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It’s not unusual to hear people say that stuff isn’t made as well today as it used to be.  They’ll point out an item and state, “look at how well-made this is.  It’s a hundred years old and works just as well today as it did then.”  They may point out dozens of items as examples of how they were made so much better and how stuff made today is comparatively second-rate at best.

If you’re one of these people, then let me point out you’re thinking about this incorrectly.  The reason that such-and-such a high-quality piece (whatever it happens to be) is still around and still working after all this time is because that particular piece was made with superior materials and skill.  What you need to realize is that subpar and inferior items have always also been made and in about the same percentages as they are today.  It’s just that the inferior items did not last, were easily broken and subsequently discarded, or were otherwise destroyed allowing only the well-made items to survive.  These inferior items also were likely made in smaller numbers and not manufactured for very long due to their low-quality.

It’s these inferior items that end up being your future rare collector items (I’m looking at you Hotchkiss H-30).  Nobody would ever say that the Swingline model 747 was a rare and hard-to-find stapler.  That’s because it works , is well-made, and you never have problems with one.  It’s successful and Swingline has made them since 1970 which attests to their high-quality.  Then you have items such as the Flash 3-in-1 stapler and when you see one it becomes crystal clear why they weren’t made for very long.

U.S. Patent 2269744 states that one of the purposes of the Flash Stapler “is to provide a stapling device of the character described of extreme simplicity so that same may be adapted for low-cost production in large quantities without the sacrifice of any constructional and operational advantages.”  The manufacturer of the Flash Stapler certainly was successful in producing these for low cost in large quantities and of extreme simplicity.  Unfortunately, they did so by sacrificing construction and operational advantages.

The Flash Stapler measures 5.125″ L x 2.438″ W x 3.125″ H and weighs 8.5 ounces empty.  It is made almost entirely of pressed steel with the base, plunger and staple cover painted in green crackle paint.  The remainder of the stapler is simply thin, unpainted, uncoated, pressed steel.  It does not use standard staples but instead was designed to be used with special Flash Staples.

The Flash Stapler was manufactured by the Consolidated Staple Company of Chicago, Illinois.  You will find Pat. Pend. stamped on the bottom of the stapler.  I have seen a large number of these over the years and I have never seen one inscribed with a patent number or patent date

It’s important to note that the Flash Stapler was made during World War II which means that the materials needed to manufacture a stapler were rationed with the bulk of such commodities being set aside for military use.  Also, as with literally just about every other company in the U.S., the Consolidated Staple Co retooled during this time to focus on the manufacture of war material.  As a matter of fact, the Consolidated Staple Co manufactured tank turrets and parts for PT boats as well as this stapler.  When seen in this light it’s not surprising that quality suffered on this type of item.

There were two patents granted in regards to this stapler;  utility patent 2269744 filed in August 1940 and granted in January 1942 and design patent 119078 filed in November 1939 and granted in February 1940.  This means that the Flash was introduced in late 1939 or sometime in 1940.  It was advertised from 1941 to 1944 so that would mean the Flash Stapler was available from approximately 1940 until 1944.  The Flash Stapler sold from between 39 cents to 99 cents while it was available and it averaged around 50 cents.

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ad from 1941 newspaper

Patent 2269744 was granted to Charles Tager and Hans Stockel who assigned the patent to the American Die & Tool Corp.  Design Patent 119078 was granted solely to Charles Tager.  Charles Tager also held the patent for the wire spool mechanism of the Bates B and C staplers and for a special type of tape dispenser.

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Charles Tager (seated on left) at a meeting in Germany and looking at a paper punch (photo provided by and used with the kind permission of Mira Tager Lehr)

Charles Tager was born in 1899 in Vitebsk, Belarus.  His family was from Leipzig, Germany and Charles spent much time there growing-up.  He came to the United States in the early 20th century and having an entrepreneurial spirit owned/operated a number of companies including:

  • American Die & Tool Corp.
  • Consolidated Wire Products
  • Stationers Supply Corp.

American Die & Tool Corp. was the company that the Flash Stapler patent was assigned to.  You may recognize Consolidated Wire Products as the company that first produced the Mercury Stapler before it was manufactured by Bates.

Charles Tager died in 1975 in Miami Beach, Florida where he had made his home.

With the Flash Stapler not particularly well-made and only available for about four years, you might think that the Consolidated Staple Company’s poorly executed stapler design meant the end of the line for Charles Tager’s idea of an inexpensive and easy to produce stapler.    You’d be wrong to think that though.  By 1946 Mr. Tager’s stapler was reborn as the Champion, which offered some design improvements and was of much higher build quality (and cost a $1.95, four times the average cost of the Flash).  Great design never just disappears.

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Patent and Other Information:

Notes:

  1. The New Castle Store (1941, April), advertisement. The New Castle News, page 16
  2. Strouss-Hirshberg (1942, January), advertisement, The New Castle News, page 5
  3. Goldstein-Migel Co, (1943, July), advertisement. The Waco News-Tribune, page 3
  4. Correspondence with Mira Tager Lehr, Charles Tager’s daughter.  Mira Lehr, re: Charles Tager, emails to Frank Parsons, June-July 2016.

Special Thanks:

To Mira Lehr.  Her ongoing assistance in sharing information about her father has been invaluable and led me down research paths that I otherwise would never have found.  There’s still a lot to research and information is scarce but I’m confident that with Ms. Lehr’s help a lot of the knowledge gaps about Charles Tager and his various endeavors will be filled-in.  This post is a work in progress and my hope is that this small effort on my part along with the continuing help of  Mira and others like her will help keep Charles Tager’s memory and accomplishments alive.  Thanks Mira!

Visit me at http://www.facebook.com/americanstationer and let’s get all geeky about office supplies :)

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