Crash Course: Paperclip

would you believe me if I told you this was actually the only paperclip I could find in my house

After seeing this tweet pointing out the fact that Prada was essentially selling a paperclip for $185 it had me wondering who invented the paperclip. This is partially because whoever patented the invention would have a lawsuit paper clipped to Prada's doorstep.

If you follow me on twitter - I swear is there a post where I actually don't say / start off a sentence with that - you'll see I wrote a thread on the history of the paperclip after seeing Prada prance around like they've just invented the most original thing on planet earth. 

You're probably sitting there now wondering if I've already wrote a twitter thread what's the point of a blogpost on it - the reason is because scrolling through my twitter page to find said thread when I want to remember who invented what would most likely take hours. (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this a lot, but if you're new here, I essentially live on twitter.) 

Solution? Write it in a blogpost so if I ever need to remember - it's here for me & perhaps for anyone else who was wondering who invented the paperclip.


We're going to jump back in time to 1899 in England. In that year William Middlebrook invented the machine to make the paperclip HOWEVER he only patented the machine itself not the paperclip that was produced from the machine. He made the machine for the Gem Manufacturing Company. This paperclip is the one we see today, it is actually called the Gem Paperclip.

This is where it gets kind of hilarious. (Well, I thought it was hilarious)

Fast Forward to 1901 and jump into Norway. Over in Norway they didn't hear of the great invention of the paperclip. You're probably sitting there like what's so great about a paperclip except for the fact that it came from a machine in Great Britain?

Well, at that time papers were held down using a straight pin and held together with ribbon - so this paperclip was actually what dreams were made of in 1899.

Anyways - the year 1901 comes and Johan Vaaler is chilling in good ol' Norway and then LIGHTBULB MOMENT what if there was such thing as a paperclip. Unlike William Middlebrook's paperclip, Johan's was rectangular in shape. So in 1901 Johan Vaaler received an American patent for the paperclip [ Norway did not have a patent laws at that time].

The person who is credited with the paperclip invention was Vaaler because William Middlebrook only patented the machine that made the paperclip not the paperclip itself.

[Even though Vaaler didn't hear of the paperclip when he patented his paperclip I kind of like to think Vaaler's thoughts were along the lines of: HAHAHA ENGLAND YOU FORGOT AND IT'S BEEN THREE YEARS YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE - IT'S NORWAY'S PROPERTY NOW XOXO]

You want to know what's even funnier?

Norway has a massive sculpture of a paperclip and it's William Middlebrook's model not Vaaler's!

I like to think Norway was thinking OK MAYBE YOU DID INVENT THE PAPERCLIP ENGLAND.

So, is this where the Crash Course ends?

In my twitter thread yes, in this blogpost uh not yet!

Symbolism of the Paperclip

After Hitler invaded Norway in World War II all symbols of Norway pre-invasion had been banned by the Nazi's (i.e. Symbols of the Royal Family, national symbols etc.). This is when the people in Norway began pinning paperclips to their jackets and even made bracelets with paperclips. The paperclip represented unity - partially because a paperclip was used to bind papers together so it was in a way binding the Norwegian people all together.

During the war, it was thought by Norwegian's that the paperclip was a Norwegian invention - and in technicality it is since Vaaler patented a paperclip first - however rather than the rectangle shape paperclip being clipped on everyones jacket, it was actually the Gem Paperclip invented by William Middlebrook.

Norwegians wearing a paperclip symbolized their resistance against the Nazis. However, once the Nazis figured out the real reason why Norwegians were suddenly wearing paperclips on their jackets it became a criminal violation and they could of gotten arrested for wearing one.

In the end it didn't matter that they could get arrested or harmed by the Nazis for wearing a paperclip - what mattered was that they resisted and they resisted together.

This is the reason for the paperclip sculpture featuring the Gem Paperclip - rather than Vaaler's - because it was the Gem Paperclip that brought the Norwegian people together in the same way it was used to bind paper together but it was Vaaler's name that gave them the reason to choose it as a symbol of resistance since it was thought to be invented by a Norwegian man.


I thought it was pretty interesting to read up on the history of the paperclip - also kind of sitting here waiting for the Norwegian twitter to hear about the Prada 'money clip' - hope you also learned something new!


  1. This is such an interesting post! And so useful! I had no idea! Now if someone brings the topic about, I can discuss it ahah! xx corinne

    1. I'm not sure there will ever be a time to casually bring up who invented the paperclip except maybe in a did-you-know form when a person is using a paperclip for their papers hahaha - glad that you enjoyed it and learned something new! :)