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



Patent and Other Information:

Mini Press Paper Fastener Instructions


  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.


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

baby calculator v3 wm sm

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


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

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:


  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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Lightning Adding Machine



version 3

section 1

newspaper ad from 1947

section 2

version 1

version 2

section 3

version 1 box

version 2 box

section 4

newspaper ad from 1949

section 5c

section 5d

section 6

Post Script:

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that this month’s post was typed on a typewriter.  I wanted to do something a little special for the fourth anniversary of this blog.  My more knowledgeable readers will probably be able to identify what typewriter I used just by the typeface 🙂  Really super sharp-eyed knowledgeable readers will catch that I was forced to use two different typewriters due to a carriage breakdown in my LC Smith & Corona Typewriters Inc Sterling s/n 4A110773.  To the rescue came my Underwood Portable s/n  S1154711 which took over from “Patent and Other Information” on down.

Presto Model 30 Mini Stapler


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Continuing my recent tendency for writing about staplers, today’s post is another about that subject.  Not only that, but this will be the third post about a sub-category of staplers that I’ve always loved, the miniature stapler.

Miniature staplers are without a doubt one of the oddest, but coolest, office items you will ever come across.  And in that category of odd but cool the number one spot belongs to the Presto Model 30 Mini Stapler.

The Presto 30’s size and shape make it perfect for holding in the palm of your hand and the plunger has been designed to be used with your thumb. The mechanism was simple and most importantly it was totally encased in the body of the stapler keeping it well-protected from dirt and grime.  Unlike its sibling, the Presto DeLuxe, the Model 30 base could swing 180 degrees so that it could be used as a tacker.

The Model 30 was made from 100% steel.  The body and base were chrome plated and the plunger was either enameled or polished steel.  The parts were made from pressed-steel that was riveted together.  This made for a well-built stapler but one that really couldn’t be repaired if anything happened to it.  That being said, many of these are still working today attesting to their build quality.


The Presto 30 measures 2.5″ L x .875″ W x 1.75″ H and weighs 3 ounces empty.  It uses Presto 165 staples. This is a proprietary sized staple that is larger than a #10 but smaller than a standard size.

newspaper ad from 1949

The Model 30 was first advertised in 1949 and was available until at least 1963.  However, the patent for this stapler wasn’t applied for until 1950 and was finally granted in 1953.  If you find a Presto Model 30 stapler check the bottom of the base.  If it states “Pat Pend” then you know it was made before June of 1953.  If it gives the patent number then it was manufactured after June 1953.

Like the Swingline Tot 50 and the Wilson-Jones Buddy Jr, the Model 30 could also be purchased in a small kit within a plastic case.  However, where both the Tot 50 and Buddy Jr only included a stapler and staples, the Model 30 kit came with a stapler, staples, pencil sharpener, one-hole punch, and a flexible ruler.

The Presto Model 30 Mini Stapler is really a great little fastener.  The only thing that would stop me from recommending your using one of these vintage gems is the difficulty of finding staples for it.

newspaper ad from 1963

a rainbow of model 30’s

Patent and Other Information:


  1. Hook’s Drug Stores (1949, June), advertisement, The Evening Republican, page 2
  2. Segner’s 5-10-25 Stores (1950, September), advertisement, The Van Nuys News, page 2
  3. Horder’s Office Supply Catalog (1961), Chicago, IL, page 62
  4. Sav-On Drug Stores (1963, March), advertisement, Los Angeles Times, page 8
  5. WOSCO, Inc. Catalog (1963), Greensburg, PA, page 8

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Buddy Jr Stapler


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Ace Buddy Jr

Starting in about 1949 Wilson-Jones expanded into the business of selling staplers.  Most of their staplers ended up being rather basic and plain, but two of them stand out.  These are the T-100 Aluminum Stapler and the T-230 Buddy Jr.  When the T-100 was introduced in 1949 there was nothing else quite like it on the market.  However, as time went on the newer models introduced by Wilson-Jones were unremarkable in almost every way.  One of the few bright spots in all this dreariness though was the Buddy Jr.

The Buddy Jr essentially was Wilson-Jones’s answer to the Swingline Tot 50.  At 2.813″ L x .75″ W x 1.25″ H and weighing 2 ounces empty it is about the same size and weight as the Tot 50.  It uses the same size #10 staples and holds the same amount of staples in it’s magazine.  The Buddy Jr did improve on the Tot 50 in several areas.  It was made out of 100% steel which made it much more durable and able to tackle much tougher jobs that would ruin a Tot 50.  Secondly it has the built in staple remover cleverly integrated into the base.  The T-230 was available in red and blue.

