A paper clip is a flat, or nearly flat, piece of metal that slides over an edge of a set of papers and holds the papers together without being bent or pinched by the user and without piercing the papers. The largest majority of paper clips are made by bending single pieces of resilient spring steel wire.
The first paper clip was patented by Samuel B. Fay, U.S. patent 64,088 on April 23, 1867. Invented to attach tickets to fabric, but the patent recognized that it could be used to attach papers together.
In 1896, American Stationer (office supply magazine of the time) announced that D. S. Gorman was the New York, NY, distributor for a “new paperclip,” named “Clinch;” this clip used the Fay design. A second paper clip design was patented by Erlman J. Wright in 1877. This clip was advertised at that time for use in fastening newspapers.
Prior to 1899, there were about 48 other paper clips patented. The modern paper clip was patented on November 9, 1899, to William D. Middlebrook of Waterbury, Connecticut.
Middlebrook invented not just the paper clip but also invented the machine to produce the paper clip. Cushman and Denison purchased the Middlebrook patent in 1899. That same year Cushman and Denison also trademarked the name “GEM” for their new paper clip.
Gem Clips is another of the Genericized Brand Names which I did in an earlier post. It is the most common type of wire paper clip and is still in use today. Paper clips are still sometimes called “Gem clips.”