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Starting in the late 1930’s a new design aesthetic in stapling machines begins to be seen in the U.S.  Influenced by the then decades old art deco movement you begin to find fasteners featuring a convex sweeping body design.  By 1941 there were a number of staplers sharing this style including:

But one of the first to feature this new style was the Swingline No 3 Speed Fastener.  First available in 1937 the No 3 (and its larger sibling the No 4) was an instant success.  But its success wasn’t simply based on looks.  The No 3 introduced a revolutionary new mechanism.  When you opened the top of the stapler the block was automatically moved to the rear by a spring so that you simply laid in the staples and then closed the top.  Sound familiar?  This is how every desktop stapler made today works.  But it was first introduced with the No 3.

The No 3 Swingline Speed Fastener measures 6 inches long by 2 inches wide by 4 inches high, has a 2.25 inch throat and weighs 1 pound empty.  It is comprised of a steel body, plastic plunger handle mounted on a steel platform, and a zinc alloy base.  It holds 105 standard size staples and is an easy to find stapler so this is a good choice for those looking for a practical vintage stapler to use for your vintage desk setup.

1938 Office Supply Catalog

The No 3 was first available in 1937 and they were sold in office supply catalogs at least until 1969.  The now ubiquitous model 747 was introduced by Swingline in 1970 and quickly became its flagship offering.  It is unlikely the No 3 was available after 1969.  However, it should be noted that its sibling, the No 4, was available as late as 1982.


There are two main ways to determine the timeframe of manufacture of your No 3.  The first is color:

  • 1930’s chrome and black crackle
  • 1940’s black crackle
  • 1950’s grey crackle
  • 1960’s jade, topaz, and grey all in smooth enamel

It should be noted that using color for dating isn’t exact but it does get you “in the ballpark”.

The second way to determine age is to look on the bottom of the base and see which company manufactured it:

  • The Parrot Speed Fastener Corp begins in 1925 (but the No 3 wasn’t introduced until 1937)
  • In 1939 the Parrot Speed Fastener Co changes names to Speed Fastener
  • In 1956 Speed Fastener changes names once again to Swingline

The No 3 was produced prior to the patents being granted so you can find fasteners that show “PAT PENDG” on the bottom of the base which dates it to between 1937 and 1938.  Otherwise, the patent numbers on the bottom mean it was manufactured after 1938.

There was also a model 3C introduced during the war and available during the early to mid 1940’s.  This model was all steel and had a wood base that was usually painted black.  This model was only around during this time.

Use of the above should allow you to get within a 10 year period of manufacture of your stapler.

1942 Montgomery Ward catalog

Note the lack of any brand markings in the Montgomery Ward catalog illustration above.  This is indeed a No 3 but sold by Montgomery Ward as Ward’s Stapling Machine.  It is unknown if Montgomery Ward used Swingline packaging or if they used Ward-specific packaging for this stapler.

1945 newspaper ad

1961 magazine ad

1963 newspaper ad

the earliest version of a Swingline 3 box

To load the model 3 with staples, simply push the butterfly locking latch forward and the body will pop open.  Place your staples in the magazine and close the body.  That’s it!

swingline no 3 open wm sm

swingline no 3 latch wm sm

close up of the butterfly locking latch and wing

Patent and Other Information:


  1. Grand & Toy Catalog, Inc. (1938), Toronto, Ont, Canada, page 76
  2. Montgomery Ward Catalog (1942), Chicago, IL page 725
  3. Commercial Printers Ltd, (1945, March 31), advertisement. The Leader-Post, page 10
  4. Goldsmith Bros Stationery Catalog (1953), New York, NY, page 86
  5. Swingline Inc (1961, June). advertisement. Modern Stationer & Office Equipment Dealer, page 33
  6. McCloy’s, (1963, January 2), advertisement. The Pittsburgh Press, page 13
  7. Perry Office Supply Catalog (1963), Syracuse, NY, page 47
  8. Arrow Office Supply Co Catalog (1969), Chicago, IL page 187

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