There was also a second model of the Buddy Jr, the T-220.  This was their “desktop” version of the stapler.  The difference between this and the T-230 was only in the base.  The T-220 base was designed to mimic the base of a full-size desk stapler, only in miniature.  The T-220 weighs 3 ounces empty and measures 2.75″ L x .875″ W x 1.438″ H.  The only color combination I’ve seen for this model is a red body with black base.


Wilson-Jones Tatum Buddy Jr. model T-220

Herbert W. Marano was the designer behind all of the Wilson-Jones staplers.  He was granted at least 23 different design patents all assigned to this one company between 1950 and 1960.  Beyond the prolific number of design patents he was granted during the 1950’s not much is known about him.

Within a couple of years of the Buddy Jr stapler being introduced there were several industry items to note:

  1. Swingline acquires Ace Fastener in 1957
  2. Swingline makes initial offer to purchase outstanding Wilson Jones common stock in 1958
  3. Wilson-Jones merges with Swingline in 1963

The above mergers become important when determining the history of the Buddy Jr.


1956 newspaper ad

There were two design patents granted for the Buddy Jr, one for each model.  Both patent applications were submitted in April 1954 and granted in February 1955.  The first known advertisement for the Buddy Jr was in 1955.  I’ve never seen a Buddy Jr stamped on the bottom with “pat pend” so I’m confident that both models of the Buddy Jr were introduced in 1955.  In 1966 all references to the Buddy Jr are now of the “Ace Buddy Jr”.  The last known advertisement for the Ace Buddy Jr was in 1975 giving the Buddy Jr about a 20 year run.


Wilson-Jones Tatum Buddy Jr. model T-230

Now, the model T-220 always had the words “Tatum Buddy Jr” stamped into its side.  However, the model T-230 had both “Tatum Buddy Jr” and just “Buddy Jr” stamped into its side at different times.  I can find no information as to which time period Wilson-Jones would have used “Tatum Buddy Jr” but my opinion is that it would have been used when the model T-230s were introduced.  I would guess that no later than when Swingline acquired Wilson-Jones in 1963 that the word “Tatum” was dropped and simply “Buddy Jr” was used.  On the model T-230 when the word “Tatum” was removed from the side inscription the model number was also altered to the model 230.  In other words they removed the “T” part of the designation.


Wilson-Jones Buddy Jr. model 230

The Buddy Jr. model 230 was licensed for production in other countries.  In at least England and Canada a licensed version of the Buddy Jr. called the Imperial was available.  The earliest known advertisement I could find for the Imperial was in 1958 and the latest was in 1967.  However, I would not be surprised to find out that it was available for a longer time.


figure 6

Pictured above in figure 6 are the bottoms of the bases for each of the Buddy Jr. variants that were produced over the years.  These variants are:

a. Wilson-Jones model 230 with the words “Buddy Jr” inscribed on the sides
b. Wilson-Jones model T-220 desktop stapler with the words “Tatum Buddy Jr” inscribed
c. Wilson-Jones model T-230 stapler with the words “Tatum Buddy Jr” inscribed
d. The Imperial stapler with the word “Imperial” inscribed
e. The Ace model 230 with the words “Buddy Jr” inscribed.

The Buddy Jr was a high-quality miniature stapler that could stand up to a lot of abuse.  However, its days were likely numbered after the merger with Swingline and my opinion is that if the US government hadn’t gone after Swingline for acting like a monopoly and forcing them to split-off Ace then we may have never seen the Buddy Jr again after 1963.  That being said, the force of history even back then was towards making staplers cheaper and one way to do that was using plastic.  Without a doubt the Tot 50 would have been less expensive to produce than the all steel Buddy Jr.  It wouldn’t have taken too many years before the Buddy Jr would have been too expensive to produce when compared to it’s competition and it would probably have lost the tiny staplers war eventually regardless.


1971 newspaper ad


Imperial stapler

buddy jr blister pack wm sm

Patent and Other Information:


  1. Weaver’s (1955, December), advertisement, The Sheboygan Press, page 17
  2. News Office Supply (1956, October), advertisement, The Bryan Daily Eagle, page 3
  3. Editors (1959, June), Easy Way to Fix Screens, Chicago Daily Tribune, page 2S
  4. Cunningham (1962, August), advertisement, The Chilliwack Progress, page 8
  5. Shoppers’ City (1966, August), advertisement, The Minneapolis Star, page 6B
  6. Cunningham (1967, August), advertisement, The Chilliwack Progress, page 5
  7. Ames Stationers (1975, January), advertisement, Ames Daily Tribune, page 28

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Presto Stapler / Presto Stapler DeLuxe


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Oftentimes, when a company uses the word “deluxe” for a product it is to differentiate it from the more standard offerings of that business and denotes that this item is of a higher quality.  And sometimes the word “deluxe” is simply a marketing word that doesn’t have any real meaning.  When you hold in your hand and use an Arrow Model 210 Deluxe Stapler you know you have something that lives up to the expectations that the term deluxe promises.  And when you hold in your hand the Presto Stapler DeLuxe you realize that you have something that more closely matches the marketing definition of deluxe.

