Back in 1866, George W. McGill patented what is now one of the most basic of office supplies, the brass paper fastener. It was revolutionary at the time as it fundamentally changed how papers were organized and held together. They were safe, easy to use, and unpretentiously decorative.
McGill quickly realized though that one issue with using these is that you first needed to create a hole or slit in which to insert the brass fastener. Over the years he patented several different presses to perform this function but mostly they were large and heavy. But what could you do if you had mostly smaller jobs that didn’t really require the use of a two and a half pound solid cast iron press? That’s where the McGill Paper Fastener Punch came in.
Weighing 1.5 ounces, the McGill Paper Fastener Punch was 3.125″ L, 0.875″ W x 1.5″ H. So it was very small and light. The body was made of brass, the spike of steel and the top knob was made of plated steel. This made the Punch very strong. It was also relatively inexpensive. But the most compelling feature of the Punch was that it just plain worked. This combination of small, light, strong, cheap, and good design was a winning combination that made this a successfully selling item for over 40 years.
The Fastener Punch was patented on May 26, 1874 to George McGill. He was granted patent number 151236 for his invention. I can find sources that show the Fastener Punch being sold from at least 1879 through 1921. However, it is very likely that this was available from around 1874 through to approximately 1930.
The McGill Fastener Punch was also highly decorative with raised scrollwork and flowers on the top piece and a fasces imprinted on the bottom piece. The fasces is an old Roman symbol denoting unity and order which is certainly a duty performed by the Fastener Punch. The punch is marked “G.W. MCGILL NEW YORK” on the top of the knob.
In 1876 George McGill entered into a 20 year contract with Holmes, Booth & Haydens for the manufacture of his fasteners. I have seen ads showing that with the purchase of certain fastener sets you received a McGill Fastener Punch for free. As Holmes, Booth & Haydens was one of the largest brass-works in the world, and as the Fastener Punch is made primarily of brass, it makes sense that these would also have been manufactured by Holmes, Booth & Haydens.
The business of manufacturing McGill’s fasteners was exceedingly profitable to both McGill and to Holmes, Booth & Haydens. McGill was made a director in this corporation and the fastener business became a separate department under his control. McGill had an office at the New York City office of Holmes, Booth & Haydens where he directed the fastener business and oversaw the manufacturing of them. George W. McGill was also a patent attorney.
In about 1899 George McGill brought a lawsuit to bear against Holmes, Booth & Haydens for not honoring the payment terms of their contract. McGill did win this lawsuit but it seems to have been the end of their business relationship. In January 1899 the McGill Fastener Company was incorporated in New York. On October 17, 1901, Holmes, Booth & Haydens merged with several other brass-works in Connecticut to form the American Brass Company.
Taken together it appears that anything manufactured after 1899 would have been made by the McGill Fastener Company while anything manufactured before 1899 would have been made by Holmes, Booth & Haydens.
A comparison of this same Paper Fastener Punch against the original patent will show some obvious design changes to the punch. However, I do not know when this design change was made.
George Warrington McGill was born in Lancaster, Ohio on March 9, 1844. He started out as a civil engineer, then a lawyer, and finally an inventor and businessman. He was married to Mary Peebles Harry and they had one child, a son, named W. Harry McGill. George W. McGill died September 30, 1917.
- Editors (1879, June). Illustrated and Descriptive Price List of Stationery and Fancy Goods. The American Stationer, page 20
- Editors (1893, February). McGill’s Assorted Fasteners. Books and Notions, page 14
- Hall, Henry, America’s Successful Men of Affairs, New York, NY, The New York Printing Company, (1895). Print
- National Reporter System, The Federal Reporter Volume 108, St. Paul, MN, West Publishing Co, (1901). Print
- Lathrop, William G., The Brass Industry in Connecticut, New Haven, CT, The Price, Lee & Adkins Co (1909). Print
- F.P. Burnap Stationery & Printing Co Catalog (1915), Kansas City, MO page 109
- Editors (1917, November). Passed Away During the Month. Office Appliances the Magazine of Office Equipment, page 221
- A.L. Salomon & Co Catalog (1921), New York, NY page 38