. 1927, 1930
  • Universal Pin Corporation 1944
  • Universal Pin Company 1927, 1938-1939, 1954

I’ve listed after each company name a year in which I have found a specific third-party reference.  My opinion about these companies is that the Pinzit Company, Pinzit Sales Corp., and any other company name with Pinzit (for example there was a Pinzit Company of New England) was simply a sales organization while Universal Pin Co or Universal Pin Corp were the manufacturers.  It is my further opinion that the Pinzit was first manufactured by the Universal Pin Company which then sometime in the early 1940’s became Universal Pin Corporation and then reverted back to Universal Pin Company sometime after World War 2.  Again, this is speculation but reasonable given the information available.

a group of Pinzit pins and a lone pin for comparison

Samples of Pinzit pin boxes (courtesy of Curtis Scaglione)

 

Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. Editors (1926), J.F. Ryan & Co., American Stationer and Office Manager, page 69
  2. Pinzit Company of New England (1927, June), Employment, Hartford Daily Courant, page 22
  3. Curtis Inc. Office Supply Catalog (1929, March), St. Paul, MN, pages 67 & 90
  4. Universal Pin Co (1939, February), Business Opportunities, Chicago Tribune, part 5 page 11
  5. Universal Pin Corp (1944, November), Help Wanted, Male, Brooklyn Eagle, page 20
  6. Universal Pin Co (1954, November), Employment – Female, Brooklyn Eagle Sun, page 36

Special Thanks:

To Curtis Scaglione for sharing photos of items in his collection.  Curtis runs his own website, MyStaplers at www.mystaplers.com.  Go ahead and give him a visit (warning: music autoplay).

Visit me at http://www.facebook.com/americanstationer and let’s talk about vintage office supplies

 

 

 

 

 

Safe-Guard Check Writer Model Y

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Introduced in 1917 the Safe-Guard Check Writer was an instant success. At its release the Safe-Guard was considered a major leap forward in check writers.

There were check writers and check protectors of various types using various technologies previous to the Safe-Guard.  However, the Safe-Guard’s unique combination of printing the check amount on a diagonal in a single line coupled with a diagonal rectangular design embossed over the name of the payee and over the written check amount made for a potent combination of writing and protecting.

ad from 1919 industry magazine

There were a number of different, but very similar, models introduced early on including the models F, G, R, S, W, Y, and others.  The very earliest models will reflect that they were manufactured by the John Whitaker Manufacturing Company but the company changed names to the Safe-Guard Check Writer Company in November 1917. Also, between 1921 and 1922 the style of the front rubber feet were changed to a more elongated “clown shoe” style foot.  This means that if you have a model Y check writer that states it was manufactured by the Safe-Guard Check Writer Company and it has circular rubber front feet then it was made between 1918 and 1921 (see picture at beginning of post).  If the model has elongated front feet then it was made 1921 or after.

newspaper ad from 1922

The model Y weighs 8 lbs 4 oz and measures 9.5″ L x 7.875″ W x 7.375″ H.  This is a serious piece of equipment.  These are also extremely well-made and are very likely to still be working.  Oftentimes, if it is not working then simply cleaning out the mechanics and adding a minimal amount of oil is enough to put it back in working condition.  One word of caution though, be careful if you are going to refill the ink well and use the correct ink.  While I do not have an operator’s manual it is unlikely that this used a water-based ink.  Doing so would have damaged the internal mechanisms over time.  I would recommend either leaving the ink well alone or cleaning (if you must) but not refilling so as not to inadvertently cause any damage.  Otherwise, if you must refill the ink reservoir then an oil-based ink similar to the type used by numbering machines would likely be your best bet.

The Safe-Guard Check Writer was advertised at $55 in 1920.  In 2017 dollars that is $674!

John Whitaker was the inventor and patent holder for all of the Safe-Guard patents.  He started John Whitaker Manufacturing Co and had factories in Philadelphia and North Wales, Pennsylvania.  In September 1917 he consolidated his factories in one location in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  He was known as a manufacturer of adding machines although it is unknown if he continued to do so after the introduction of the Safe-Guard Check Writer.  As noted above, in November 1917 the name of the company was changed to the Safe-Guard Check Writer Company.  In 1929 the Safe-Guard Check Writer Co purchased two companies; the Hercules Check Certifier Co and the Repeating Stamp and Duplicating Corporation.  By 1946 the company name had again changed to Safeguard Corporation but it stayed in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  In 1946 the company was sold but did not change names, however, John Whitaker retired that year from the company.  John Whitaker passed away February 10, 1964.  A 1963 article mentions that Safeguard Business Systems is a distributorship of Safeguard Corp.  Safeguard Business Systems is still in business to this day.

It is unknown how long the model Y (and it’s sibling models) was available but consensus from other collectors has it until approximately 1928 when new models were introduced.

Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. Editors (1917, September), Machinery Markets and News of the Works – Philadelphia, The Iron Age, page 719
  2. Editors (1917, November), A Check Writer That Protects the Payee’s Name, Typewriter Topics, pages 158-160
  3. Lodewick & Roquemore (1920, March), advertisement, Jackson Daily News, page 7
  4. Safe-Guard Check Writer Co (1922, July), advertisement, American Exporter, page 12
  5. Safe-Guard Check Writer Co (1922, October), advertisement, Kansas City Kansan, page 6A
  6. Office Equipment Co (1926, November), advertisement, Asheville Citizen, page Twelve
  7. Editors (1929, October), Safe Guard Check Gets Duplicating Device, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, page 39
  8. Editors (1929, September), Financial World Briefly Scanned, Wilmington Morning News, page 13
  9. Editors (1963, January), Obituary Paul B. Stitt, Philadelphia Inquirer, page 12
  10. Editors (1964, February), John Whitaker, 94, Founded Firm, The Morning Call, page 31
  11. Editors (1964, March), New Business is Formed, The Times San Mateo, page 29

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Mini Press

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Beginning in 1970 the world of stapleless paper “crimpers” started seeing more competition.  With the Paper Welder’s utility patent protection expiring in 1956 and their design patent expiring in 1970 the way was suddenly open for a whole slew of paper welder clones.  While all of the other clones that were produced were nearly identical copies of the Paper Welder, the Mini Press Paper Press at least introduced some changes to the design.

newspaper ad from 1970

Measuring 5.375″ L x 2″ W x 4.688″ H it was slightly larger than a late-model Paper Welder and weighing-in at 1 lb and 6 ounces it was the same weight.  It has a plastic handle, a chromed zinc alloy body, steel press parts, and a felt-covered bottom.  The design differences centered around moving away from the original deco styling to what in the U.S. would be called Eurodesign.  This isn’t surprising when you consider that the Mini Press was manufactured in Italy.  However, while the Paper Welder has an almost timeless design the Mini Press now looks like a relic from the 1970’s.  It’s the office equipment equivalent of a ’73 Fiat 126 (note 1).

Now, in what was surely pure marketing to make this item seem like a new idea, you’ll see that the box had “World Patent” printed on it.  And on the Mini Press itself it’s inscribed Word [sic] Patent, Pat.6131.U.S.A., and Pat 123 52 / 1967 Japan.  Just for the record, US patent 6131 was granted in 1849 and was not for any kind of paper fastener.  Also, there is no such thing (that I’m aware of) as a “world patent”.  I will grant that this could just be a poor translation though of a phrase similar to “patented around the world”.  But I feel that this is the lesser of the two possibilities and it was more marketing.

newspaper ad from 1972

The Mini Press was advertised between 1970 and 1975 and I doubt it was available for much longer than that.  It seems to have been mostly available through Hoffritz and Hoffritz Shops which were located within other retail establishments in the US.  Possibly it was available through other retail sellers (outside of Hoffritz) but if so only on a very limited basis.  I have never seen this sold through office suppliers and it’s unlikely that it ever was.

In all fairness, the Mini Press is a good fastener.  Not quite as good as the Paper Welder but much better than any of the other welding clones of the time.  With its plastic handle it was unlikely to hold-up under regular business use but for the average home-office user it would give you many years of satisfactory service.

newspaper ad from 1975

mini_press_wm_sm

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Patent and Other Information:

Mini Press Paper Fastener Instructions

Notes:

  1. For you Fiat lovers out there, this isn’t meant as criticism against them but solely as a comparison. I mean, seriously, look at a 126 and everything about it screams 1970’s. And it’s Italian like the Mini Press.  If you want Shakespeare, read Shakespeare.  The Muses were never as generous with me as they were with him  🙂
  2. Editors (1970, February). Rare, Unusual Gifts Found At Stop Watch Shop Here. Longview News, page 6-A
  3. Hoffritz (1970, June). advertisement. Bridgeport Post, page 24
  4. Hoffritz (1971, February). advertisement. Bridgeport Post, page 4
  5. Marlowe’s (1972, June). The Time-Reporter, page A-9
  6. Hoffritz Shop at Harvey’s (1975, October). The Tennessean, page 22

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Baby Calculator

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baby calculator v1 perspective wm sm

Calculators today are so ubiquitous that you probably don’t give them a second thought.  It’s unlikely you are ever without one so long as you have your smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc. at hand.  You can buy battery operated calculators for a dollar at any number of stores and you will never even question their accuracy.  But it wasn’t always that way.

baby calculator v2 box wm sm

Calculating machines really started becoming practical business tools in the late 19th century.  However, only large banks, insurance companies, government agencies, etc. could afford them in the beginning.  But it wasn’t just accountants and bookkeepers in large organizations that had a use for these kinds of machines.  If you think about it, there are a large number of professions who use math as part of their job.  There would be, of course, merchants and salespeople, but also various tradesmen such as carpenters and plumbers.

