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pin stapling tool lee sm wmpin stapling tool keyes sm wm

Interesting; practical; beautifully designed; extremely durable; and just plain cool are only a few of the descriptions you could use for today’s antique item – the Pin Stapling Tool.

The Pin Stapling Tool takes a pin (preferably copper or brass but not steel), cuts off the ends and bends it into a staple.  The tool then becomes a single-stroke plier-type stapler in that you can then insert that newly-made staple into your papers.  You can still find these kind of pins today although they are used more for crafts but back in the day they were as common in offices as pencils.  The three that I have in my collection each work perfectly even after a hundred plus years.  I bought some copper pins and stapled a few items together.  This tool works great and the copper staples add a touch of class to your documents.

While the two shown in the pictures above differ very slightly in size, this measures in at  6”L x 1”W x 3.375”H and weighs 6.5 ounces which is about the size and weight of a pair of pliers.

Patent 563970 was granted on July 14, 1896 to Herman F. Lee and James A. Keyes of New York.  There is no evidence showing these as being produced before the patent date.  Now, boys and girls, this is where it gets interesting and a bit convoluted…

Again, make note of the two different photos.  Can you spot the difference?  If you look on the pivot joint you’ll note that the inscription is the same for each except that one is shown as being manufactured by Herman F. Lee and one as being manufactured by James A. Keyes.  I believe I can piece together something of their story.

pin stapling tools hinge closeup sm wm

According to records, James A. Keyes sold his rights to this patent to the New York Carbon & Transfer Paper Co.  He was a prolific inventor and had patented many items including what would become the Hotchkiss No. 1 stapler (see patent 572346) a few years earlier.  That was a patent he had also relinquished rights to.

The New York Carbon & Transfer Paper Company made this item from 1897 until they went out of business in 1906.  This is the only version that has any physical differences of any kind to the others.  In this case, even if the inscription were worn off the single screw on the bottom of the handle gives this away as a first version Pin Stapling Tool.

Herman F. Lee was the company president since 1889 and served continuously as either president, general manager, or treasurer until the company went bankrupt and was sold in May 1906. The following two article excerpts from industry journals give a fairly succinct description of what happened:


A petition in bankruptcy has been filed against the New York Carbon & Transfer Paper Company of 82 John street New York by these creditors: O Falk Co., $165; Sherman & Sons Co., $1,132; Vernon Bros & Co., $75.  It was alleged that the company is insolvent and on February 7 admitted in writing its inability to pay its debts by resolution of the board of directors.  The business was started in 1887 by Herman F. Lee and was incorporated on December 9, 1890, with a capital stock of $60,000, which was reduced to $20,000 in September, 1891.  Mr. Lee was treasurer and general manager, and Carlton Montgomery president.  The company formerly had a factory in Jersey City, but gave it up some years ago.

Editors, (1906, February 17), Trade Items, The American Stationer, vol 59 (7), page 12




The property of the New York Carbon and Transfer Paper Company located at 82 John street, New York, was sold on Tuesday, May 15, by John S. Montgomery, trustee in bankruptcy, to Herman F. Lee, the former treasurer of the concern, who in turn immediately sold it to Albert Ernst, manager of the International Carbon Paper Company, 148-150 Worth street, New York.  It is Mr. Ernst’s intention to transfer the property to the company of which he is manager and it will continue the manufacturing of the different brands of carbon papers and typewriter ribbons controlled heretofore by the New York Carbon and Transfer Paper Company.

Editors, (1906, May 19), Trade Items, The American Stationer, vol 59 (20), page 11


It appears that the tool inscribed with Herman F. Lee’s name was manufactured from 1906 until approximately 1915.  I can’t find any details as to exactly when Herman Lee sold his rights to the Pin Stapling Tool, but it was no later than 1915.

The Pin Stapling Tool was being manufactured in 1915 by James A. Keyes by his new company, the Pin Stapling Tool Manufacturing Company. The tool inscribed with his name was manufactured between 1915 until 1923.

In 1924 you start seeing the below version of the Pin Stapling Tool being advertsied.  It is stamped on the stapling mechanism “The Pin Stapling Tool Pat. July 14th 96 Made in U.S.A.”  Note that unlike the two U.S. models there is no stamp on the pivot joint of this model.

Pin Stapling Tool Box England sm wm pin stapling tool england sm wm

The Pin Stapling Tool was also exported to Europe.  I am unsure as to which company (but perhaps all) made these for export.  I recently acquired the above model from a collection in England.

The Pin Stapling Tool has long been a favorite in my collection.  When the opportunity arose to get a second (and third, and fourth) one I jumped at the chance.  It wasn’t until I started to look at them closely that I even noticed the different names.  This tool is difficult to come by and doesn’t often show up for sale anywhere so it was pure chance that I happened upon one of each.   In my opinion the story behind these staplers makes them all the more interesting.

Patent Information:

US Patent 563970

Other Information:

Instructions (for UK model)


  1. The latest model of the Pin Stapling Tool was procured from the John Ivor Parry (JIP) Jones collection courtesy of his daughter Marilyn Harris.  Mr. Jones was a meteorologist and held a number of patents related to anemometers and wind vanes in several countries including the following U.S. patents:  3678485 and 3893337.  His work was also published in the Journal of Physics E: Scientific Instruments and the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.  It isn’t often that you know the history of an item but to have something from the collection of someone as accomplished as Mr. Jones makes it all the more special.
  2. Editors, (1897, April 1), Answers to Correspondents. The American Stationer, page 525
  3. Editors, (1906, April 12), Bankruptcy Notices, New York Times, page 34
  4. Editors, (1915, September 18),Stationer’s Information Bureau. The American Stationer, page 14
  5. Cameron, Amberg & Co Stationery Catalog (1908), Chicago, IL page 61
  6. Dameron-Perison Co Catalog (1923), New Orleans, LA page 90
  7. George D. Barnard Co Catalog (1924), St. Louis, MO page 51