Industrial, rugged, a bit crude, and built for practicality are only a few of the descriptions you could use for today’s antique item – the Century Stapling Machine
The Century Stapling Machine takes a pin (brass or copper but preferably not steel), lops off the ends, folds the middle portion of the pin into a staple shape and then inserts and fastens that newly made staple into your papers. All this is done with a single sharp blow to the plunger. While common pins are no longer used in offices, when this was introduced pins were more often used than clips to secure papers together. Brass and copper pins can still be purchased from your local craft store and will work just fine with this machine.
The Machine measures 3.375″ L x 2.4375″ W x 5.75″ H and weighs 1 pound 6 ounces. It is made from hardened steel and is nickel-plated.
The patent for this item was applied for on January 4, 1897 and granted on July 13, 1897. US patent 586515 was granted to Lee S. Burridge and assigned to the Century Machine Company.
The first known advertisement for the Century Stapling Machine was September 1897 and the latest known advertisement was in April 1902. It seems unlikely that the Century Stapling Machine was around much longer than 1902. However if you look at the main picture above you’ll note that it states PAT. APPL’D FOR on the plunger slide. This means that the machine in the picture was likely made between January and July 1897. Taken all together the evidence indicates that the Century Stapling Machine was available from approximately January 1897 until at least April 1902.
I’ve found ads for the Century Stapling Machine from Washington state all the way to the United Kingdom and most points in between. While the Machine doesn’t seem to have been available for a very long time it was heavily advertised and widely available during the time of its manufacture.
The Century Stapling Machine was introduced to the trade by Albertus A. Weeks, who was a pioneer in the stationery trade and involved with many of the early fastening machines, although not always in a positive way. The Philadelpha Novelty Company had sued him for patent infringements of their Novelty Paper Fastener for example.
You may have noticed that the Century Stapling Machine operates very similarly to the Pin Stapling Tool. You wouldn’t be alone. In the U.K. especially, whenever the Century Stapling Machine was written about it was invariably compared to and advertised with the Pin Stapling Tool. The New York Carbon & Transfer Paper Company also noticed the similarities and in October 1897 published the following letter to the Century Machine Company and A.A. Weeks:
I can find no proof that there ever actually was a lawsuit. However, the short life of the Century Stapling Machine may be partly due to this notice of intent to file one.
The Century Machine Company specialized in working with individuals in manufacturing their patent ideas. These kinds of companies are still around and if you watch enough late-night television you’ll see their ads (always with the concluding statement “most inventions are not successful and Bill’s experience is not typical of what an inventor can expect”). I’m unsure why Lee S. Burridge decided to go this route although it may have been a way to distance himself and the Sun Typewriter Company from possible lawsuits.
Lee S. Burridge was not only the inventor of the Century Stapling Machine, but patented and manufactured a similarly working item advertised as the Sun Stapling Machine. The Sun Stapling Machine was patented on March 15, 1898 under patent 600510. This machine was advertised by the Sun Typewriter Company from 1900 to 1906.
Mr. Burridge was born in Paris, France on September 22, 1861 while his parents were traveling abroad. Educated in England, he came to the U.S. to take a position with C.A. Aufmordt & Co in New York. There he became interested in the manufacture of mechanical toys.
In the early 1880’s he took up the development of typewriting machines, being one of the very first inventors to foresee the development and ultimate adoption of the visible typewriter. In 1887, at only 26 years old, he started the Sun Typewriter Company. He was president of this company until his death.
His knowledge of typewriter construction and patents was so comprehensive as to create a strong demand for his services as an expert in patent litigation, in which field of work he became noted. He was a prominent figure in many historical patent suits. Again, his experience in patent litigation may be the reason his patent for the Century Stapling Machine was assigned to and manufactured by the Century Machine Company.
In 1908 he became interested in aviation and together with some like-minded enthusiasts purchased the first aeroplane [sic] ever sold. He arranged the first public exhibition of flying that was given by Curtiss at Bronx Park. This aeroplane was sent on an exhibition tour throughout the United States and Canada, solely to foster and create public interest in aviation, and was in a large measure the start of practical aviation in this country.
He founded the Aeronautical Society of America and was the president for several years. He was also a member of the Aeronautical Engineers Society, the Automobile Club of America, the National Geographic Society, and the Aero Club.
Lee S. Burridge died on May 4, 1915 at his home on 160 West 54th Street in New York. He was only 54 years old. He appears to have never married.
- US Patent 586515
- Century Machine Company (1897, May). advertisement. American Machinist, page 38
- Century Machine Company (1897, September). advertisement. American Machinist, page 10
- Editors (1897, September). “Century” Stapling Machine. The American Stationer, page 549
- Editors (1897, October). Prospective Lawsuits. The American Stationer, page 568
- Editors (1898, January). The Pin Stapling Tool, and “Century” Stapling Machine. The Photographic Dealer, page 76
- Editors (1902, June). Century Stapling Machine. New England Stationer and Printer, page 76
- Editors (1915, June). Death of Lee S. Burridge. Typewriter Topics, page 76