Our item this month is the Presto Stapler and the Presto Stapler DeLuxe.  Wait a second you say, how can two staplers be one item?  I’m going to let you in on a little secret – they’re the same stapler.

If you’ve only seen these in pictures you can be forgiven for thinking the DeLuxe must be better somehow, maybe thicker steel or higher staple capacity or something.  You’re probably thinking that there must be some difference that makes the Presto Stapler DeLuxe better than the regular old Presto Stapler.  And you would be sort of correct.  There are two differences between these “models”:

  1. the stapler deluxe has a rectangular badge on the plunger while the regular stapler has an oval badge and;
  2. the base of the stapler deluxe is enameled while the base of the regular stapler is polished steel.

That’s it.


looking at the picture above you can clearly see how a rectangular badge would improve both the looks and functionality of this fastener

The Presto Stapler (DeLuxe) measures 6″ L x 1.938″ W x 1.75″ H and weighs 10 ounces empty.  It does not use standard staples but instead uses Presto 165 staples which were a smaller proprietary size (see Presto Model 30 Mini Stapler). It should also be noted that the Presto could not be used for tacking which for its time was an odd design limitation.

Every model came with a black hollow rubber base.  The bottom of the base is stamped  “HOLDS 400 STAPLES INSIDE”.  The box is clearly marked “Holds 500 staples inc. magazine”.  Many advertisements also mentioned this generous 500 staple capacity.  The stapler could only hold 100 staples at a time.  However, the rubber base could be removed and you could store another 400 staples there.  Many of the Presto Staplers you see today do not have these rubber bases.  This is because even when new the bases for these staplers had a reputation of being ill-fitting and prone to deteriorating quickly.  Now add 50 years to all this and you can see why many of these bases didn’t survive.


The Presto was made by Metal Specialties Manufacturing Company (a bit of company history can be found by going to the Presto #53-B All Purpose Paper Punch post) as an economy stapler.  Introduced in 1940 it was sold until at least 1963.  However, it seems unlikely that it would have been sold for much longer after that year.

When available the Presto was sold for between 50 cents and $1.59 but even in the early 1960’s could still be found on sale for as little as 60 cents.  Due to its low cost the Presto was a popular gift for students and sold well for general home use.  It was also sold in standard office supply catalogs so it must have seen some business use.

Despite all of its shortcomings this is a fastener that people love.  From its streamline moderne design to a magazine mechanism that manages to be both difficult to use and dangerous enough that it is as likely as not to draw blood when refilling with staples this is a fastener with personality.  Despite all of its quirks this odd little stapler has still managed to win my affection.


newspaper ad from 1940


Patent and Other Information:


  1. Gimbels (1940, August), advertisement, The Philadelphia Inquirer, page 16
  2. Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer Catalog (1942), Chicago, IL, page 725
  3. Hook’s Drug Stores (1947, October), advertisement, The Evening Republican, page 5
  4. Meier and Franks (1956, October), advertisement, Statesman, page 10
  5. Katz (1961, September), advertisement, Kansas City Star, page 12
  6. WOSCO, Inc. Catalog (1963), Greensburg, PA, page 8

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Arrow Model 210 Stapling Machine


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Arrow Model 210 version 1

Anyone interested in vintage staplers eventually comes across the Arrow Model 210 heavy-duty deluxe stapling machine.  With its style, colors, and chrome it is instantly obvious how the design was influenced by the American automobile industry of the time.  This is a stapler that everyone seems to love from the first time they lay eyes on one.

And it’s no wonder why it inspires such strong feelings.  The 210 is made completely out of steel with the only exceptions being the plastic handle insert (where it says “Arrow 210.”) and the rubber feet.  This steel isn’t some cheap, thin, low-quality steel either but a very heavy-duty steel that gives it a feeling of solidity not found in today’s staplers.

Note that along with being “heavy-duty” that this is also “deluxe”.  What makes this stapler deluxe are the same things that would make an auto deluxe – options.  It has easy loading from the rear, an easy to get at mechanism accessible by a latch on the side, a visual refill indicator, a three-way anvil for three types of stitches (not counting tacking), a detachable mechanism that allows this to be used as a tacker (for the first version, the second version simply flips open), a capacity of 230 standard staples, and it is rated to staple up to 40 sheets of paper at a time.  All it seems to be missing are leather seats.

Most folks when they see one of these for the first time instantly think “1950’s”.  That’s understandable.  However, the Arrow 210 wasn’t actually available until 1960.  It was sold at least until 1986 and likely for several years beyond.

