Johan Vaaler

Johan Vaaler

Johan Vaaler (March 15, 1866 – March 14, 1910) was a Norwegian patent clerk Fact|date=July 2008 and inventor who has often erroneously been identified with the invention of the common paper clip, known to all office employees for more than a hundred years. He was born in Aurskog as the son of a farmer, and died in Kristiania.

Vaaler designed a kind of paper clip in 1899 and applied for a German patent on November 12 of that year. It was granted on June 6, 1901 (Cite patent|DE|121067). He also filed an application for a United States patent on January 9, 1901. The U.S. patent was granted on June 4, 1901. [Foss, Johan, "Den frittstående oppfinner", "Styret 50 år", pp 188-195, Patentstyret, Oslo (date unknown)] Request quotation|date=July 2008

Unknown to Vaaler, a more functional and practical paper clip was already in production by the British "Gem Manufacturing Company Ltd", but not yet marketed in Norway. His design was less perfect because it lacked the two full loops of the wire. Vaaler probably succeeded in having his design patented abroad, despite the existence of a better product, because patent authorities at that time were quite liberal and rewarded any marginal modification of earlier inventions. Who|date=July 2008 Several types of paper clips had been patented in the United States since 1867, [ Early Office Museum web site, unknown author, [http://www.earlyofficemuseum.com/paper_clips.htm "History of the Paper Clip"] . Consulted on July 2, 2008. ] but the "Gem" type was not then (and has never been) patented. As an employee of Bryns patent office in Kristiania, Vaaler was familiar with patent legislation and procedures in Norway. Fact|date=July 2008 His reasons for applying abroad are unknown, but it is possible that he had an exaggerated confidence in his invention and wanted to secure the commercial rights internationally. Also, he may have been aware that Norwegian inventors would meet difficulties on the small home market. Quite soon he must have had the disappointment of his life when he was confronted by the "Gem". Who|date=July 2008 He is not known to have tried to contact potential manufacturers in Norway or abroad, and his patent was allowed to expire quietly, without a single one of his many proposed designs having ever been manufactured. Who|date=July 2008 Meanwhile, the "Gem" conquered the world, including his own country. Fact|date=July 2008

Vaaler's alleged invention of the paper clip became known in Norway between the wars and soon found its way into some encyclopedias just before World War II. Events of that war contributed greatly to the mythical status of the paper clip as a national symbol. During the resistance to Nazi occupation in World War II, after pins or badges bearing national symbols or the initials of exiled King Haakon VII were banned, many Norwegians wore paperclips in their lapels as a symbol of resistance to the German occupiers and local Nazi authorities. The clips were meant to denote solidarity and unity ("we are bound together"). Their symbolism was even more obvious because paper clips are called "binders" in Norwegian, and because of their presumed national origin.Fact|date=July 2008

References

Literature

* Henry Petroski, "The Evolution of Useful things" (1992); ISBN 0-679-74039-2 (with a history of the evolution of paper clip design)

External links

* [http://www.writeonoffice.com/info/his_paperclip.htm http://www.writeonoffice.com/info/his_paperclip.htm] Dead link|date=July 2008


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