…”I started [collecting paper clips] about two weeks ago and I believe there are 57 varieties – not the pickle kind, either. Every time I get a new one I drop it into this little box. I have a clip, a double clip, a clipper clip and rinklip. I have a cross and a double cross and enough other kinds to form a clip menagerie. Wonderful where all these fool things come from!
“Some of them are as intricate as a Chinese puzzle and as obstinate as a Missouri mule. You have to worry along and tease with them, coax and wheedle, pat them on the back as if they were balky animals. Every time a man gets a piece of wire twisted into some awkward shape he gets a patent of it and sells it as a paper clip.” selection from Many Paper Clips, Sedalia Democrat-Sentinel, February 7, 1907
The end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century saw a virtual explosion of new patents for the newest type of office item – the paper clip. It’s odd to think that an everyday item such as this was once a new and exciting addition to the office supply pantheon but it was. So, why did it take so long for the paperclip to be invented? This modest office supply could not exist until steel wire with the proper tensity was available along with the machinery to bend this wire into the various shapes used by the makers of these clips. It was this combination, along with a need for such an item, that made these a staple office item within a few years of their introduction.
While the universally known “gem” clip is the undisputed king of paper clips, there were a surprisingly large number of other designs that have been produced over the years. One of the more successful clip variants manufactured was the Ring Paper Clip, or Rinklip.
Rinklips were first sold by the Ring Paper Clip Company of Providence, Rhode Island. They were manufactured by the A.A. Weeks Manufacturing Company. It may not come as a surprise to learn that the president of the A.A. Weeks Manufacturing Co, Frank A. Weeks, was also the Treasurer of the Ring Paper Clip Company. Joshua B. Hale is listed on the patents as the inventor of the Rinklip. But not only did J.B. Hale invent the ring clip but also the machine to make them.
Rinklips were first produced in 1905. At the time only one size and one design was advertised – the flat-topped ring clip.
By December 1906 three sizes were available: little, commercial, and banker. This turned out to be a clever bit of marketing as all other paper clips used numbers to designate sizes (e.g. the No. 3 Gem Clip). Commercial Rinklips measured .625″ diameter while Banker Rinklips measured 1″ diameter. The Little Rinklip was approximately .4″ diameter.
From 1921 onwards a numbering system was used to designate the different sizes. These ran from No. 0 to No. 4. Numbers 2,3, and 4 corresponded directly to the old system of little, commercial, and banker. Actually, it was common for the No. 4 clips to be called Banker Rinklips throughout its manufacturing history.
If you look on the internet or read books published that discuss the history of paper clips you will find that there is some confusion over the actual inventor of the Ring Clip. This is understandable and exists for two main reasons:
- There is a patent granted to George W. McGill in 1903, patent 731598, wherein he patents a clip design that is similar to the Rinklip.
- While the patent date is printed on boxes of Rinklips the actual patent number was not easily found nor was it known that there were two patents granted for Rinklips and one additional one for the method of producing them.
The USPTO granted two patents to J.B. Hale and the Ring Paper Clip Company for the Rinklip. Furthermore, George W. McGill was not only a prodigious inventor but a practicing patent attorney and he had shown no reluctance to take people to court over actual and supposed patent infringements in the past – including A.A. Weeks. However, there is no evidence that he did so in this regard. The fact that two patents were granted and that G.W. McGill didn’t feel that the production of these clips warranted legal action on his part show that McGill should not be considered the inventor of the Rinklip.
I believe this confusion came about for a few reasons;
- The patents for the Rinklip were extremely difficult to find and only recently discovered by me.
- The patent for G.W. McGill’s patent was very easily found and shows a very similar clip. Actually, a review of McGill’s patents from around that year will show that he patented virtually every known type of paper clip ever conceived. Even designs previously patented.
- The book “Adventures in Stationery” by James Ward on page 11 states that McGill patented and produced the Ring Clip. I believe it’s possible that McGill produced “a” ring clip, but is not the inventor or producer of the Rinklip.
Ring paper clips were produced by other companies in later years. Both Oakville and Monarch were producing them in the 1960’s. They were widely available at least through the 1980’s and likely for decades beyond. However, they are essentially extinct today which is unfortunate since they are actually one of the better paper clip designs ever to be produced.
To fasten paper using a ring clip you don’t insert the same way you would a gem clip.
Patent and Other Information:
- Patent 731598 – G.W. McGill Spring Clip – granted 06/23/1903
- Patent Reissue 12171, G.W. McGill Spring Clip – granted 11/17/03
- Patent 803585 – J.B. Hale Paper Clip – granted 11/07/1905
- Patent 803897 – J.B. Hale Spring Clip – granted 11/07/1905
- Patent 822445 – J.B. Hale Method of Forming Spring Clips – granted 06/05/1906
- A. Weeks Manufacturing Co. (1905, December), advertisement, Geyer’s Stationer, page 3
- Editor, Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. Government Printing Office, 1906
- Editor, Big Store for New York, Geyer’s Stationer, page 1, 29 March 1906
- Syndicated Author, Many Paper Clips, Sedalia Democrat-Sentinel, page 3, 29 February 1907
- FP Burnap Stationery and Printing Co Catalog (1915), Kansas City, MO, page 107
- Wesbanco Catalog (1921), Oklahoma City, OK, page 77
- McClurg’s Catalog (1936), Chicago, IL, page 184
- Utility Supply Co. Catalog (1946), Chicago, IL, page 368
- Commercial Stationers and Office Outfitters Co Catalog (1955), Chicago, IL, page 316
- Wosco Catalog (1963), Greensburg, PA, page 115
- McDonald, Stingel and Bush Office Supply Catalog (1964), Saginaw, MI,page 362
- Syndicated Author, Behold the Lowly Paper Clip …It’s Still a ‘Gem’, Quad City Times, pages 12-13, 7 December 1975
- Hartford Office Supply Catalog (1982), Hartford, CT, page 5
- Ward, James. Adventures in Stationery: a Journey through Your Pencil Case. Profile Books, 2015.