As I’ve noted above several times, there are in actuality two different versions of the Arrow model 210.  While superficially they look almost identical their stats show the differences:

Version 1

  • measures 8″ L x 2.25″ W x 2.75″ H
  • weighs 1 lb 7 oz
  • 4.25″ throat

Arrow Model 210 version 2

 Version 2

  • measures 7.5″ L x 2″ W x 2.75″ H
  • weighs 1 lb 4 oz
  • 4.5″ throat

It’s unknown exactly when Arrow changed over to the second version but circumstantial evidence points to the mid-to-late 1970’s.  The following photo shows the striking size difference between the two versions.


comparison of bases; version 1 on top and version 2 on bottom

Other differences include:

  • for tacking, version 1 disconnects from the base while on version 2 the base flips 180 degrees
  • note that version 1 has a locking mechanism on the bottom of the base to keep the stapler from disconnecting accidentally
  • looking from the top, you’ll see that version 2 has rubber feet that wrap around the base at the rear
  • on version 1, the plate connecting the stapler to the base is larger than on version 2. Also note that version 1 has a hollow bump-out near the rear of this plate.  Finally, note that on version 1 there is a double pinstripe indent on the perimeter of the plate.
  • because the stapling mechanism on version 2 is slightly smaller, note that the chrome plunger plate “sideburns” go all the way to the bottom edge of the painted stapler top while on version 1 there is an approximate .219″ gap between the bottom edge of the chrome and the bottom edge of the stapler mechanism.

The model 210’s were originally introduced in three colors: beige, green, and grey.  In 1966 black was added.  Because all of these colors were used throughout its lifetime you cannot really use color as a way to determine age.  With black you can determine that it was manufactured no earlier than 1966 but that’s really all that can be done.


newspaper ad from May 1960


box for the Arrow Model 210 Stapling Machine

I have several Arrow model 210’s in their original boxes and have seen a small number of others.  It appears that Arrow never changed the box design throughout the life of this product even when they made a number of design changes in introducing the version 2.  I would have to say that the jury is still out on this though as it is entirely possible that Arrow did eventually restyle the boxes to accommodate the newly styled model 210 and I just haven’t come across one.


newspaper ad from 1978

I have to admit I have a soft spot for all of these older Arrow staplers.  They were well-made and all of them were well-designed and managed to be different from the crowd.  And I’m not just talking about the model 210, but all of the others also.  While I’m glad that Arrow is still around I find it just a little sad that they no longer make desktop staplers anymore.

Patent and Other Information:


  1. Wallace (1960, May), advertisement, The Derrick, page 28
  2. Perry Office Supply Catalog (1963), Syracuse, NY, page 49
  3. WOSCO, Inc. Catalog (1963), Greensburg, PA, page 2
  4. McDonald, Stingel and Bush Office Supply Catalog (1964), Saginaw, MI, page 358
  5. George Stuart (1966, August), advertisement, Orlando Sentinel, page 7-B
  6. Wilson’s Jewelers Distributors (1978, August), advertisement, Longview Morning Journal, page 13-A
  7. Marathon Office Supply, Inc Catalog (1986), Los Angeles, CA, page 18

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Bates Model D Stapler


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The Bates Manufacturing Company was world-renowned for its numbering machines.  However, in its heyday Bates was also known for its list finders, eyelet machines, staple removers, hole punches, file supplies, and of course, staplers.  As a matter of fact, I would say that the Bates Model staplers were the second most popular office item, after their numbering machines, that Bates offered.

Bates manufactured four different model (or five, depending on how you count) staplers that were lettered Model A through Model D (with there being two different versions of the Model B).  Out of all of these models the one least known is the Model D.


newspaper ad from 1940

The Model D was introduced in 1940 as having the “popular features of its Big Brother Model B” but at a more advantageous price.  It worked the same as its siblings in that it used a roll of brass wire that was fed from the rear.  However, the Model D reel was smaller and was rated for only 2500 staples – half of what the other models were capable of.  The Model D was available at least until 1946 with the staple reels still being offered by office suppliers as late as 1952.

The Bates Model D stapler weighs 1 pound and measures 7.25″ L x 2″ W x 4.5″ H.  To place that in context it is about the same size as a modern Swingline model 747 but taller and lighter.  It was made entirely out of steel and was of a very high build quality.  The staples it made were about two-thirds the size of standard staples but still could fasten the same amount of paper.  The wire reel meant that you could go a very long time between refills, but in my experience I found that feeding the wire through the stapler is something of a chore.  Still, aside from the difficulty in loading you were unlikely to suffer any quality issues and if you needed to staple large volumes of documents then this stapler would have been at the top of your list.


bottom of Model D

The Bates Manufacturing Company had a long history that lasted for over a hundred years and included a number of illustrious names.  The following is a brief overview of their history.


