By the late 1930’s there were a number of stapler manufacturers that made high-quality, high-cost staplers. Companies such as Acme, Arrow, Bostitch, Hotchkiss, Markwell, and Speed Fastener all made ranges of staplers for almost any need. However, all of their offerings were relatively expensive, especially for your average consumer. What wasn’t available were low-cost, basic staplers for the buying public. Enter the newcomers.
Around 1939 Metal Specialties Manufacturing Co and Consolidated Staple Co each introduced low-cost, low-quality, pressed-steel, basic staplers in the Presto DeLuxe and the Flash 3-in-1. They weren’t the only ones who entered this market though. Another company by the name of Ajax Tool & Die Co jumped-in with their offering – the Ajax Streamline Stapler.
newspaper ad from 1939
The Ajax measures 6″ L x 2.25″ W x 3.438″ H and weighs 14 ounces empty. It was made entirely of pressed steel and had a rubber base cover and a rubber plunger cover. The Ajax Stapler was available in six different colors: black, blue, chrome, maroon, green, and brown.
Despite being made of the same materials, the Ajax Stapler was superior in almost every way to its similarly built competition. And while the stated purpose of patent 2,239,935 is “to provide a novel and simplified type of stapler which can readily be manufactured of simple stampings, requiring few parts, providing substantially complete enclosure for the operating mechanism, and avoiding any possibility of stoppage“, the Ajax Tool & Die manufactured a stapler that was downright primitive in its mechanics. However, unlike the Presto and Flash it was much more successful in implementing this purpose. If cost was your main consideration when purchasing a stapler, then the Ajax stapler was the best deal. There is one feature that is unique to this fastener and that is the retraction spring located on the front. The purpose of this spring is to retract any partially engaged staples (when you don’t fully press down the plunger) in order to prevent jamming and clogging. It’s a very simple, but surprisingly effective feature. I think that is how I would describe the Ajax – very simple but surprisingly effective.
magazine ad from 1940
The earliest known advertisement is from May 1939 and the last known advertisement is from October 1941. While it’s possible that you would still have been able to find the Ajax for sale after 1941 it would probably only have been as a clearance item. Ajax Tool & Die Co seems to have suddenly stopped producing this stapler. Now, it could have been due to poor sales but as noted the Ajax was a much better quality fastener then its competition. The most likely explanation for the Ajax Stapler’s demise is because in December 1941 the U.S. officially entered World War II. Beginning around 1941 all U.S. manufacturers of every kind would have started devoting 90-100% of their production capacity for war material. Smaller companies like Ajax would have quickly discovered two things; 1. they would make more money manufacturing parts, etc. for the U.S. war effort and; 2. that the materials needed to make consumer goods (i.e. steel in this case) would have been severely rationed making it nearly impossible for them to manufacture enough staplers to make them profitable. The choice for a smaller operation like Ajax Tool & Die was obvious.
Ajax Tool & Die Co was acquired by Acme Steel in 1947 and by 1948 a variant of the Ajax was being sold by Metal Specialties Manufacturing Co as the Presto 40 stapler. Great design never really just disappears.
Ajax Stapler box
box of Ajax staples
Patent and Other Information:
- Goldblatt Bros. Department Store (1939, May), advertisement, The Hammond Times, page 13
- Wasson’s (1939, September), advertisement, The Indianapolis Star, page 7
- Famous-Barr Co (1940, January), advertisement, Louis Dispatch, page 3G
- Printers Supply Co (1940, April), advertisement, The Rotarian, page 58
- Famous-Barr Co (1941, October), advertisement, Louis Dispatch, page 12A
Visit me at http://www.facebook.com/americanstationer and let’s talk about vintage office equipment. You can also support the American Stationer by getting my new, updated, twice as large, 2d edition ebook here at Amazon.