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newspaper ad from 1925

And thus we come to the Baby Calculator.  The Baby Calculator was marketed towards the home user for bills and shopping.  It was also marketed to folks who worked with numbers but for whom a full-size adding machine was impractical.  It seemed to be especially popular with individuals “who worked outside”.   It was also marketed towards small businesses and bookkeepers who needed a less expensive alternative to the larger adding/calculating machines then available.

1925 February Popular Mechanics ad wm sm

magazine ad from 1925

The Baby Calculator was a troncet-type adding machine made entirely of pressed steel.  When you purchased this item it would have included a leatherette case, instructions, some advertising material, and an aluminum stylus.  There were three versions sold throughout its history.  For versions 1 and 2 the differences were cosmetic as each was the same size and made from the same materials.  These measured 2.9375″ W x 5.75″ L x .4375″ H and weighed about 5 ounces.  Version 3, however, was made from pressed steel with a plastic back plate.  It weighed 6 ounces and measured 3.25″ W x 5.75″ x .3125″ H.  It also had a 9 digit display as opposed to a 7 digit display for versions 1 and 2.

The different versions were sold during the following time periods:

  • Version 1 – 1923 – September 1945
  • Version 2 – October 1945 – October 1947
  • Version 3 – November 1947 – until at least 1951

As I’ve mentioned in the past it should be understood that there would be overlap during when the different versions were sold.  While version 3 was available by November 1947 version 2 was still being sold also until stock ran out.

baby calculator v2 wm sm

version 2

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version 3

If you look at version 1 you can see at the top of the front it states “Patent Applied For”.  There never was a patent granted for this machine.  In my opinion this was a marketing ploy meant to give the impression that this was better than its competition.

While there were other troncet-type adders on the market during the time the Baby was sold, its main competition seemed to be the higher-quality Ve-Po-Ad (Vest Pocket Adder) Calculator.  There are a number of Baby Calculator ads stating that this is a less-expensive vest pocket adding machine.  The Ve-Po-Ad seemed to be a better seller and was offered by many office suppliers while the Baby Calculator was relegated mostly to mail order, traveling salesmen, and some retail outlets.

Consumers’ Research, Inc., the precursor organization to the Consumers Union which split from them during a labor dispute, for many decades issued a monthly bulletin where they tested various consumer goods.  In October 1949 they published an article titled “Small or Pocket Adding Machines” where they tested three different adding machines; the Addometer, the Tasco Arithmometer, and the Baby Calculator.  The Baby Calculator received a rating of “Not Recommended”, their lowest grade.  Following is their recommendation overview, but in the “Other Information” section below you can download the entire article.

CRB Oct 1949 Baby Rating wm sm

Oct 1949 Consumers’ Research Bulletin Recommendation. The Tasco Arithmometer received an even worse review.

newspaper ad from September 1945

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magazine ad from October 1945

The company responsible for making and selling the Baby underwent a number of name changes in its history, although all of them were similar.

  • Baby Calculator Co – 1923
  • Baby Calculator Sales Co – 1925-1929
  • Baby Calculator Machine Co – 1924-1925, 1930-1932
  • Calculator Machine Co – (beginning in 1933 according to a trusted, but unsubstantiated, source) but proven from 1945-1950 and likely until it stopped being manufactured
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newspaper ad from 1951

According to USPTO trademark 247,450 Harold S. Zewiske was doing business as the Baby Calculator Sales Company.  Mr. Zewiske died tragically in a plane crash in 1959 and while listed as being an editor for Vogue there was no mention of his connection with the Calculator Machine Company.  This tells me that either Mr. Zewiske was simply no longer engaged with that company or that it was out of business by 1959.  And it could be both.  However, with the latest ad that I can find being in 1951 it is my opinion that the Baby Calculator wouldn’t have been around for much longer than that.

1959 Zewiske Picture wm

Harold S. Zewiske

Other Information:

Notes:

  1. The Baby Calculator Co (1923, July). Wanted-Male Help. Chicago Tribune, page 25
  2. Baby Calculator Sales Co (1925, February). advertisement. Popular Mechanics, page 174
  3. The Fair (1925, December). advertisement. Chicago Tribune, page 5
  4. Baby Calculator Machine Co (1930, June). advertisement. Popular Mechanics, page 139
  5. Storey-Kenworthy Co (1945, September). advertisement. Des-Moines Sunday Register, page 12-X
  6. Calculator Machine Co (1945, October), advertisement. The Pittsburgh Courier, page 3
  7. Calculator Machine Co (1947, November). advertisement. Popular Mechanics, page 340
  8. Editors (1949, October). Small or Pocket Adding Machines. Consumers’ Research Bulletin, pages 11-12
  9. Cox & Rich Stationers (1951, May). advertisement. San Mateo Times, page 7
  10. Editors (1959, February). Plane Crash Brings Grief to Many Here. Chicago Tribune, page 3

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