  • September 5, 1890 Incorporated in New York by Samuel Insull (50% of stock), Edwin G. Bates (49.6% of stock), and Alfred O. Tate (.4% of stock)
  • July 30, 1892 Bates Mfg Co sold to Edison Phonograph Works. Both Samuel Insull and Edwin Bates continue to work for company
  • November 14, 1921 Bates Mfg Co sold to a group of prominent people based around Orange, NJ
  • In 1976 Bates moved from Orange, NJ to Hackettstown, NJ
  • General Binding Corporation (GBC) acquired Bates Manufacturing Company in 1993
  • In August 1994 all of the manufacturing equipment in the Bates facility in Hackettstown, New Jersey was auctioned off
  • By 1996 GBC had closed the New Jersey plant, outsourced some of the manufacturing to other companies, and moved the rest to the VeloBlind plant in Sparks, Nevada

Patent and Other Information:


  1. Memorandum of Agreement [Bates Manufacturing Co and Edison Phonograph Works]. (1892, July 30). New York, NY.
  2. Treasurer’s Report [Bates Manufacturing Co to the Comptroller State of New York]. (1898, October 1). New York, NY.
  3. Editors (1921, December 24). Reorganization of the Bates Mfg. Co. American Stationer and Office Outfitter, p. 23
  4. Zaiser’s Stationers and Office Outfitters (1940, October), advertisement, Des Moines Sunday Register, page 12
  5. Staple Catalog (1945), St. Louis, MO, page 60
  6. Utility Supply Co Catalog (1946), Chicago, IL, page 385
  7. Bardeen’s School and Office Catalog (1952), Syracuse, NY, page 15
  8. Editors (1986, February), Bates Manufacturing Cites Growth, Its People, Echoes Sentinel, page 24
  9. Stephen L. Winternitz, Inc. (1994, August), advertisement, Chicago Tribune, page 15
  10. David Young (1996, April), General Binding’s Reorganization an Awakening, Chicago Tribune, page 1-2 Business

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Sengbusch No. 55 Self-Closing Inkstand


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Sengbusch No. 55

If you’ve ever gone looking for antique or vintage office items, whether online, in antique stores, or whatnot, one of the items that you will run into time and again are ink wells and ink stands.  Now, ball point pens have been available for quite a number of decades now and fountain pens have been in use for centuries.  What these types of pens have in common is that they both contain their ink internally in the pen casing.  Prior to these technologies the only way to put ink to paper was with a dip pen.  And just as the name implies you would dip the pen nib into a specially made container that you would keep on your desk and that would be filled with ink.  Now dip pens at the end of the 19th and into the 20th century lived very comfortably alongside fountain pens.  Dip pens had some advantages over the fountain pens of the time, advantages such as simplicity of parts, ease of use, and inexpensiveness to name just a few.

If you examine most ink wells you’ll note that they are often essentially just a small bottle with a non-airtight removable cap.  You open the cap, dip your pen, and write. However, because these wells weren’t airtight and were often kept open for long stretches of time, it wasn’t unusual for the ink to accumulate dust and grit, evaporate as liquids are wont to do, and most dreadfully, spill all over your desk, your work, and your clothes if you were careless.


illustration demonstrating how the Sengbusch self-closing inkstand works

A man named Gustav Sengbusch was also well-aware of all of the shortcomings with ink wells and in 1902 filed two patent applications for self-closing ink wells.  These two patents, along with many, many others in the following years, formed the basis of the company he started; the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company.


Over the years Sengbusch released a number of different ink wells and ink stands but one of the earliest and longest manufactured was the No. 55.

The No. 55 measured 3.25″ x 3.0625″ and weighed 1 lb and 4 oz.  It was constructed of pressed glass and hard rubber or plastic.  I can find specific references to the No. 55 as early as 1915 and as late as 1955.  However, it is my opinion that it would have been available a year or two earlier and likely produced until Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. went out of business.


Because the No. 55 was made for such a long period of time it can be very difficult to date one.  One way is to look at the outer plastic top.  If there are patent dates on this then it will have been manufactured after the latest patent date.  However, sometime around the late 1920’s all patent information seems to no longer have been inscribed on these tops and instead started having only Sengbusch or Sengbusch USA inscribed.  Another way to date these is by the type of plastic material used in the construction of the self-closing mechanism and cap.  These parts were made of hard rubber until at least 1946 but by 1955 they started being made of hard plastic.

ad from March 30, 1905

ad from March 30, 1905

Information on Gustav “Gus” Sengbusch and the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company is sparse to say the least.  The earliest specific reference I can find to the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. is from March 30, 1905.  The latest specific reference I have found is from 1966 but this reference was from a periodical about radios, another product that Sengbusch was known for.  That means that this company was in existence from at least 1905 until 1966.   However, the 1966 reference was in regards to a still very active company, not one going out of business.  It seems fair to assume that the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. was in business until at least the 1970’s (see note 1).  Sengbusch was located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for its entire existence.  Sengbusch started out at 885 11th Street and in 1906 moved to the Montgomery Building.  In 1912 they were located in the Stroh Building and by 1938 they were in the Sengbusch Building.

The Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. wasn’t only known for its inkwells.  They also manufactured radios, dip pens, pen nibs, paper sorters, ink stands, a mucilage (glue) applicator and the Ideal Moistener.  These last two items were brought under the Sengbusch umbrella in 1916 when the Ideal Moistener Co. of Findlay, Ohio was acquired by Sengbusch.  The Ideal Moistener was one of Sengbusch’s most successful products.

The Sengbusch ink stands were very successful and many businesses purchased these.  Some of their customers include:

  • American Car & Foundry Co
  • Baldwin Locomotive Works
  • Bell Telephone System
  • Board of Education Bloomington, IL
  • Carnegie Steel
  • DuPont Powder Co
  • Equitable Life Assurance
  • Ford Motor Co
  • International Harvester
  • Northern Life Insurance
  • Northwestern Insurance Co
  • N.W. Mutual Life Insurance Co
  • Oregon Short Line Railway
  • Pacific Telephone and Telegraph
  • Pierce-Arrow Motor Co
  • Prudential Insurance
  • Red Wing Minnesota Public Schools
  • Southern Express Co
  • Standard Oil Co
  • Swift & Co
  • United Shoe Machinery Co
  • US Navy
  • Western Union Telegraph Co

Sengbusch ads also mention that hundreds of banks, state capitols, business houses, and government offices all used Sengbusch self-closing inkstands.

picture from a 1919 industry magazine showing a Sengbusch-themed window display

picture from a 1919 industry magazine showing a Sengbusch-themed window display

ad from 1922 industry magazine

ad from 1922 industry magazine

Patent and Other Information:


  1. The Pen Collectors of America publish a fantastic newsletter titled the Pennant. In their fall 2009 newsletter William J. Cowell Jr. published a great article titled “An Inkwell and a Mystery”.  Cowell gives a lot of information about Gustav Sengbusch and the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. and while he mentions some of his sources in passing he doesn’t list them.  This means that I can’t independently verify his facts.  That’s not to imply I think his information is incorrect, far from it.  But since I cannot verify them I felt it prudent not to use this article as a reference.  However, I feel that it is of enough import that I greatly encourage you to seek this out and read the article if you’re interested in the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company. While you’re at it, think about joining the PCA.
  2. Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. (1905, March). advertisement. Geyer’s Stationer, page 16
  3. Editors (1909, March 25). Sengbusch Inkstand Factory Enlarged. Geyer’s Stationer, p. 10
  4. Editors (1913, February 13). The “Sengbusch” Self-Closing Ink Stand. Geyer’s Stationer, p. 13
  5. P. Burnap Stationery & Printing Co Catalog (1915), Kansas City, MO, page 144
  6. Editors (1916, June 1). “Gus” Sengbusch Is Spreading Out. Geyer’s Stationer, p. 10
  7. Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co. (1916, June). advertisement. Geyer’s Stationer, page 25
  8. Editors (1916, June 22). Sengbusch-Ideal Moistener Nuptials. Geyer’s Stationer, p. 39
  9. Sweet’s Architectural Catalogue (1918), Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company , page 7
  10. Dameron-Pierson Co Catalog (1923), New Orleans, LA, page 69
  11. Saml Dodsworth Stationery Co Catalog (1932), Kansas City, MO, page 21
  12. Utility Supply Co Catalog (1940), Chicago, IL, page 290
  13. Editors (1940, August), Army Grants Contracts With Wisconsin Firms, The Green Bay Press-Gazette, page 2
  14. Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co (1957, June), advertisement, Alexandria Daily Town Talk, page 15
  15. Editors (1966). Index Telegraphic Cable and Radio Registrations. Marconi’s International Register, p. 733

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Swingline Tot 50 Stapler


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version 1 (1950-1980)

In the history of the company now known as Swingline, there are four staplers that have been the most important for the company.  These are:

  1. the Babe Stapler introduced around 1928
  2. Model 4 introduced in 1937
  3. Tot 50 introduced in 1950
  4. Model 747 introduced in 1970

They were all important for different reasons, but the one reason they all have in common is that they were all revolutionary and innovative in an industry that is seen from the outside world as conservative and slow-to-change.  And out of the above the most surprising fastener on this list would be the Tot 50

The Tot 50 was not the first Swingline stapler to hold this moniker.  That honor belongs to the Tot Speed Fastener which was a smaller version of the popular models 3 and 4 series of staplers.  This stapler was introduced around the same time as the models 3 and 4.


