Nowadays if you think of a device for fastening two or more pieces of paper together you are probably picturing a stapler. But before the stapler came on the scene what did people use? If you were a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or a government worker you would likely use an eyelet press.
Consumer level eyelet presses were introduced in the 1850’s. The reason for their popularity in the professions was that an eyelet was much more difficult to remove without also damaging the papers they held. This provided a layer of security (important even then) ensuring that papers that were fastened together hadn’t been tampered with.
Edward L. Sibley was both a lawyer and a probate judge. However, his true calling was as an inventor. After about eight years as a judge in 1886 Mr. Sibley left the law profession to pursue his dream and he opened a tiny manufacturing concern that he named E.L. Sibley Manufacturing Company. And his first, and longest lived, product was his passion the Challenge Eyelet Press.
The Challenge Eyelet Press was manufactured using iron and tool steel. It was designed to be fast, desk-sized, easy to use, and durable. In all four areas the Challenge was a tremendous success. The following is from a review of the Challenge and gives instructions on its use:
It should be noted that the removal process was for the use of the special Challenge eyelets and may not work with other types of eyelets.
As you can see from the above the Challenge enjoyed several advanced features that other presses didn’t have such as punching its own hole and being able to remove the eyelet after it had been fastened. Another feature this had was its simple and elegant design with a minimum of moving parts. It meant that coupled with the build quality and materials it almost never needed repair.
While Sibley starting making this eyelet press in 1886/7 the first known advertisement is from 1891. The Challenge was still being made in 1971 although by that time it was not being advertised. The trademark expired in 1987 showing that by this time the Challenge was no longer being made. This is a manufacturing run of over one hundred years with little change being made to the design over that period – a true testament to Sibley’s genius.
The Challenge is known to have been released in two versions. The first version, pictured above, weighs 4 pounds 13 ounces and measures 2.5 inches wide by 6 inches long by 12.5 inches in height. It features gold painted designs on the sides, a gold painted shield on the front, and gold painted “plaques” on each side of the base. You can date a first version by looking at the front shield. If it states that it was registered in 1907 then you know it was made after that year.
The second version, pictured below, weighs 4 pounds 4.7 ounces and measures 2.5 inches wide by 5.75 inches long by 12.25 inches in height, making it slightly smaller and lighter than the first version. It is japanned and features gold painted designs on the sides and a brass plaque on its right side. This version was introduced on or around 1916.
Edward Sibley not only held the patent for the Challenge Eyelet press, but for the eyelets. He also held at least five other patents for various other items including a stapler similar to the Eveready that was never produced.
E.L. Sibley Mfg Co not only produced the Challenge but also the KO Punch. They also had other enterprises such as ochre mining and automobile engine remanufacturing amongst others. During World War 2 they stopped making the Challenge but picked it up again after the war. During the war they made parts for the war effort. After the war E.L. Sibley Mfg Co also did subcontract work for jet engine parts.
E.L. Sibley remained a family concern through most of its history. When Edward Sibley died his son Tarrant became President and when he died his son, Tarrant Sibley II, took over.
Patent and Other Information:
- Patent 358224 Riveting Machine (filed 03/16/1886, granted 02/22/1887)
- Patent 358225 Rivet (filed 10/29/1886, granted 02/22/1887)
- Patent 691012 Eyeleting Machine (filed 04/08/1901, granted 01/14/1902)
- S. Trademark No. 71499861. (1887/1907/1947). Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- S. Trademark No. 71213324. (1887/1925/1945). Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Clarke & Courts, (1891, May), For Sale. The Galveston Daily News, page 5
- F. Purnell, (1895, March), advertisement. The Daily Bee, page 3
- Cameron, Amberg & Co Stationery Catalogue, (1908), Chicago, Illinois, page 62
- Crane & Company Catalogue, (1912), Topeka, Kansas, page 44
- Tribune Printing & Supply Co, (1918, September), advertisement. Great Falls Daily Tribune, page 4
- Horder’s Inc, (1925, October), advertisement, Chicago Daily Tribune, page 14
- Business Machines & Equipment Digest. Chicago, Illinois, Equipment Research Corporation, 1927
- McClurg’s Catalog, (1935-1936), Chicago, Illinois, page 182
- Editors, (1944, January), Sibley Plant Taken Over By Brandon Firm. The Bennington Evening Banner, pp 1, 5
- William J. Burton, (1952, December), Dissatisfied Lawyer Was Founder of Machinery Plant Which Plans Programs of Growth, Expansion. The Evening Banner, page 7
- Editors, (1971, June), North Bennington. Bennington Banner, page 8
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