In the early 20th century, no later than by 1919, there was a company called Midland Steel Products Company that manufactured basic office supplies. They made items such as wire waste baskets, paper trays, thumb tacks, paper clips, pins, etc. In May 1921 they changed their company name to the Vail Manufacturing Company which was named after their company president, Richard B. Vail Sr. Vail Sr. died in April 1925 and afterwards his son, Richard B. Vail Jr. took over the company as chairman. Vail Jr. died in July of 1955 but not before leaving a legacy that would last long after he was gone.
Fast forward almost 30 years from 1921 to 1949 and Vail Manufacturing has filed its first of three patent applications for a stapler. And they didn’t get just any old engineer to design this stapler for them. They hired Curt Nyberg who only several years earlier had designed the very successful Presto Staple Remover for Metal Specialties Manufacturing amongst various other items for a number of different companies. The first of his three patents for this stapler was granted in May 1951 and by the beginning of 1953 the Victor Stapler is available in office supply catalogs.
The Victor Stapler was larger than most desk staplers measuring 8.25″ L x 2.25″ W x 3″ H and weighing 1 pound 12 ounces empty. The body, plunger, and anvil are made of steel while the base is made from zinc. When introduced it came in several colors including: grey hammerloid, red hammerloid, brown hammerloid, ivory smooth, 18K gold-plated and “chromemaster” (yes, that was the actual color name). Later on you’d also see them in grey, brown, and green enamel.
The Victor is a very high-quality stapler capable of holding approximately 210 standard-size staples. But there really are two features that make the Victor stand-out from the crowd and these are the large circular plunger handle and the visible load indicator (part of the pusher assembly) button on each side of the staple guide. The plunger handle may seem like a design affectation but in actuality it makes it much easier to use the stapler, especially when dealing with a large stack of paper. The visible load indicator served two purposes. The first is that it showed you at a glance how many staples remained in your stapler. The closer the button was to the front of the stapler the fewer staples remained (see figure 1). The second is that it was the way you opened the stapler so that you could refill it (see figure 1). Pull the button all the way to the rear and the body would pop open from the staple guide so that you could insert staples or fix jams. It is a very elegant design and one you would think would be copied more in modern staplers.
The first known mention of the Victor Stapler is in a 1953 office supply catalog. However, it is possible that it was introduced up to a year earlier. The Victor was phased-out by Vail Manufacturing in 1958. After mid-1958 the only mention of the Victor is in clearance sales. That wasn’t really the end for this stapler though as by June 1958 Vail Manufacturing was heavily advertising the Monarch Stapler which was a clone of the Victor.
Vail Manufacturing becomes important for essentially two reasons. One is for its stand-out product the Victor/Monarch Stapler and the second is for the acquisition of the E.H. Hotchkiss Company.
Following is a bit of history and shows how interconnected companies become over time.
- Vail Manufacturing acquires E.H. Hotchkiss between 1952-1954
- Swingline acquires Ace Fastener in 1957
- Swingline merged with Wilson-Jones in 1963
- ACCO acquires Vail Manufacturing in 1966
- In 1987 ACCO merged with Swingline
By 1987 Vail, Hotchkiss, Ace, Wilson-Jones, and ACCO are all one with Swingline.
As was noted years ago by Alan Seaver over at Machines of Loving Grace, to paraphrase, since Vail merged with Hotchkiss, then ACCO merged with Vail, and ACCO merged with Swingline, “So in a way, Hotchkiss lives on!”. Amen Brother.
Patent and Other Information:
- Patent 2551898 filed 04/20/50 granted 05/08/51
- Patent 2624046 filed 12/03/49 granted 01/06/53
- Patent 2788522 filed 02/10/54 granted 04/16/57
- Midland Steel Products Co (1919, March), advertisement, American Stationer and Office Outfitter, page 28
- Midland Steel Products Co (1921, January), advertisement, Office Appliances the News and Technical Trade Journal of Office Equipment, page 203
- editors (1921, May), Chicago Firm Changes Title, American Stationer and Office Outfitter, page 9
- Vail Manufacturing Co (1921, June), advertisement, Office Appliances the News and Technical Trade Journal of Office Equipment, page 269
- editors (1921, June), “Salmagundi”, Office Appliances the News and Technical Trade Journal of Office Equipment, page 83
- Stationers Corporation Catalog (ca1953), Los Angeles, CA page 228
- Decker’s (1954, January 6), advertisement, The Philadelphia Inquirer, page 44
- Scrantom’s (1958, September 14), advertisement, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, page 9C
- Pepp, Dominic (1966, January 4), Acco Plans Expansion, Watertown Daily Times, page 2
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