The Tot 50 was radically different though from the Tot Speed Fastener.  It was much smaller measuring only 3″ L x .719″ W x 1″ H and weighing only 1.5 ounces.  It was also less expensive with a suggested retail price of only 98 cents – and with that you received a box of staples and a plastic case.  It was made of high-quality materials as well; chrome-plated steel and a type of plastic known as “Tenite” (you know you want to look this up on wikipedia).  These materials were of such high-quality that I still have a Tot 50 that I use and it is at least 53 years old and works as well today as the day it came off the assembly line.

While the Tot 50 was available through normal office suppliers for businesses, its success really came from the consumer end – students and home/home office users.  Its diminutive size meant it both traveled and stored easily and when space is at a premium these become important points.  To its credit, Swingline was the first company to really identify this area and opened up a whole new customer base that hadn’t really been tapped before.  These points, coupled with a high build quality, a kit that came ready with supplies, and a well-oiled marketing machine made this an instant hit.  This was such a success that versions of the Tot are made even to this day.


earliest known ad from April 3, 1950

The name of this stapler, Tot 50, is in reference to the year 1950 when it was introduced.  There were three versions of the Tot 50 and there is a modern series of Tot staplers still made today that continue on the tradition.  However, these modern versions vary from the original Tot 50 in a number of ways.  The original versions of the Tot 50 used No. 10 or “Tot” staples.  These were smaller than standard staples.  The modern Tots use standard staples, are designed differently, come in different models, have a smaller “throat”, and are rated to staple only up to 12 sheets of paper at a time.  The original Tot 50 was rated for up to 20 sheets of paper and could also be used for tacking.

1970's era box of Tot 50 staples

1970’s era box of Tot 50 staples

1950-1980. Shown in the open position ready for a new row of staples

1950-1980. Shown in the open position ready for a new row of staples

This is the original, first version of this venerable stapler.  Introduced in 1950 this version was advertised until 1980.  It should be noted that these were also available in “executive” versions which were black and gold-plated and there was also a grey colored deluxe model.



This is the second version of this stapler.  The changes from the first version are mostly cosmetic and consist of a more squared body making it look very much like a tiny model 747.  The model name “Tot 50” is also no longer imprinted on the top.  This was available from 1980 through 1987.



By 1988 Swingline had decided that some more design changes were necessary.  They kept the more square body but removed the “PRESS” button on the rear that slid open the stapler for refilling.  They also went back to printing the model name of “Tot 50” on the top.  By 1989 they were also advertising this model in New Pastel Colors so it isn’t unusual to find this version in colors like lavender.



I’m cheating a little on this one by lumping the different versions into one category.  The new Tot (no longer with the “50”) stapler came in a number of different bright colors and different models.  There was a Grip model, a folding keychain model, and for lack of a better term their “standard” Tot model (see picture above).  They now use standard staples which while easier to find, actually limits its usefulness.  And while I would describe the overall quality of this stapler as “good enough” it’s unlikely this will still be used 50+ years from now.

Prices for the Tots ran as follows:

  • from 1950-1971 the suggested retail price was $0.98
  • By 1978 the suggested retail price was $1.49
  • In the 1980’s prices ranged from $1.19 to $1.63 but were found regularly on sale for $0.99
  • Throughout the 1990’s the standard price rose to $2.49 but again they were regularly on sale for $0.99
  • In the early 2000’s the average sale price was closer to $2.00 and today you can buy them from between $2.75-$5.00.

ad from 1963


  • The Parrot Speed Fastener Corp is established in 1925 by Jack Linsky
  • In 1939 the Parrot Speed Fastener Co changes names to Speed Fastener
  • In 1956 Speed Fastener changes names once again to Swingline
  • Swingline acquires Ace Fastener in 1957
  • Merged with Wilson-Jones in 1963
  • ACCO acquires Vail Manufacturing in 1966
  • Swingline acquired by American Brands in 1970
  • Jack Linsky was President and Chairman until 1975, his wife Belle continued to hold the position of Treasurer
  • In 1986 American Brands acquires ACCO
  • In 1987 American Brands merged ACCO with Swingline
  • American Brands changed names to Fortune Brands in 1997
  • Swingline factory in Queens, NY closed in 1999. After that all manufacturing moved to Mexico.

