Who Invented The Stapler?

Will Barinas
Written by
Last update:


(the Japanese Staple Gun)

Staple guns (or stapler if you prefer) are a handy little tool and probably one of the most essential office supplies you will ever own. Though, the purpose of the staple gun is not to serve as a weapon.

When Were Staples Invented?

The first patent for a stapler originated in the early 1900s, but World War II made it so expensive and hard to manufacture. During this time, only a few companies were able to produce it.

Later in the 20th century, the popularity of staplers grew, and they became hygienic and easy to use thanks to inventions such as the center-punch and trigger-stop. Amazingly, it took forty years to invent the trigger-stop due to the complex nature of the machine. Today, staples can be purchased in bulk and about half of the world’s staple supply comes from the US.

Staples have become a tool for offices, businesses, and households. Earlier, it was often used to bind paper documents and hard covers. Nowadays, you can also find it on small boards or in electronics as well.

Staples and The Stapler

The first stapler used an anvil, a wedge, a pivoting lever, and a staple. What a mouthful. Basically, to make this primitive stapler do its job, you had to close the anvil, wedge the paper, lift the lever, and then hammer the staple into the lever. Though the stapler made the task of stapling papers slightly easier, it took much too long to make a single staple.

Twenty-five years later, in 1875, the GEM stapler was invented. The GEM was a little easier to use, but again, the entire process was time-consuming and inefficient. Not surprisingly, it didn’t catch on. Still others tried to improve upon the idea, but with little success.

The problem was that the basic design was flawed. People could not hammer a staple into a machine. Machines needed to fasten staples into paper with ease. In 1890, Jacob M. Kuehn solved this problem with the help of staples. He created the first practical stapler that fastened the staples in the machine. After inventing this fastening machine, Kuehn began work on the Jumbo Pincher. The office supply world would never be the same

Part of this answer was contributed by Jen Vilca.

Why Is It Called the Stapler?

James Waters, mechanical engineer and inventor, designed the first working stapler. It’s believed he came up with the name stapler to make it easier to explain to others what he had created. At that time many things were named after animals. There were staple removers called un-rabbits, stapling machines called un-tackers, and un-tacking machines called extractors.

The stapler design and claim of inventorship is credited to Waters. An American, James Waters, born in Connecticut in 1824, invented the device that is in common use today. He states that it was in 1866, while he was working for the firm of Sanford, Lippincott & Company in Philadelphia, USA, that the idea of the invention occurred to him. By invention of the new stapling machine, he began his career at Sanford & Lippincott, eventually becoming manager of the company.

Improvements to his basic design continue to be made. Most stapling machines today are hand-held and are operated with one hand that presses a lever, and a second hand to guide the paper in position for stapling.

Not So Fastening

The History of the Stapler

The stapler is perhaps among the most useful office inventions ever invented. Although we take staplers for granted, the stapler is actually a very new invention in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it was invented only in 1878 by an American business man named Thomas B. Strong.

The stapler is a compact and simple machine used to join two or more sheets of paper together along a common edge. It’s considered a staple remover because the construction of a stapler means you don’t need to staple items very often. A stapler, for example, can only insert one staple at a time, and it cannot add staples when needed like a more sophisticated stapler.

For many of us, it’s difficult to imagine a world without the stapler, but imagine this. Prior to the invention of the stapler, people had to rely on other means (such as sealing wax and ribbon) to join documents. If you’re anything like me, you occasionally have to break out the stapler … or at least try—to staple more than one page together.