Jack Linsky was the man behind Parrot Speed Fastener/Speed Fastener/Swingline.  Jacob “Jack” Linsky was born in 1897.  He moved to the US from Russia in 1905.  He quit school at age 14 to take a job as an errand-boy/stock clerk/salesman for a stationery firm in New York where he learned about staplers first-hand.  He served in the US army during WWI.  After he was discharged he traveled to Europe in search of a better stapler.  He found a German firm that produced one with clear advantages over the ones then available in the US and with an initial investment of $500 started Parrot Speed Fastener Corp.  This stapler from Germany was called the Babe.  Mr. Linsky became the sole distributor of the Babe in the US and Canada.  The Babe was soon copied by others and Linsky, who was unable to convince the manufacturer to keep improving their stapler, decided in 1931 to go into the business of manufacturing staplers and staples himself.  Jack Linsky died June 3, 1980 at the age of 83 in Palm Beach, FL.


ad from 1971



This is a picture of the bottom of the Tot 50 that I still use to this very day.  They made the first version of the Tot 50 for thirty years without any design changes and this can make it very difficult to accurately date one.

So, just as I did on an earlier post about the Scotch C20 Tape Dispenser let’s look at the available clues and see if we can refine that thirty year timeframe to something more accurate.  Note that I’ve circled four items and that I’ve numbered these from one through four.  Let’s look at these in order.

  1. Patent D-164265 was granted in 1951. Patent 2702384 was granted in 1955.  In order for patent 2702384 to be listed this stapler must have been manufactured on or after 1955.
  2. Swingline staplers were made in the USA until 1999 when manufacturing was moved to Mexico. That means this stapler must have been made prior to 2000.
  3. In 1956 Speed Products changed its name to Swingline. This means this stapler must have been manufactured after 1956.  The term Swingline was used previously but it was a product name for their line of staplers.
  4. “Long Island City 1, N.Y.” uses an older addressing system with a city postal zone code. These were used until 1963 when ZIP codes were introduced, meaning this was manufactured prior to 1964.

Taking all the clues into consideration, we can determine that this particular stapler was made between 1956 and 1963.  While this is still a seven year period it is considerably tighter than the thirty year period we started with.

My goal with the above was simply to look at the information that could be gleaned from the bottom of the stapler.  Of course there are other clues such as the fact that this version was only made until 1980; which means that item 2 above doesn’t really add to our knowledge but would matter for other versions and other model staplers.  Other clues to look for would be an ACCO logo and body color which would also help date a stapler.  If you’re fortunate enough to have original packaging that often will greatly help in dating an item.


ad from 1978

Patent and Other Information:


  1. C-M Office & School Supply, Inc. (1950, April), advertisement. Janesville Daily Gazette, page 5
  2. Utility Supply Company Catalog (1952), Chicago, IL page 93
  3. Editors (1958, December 20). Wilson-Jones Chief Accepts Swingline Offer to Buy Stock. The Bridgeport Telegram, p. 25
  4. Bechtold, Henry J. (1961, March 2). Manufacturing of Staples Big Business for American Firms. Medford Mail Tribune, p. 8
  5. Woolworth’s, (1961, August), advertisement. The Times-Record, page 23
  6. Perry Office Supply Catalog (1963), Syracuse, NY, page 53
  7. Editors (1963, July 13). Merger to Help Swingline, Inc. The Daily Times, p. 11
  8. Laffler, William D. (1965, December 15). Firm Grew From $500 Investment. The Daily Republican
  9. Editors UPI (1966, February 27). Stapler’s Success May Spell Doom for Paste Pots. Bridgeport Sunday Post, p. C-SIX
  10. Baker, Joe (1966, March 10). Ingenuity Made Staple Business. The Daily Sun, p. D8
  11. Editors (1970, March 26). Virginia News in Brief. The Register, p. 3B
  12. Swingline, (1970, September), advertisement. The Daily Tarheel, page 4
  13. Union Paper & Supply Co Catalog (1974), Wilkes-Barre, PA, page 57
  14. Swingline, (1978, September), advertisement. The Daily Tarheel, page 4
  15. Editors (1980, June 13). Jack Linsky Succumbs At Age 83. The Jewish Post & Opinion, p. 10
  16. SkyCity, (1980, August), advertisement. The Index Journal, page 19
  17. Thrifty Drug Store, (1980, August), advertisement. The Feather River Bulletin, page 7
  18. CVS, (1987, August), advertisement. Hazleton Standard-Speaker, page 7
  19. Hilley’s Pharmacy, (1988, August), advertisement. The Paris News, page 20
  20. Associated Druggists, (1990, March), advertisement. Hazleton Standard-Speaker, page 20
  21. MacFrugal’s, (1999, June), advertisement. Ukiah Daily Journal, page 39
  22. Walgreen’s, (1999, August), advertisement. The Facts, page 120
  23. Korkki, Phyllis (2013, March 23). The Attachment That Still Makes Noise. The New York Times, Retrieved from

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