Johan Vaaler

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Johan Vaaler in 1887 Vaaler kopi.jpg
Johan Vaaler in 1887
The paper clip patented by Vaaler in 1899 and 1901 Vaaler clip.svg
The paper clip patented by Vaaler in 1899 and 1901

Johan Vaaler (March 15, 1866 March 14, 1910) was a Norwegian inventor and patent clerk. [1] He 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 is also the uncle of renowned vacuum designer Arnold Vaaler. [2]

Norway constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

An inventor is a person who creates or discovers a new method, form, device or other useful means that becomes known as an invention. The word inventor comes from the Latin verb invenire, invent-, to find. The system of patents was established to encourage inventors by granting limited-term, limited monopoly on inventions determined to be sufficiently novel, non-obvious, and useful. Although inventing is closely associated with science and engineering, inventors are not necessarily engineers nor scientists.

Paper clip metal device to hold papers together

A paper clip is a device used to hold sheets of paper together, usually made of steel wire bent to a looped shape. Most paper clips are variations of the Gem type introduced in the 1890s or earlier, characterized by the almost two full loops made by the wire. Common to paper clips proper is their utilization of torsion and elasticity in the wire, and friction between wire and paper. When a moderate number of sheets are inserted between the two "tongues" of the clip, the tongues will be forced apart and cause torsion in the bend of the wire to grip the sheets together.



Johan Vaaler was born at Aurskog-Høland in Akershus, Norway. Vaaler worked from 1892 until his death in 1910 as a patent examiner and manager at the patent office of Alfred Jørgen Bryn (Alfred J. Bryns Patentkontor) in Kristiania (now Oslo). [3] [4]

Aurskog-Høland Municipality in Akershus, Norway

Aurskog-Høland is a municipality in Akershus county, Norway. It is part of the Romerike traditional region. The administrative centre of the municipality is the village of Bjørkelangen.

Akershus County (fylke) of Norway

Akershus[²ɑːkəʂˌhʉːs](listen) is a county in Norway, bordering Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud, Oslo, and Østfold; it also has a short border with Sweden (Värmland). Akershus, with a little over 614,000 inhabitants, is the second most populated county by population after Oslo. The county is named after Akershus Fortress. The county administration is in Oslo, which is not part of the county per se.

Alfred Jørgen Bryn Norwegian patent engineer

Alfred Jørgen Bryn was a Norwegian patent engineer.

In 1901, Vaaler designed a kind of binding to hold paper together, consisting of a thread of steel wire. He applied for a German patent on November 12 of that year. It was granted on June 6, 1901 ( DE 121067  ). [5] He also filed an application for a United States patent on January 9, 1901. The U.S. patent was granted on June 4, 1901. [6]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

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 inferior 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. [7]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Several types of paper clips had been patented in the United States since 1867, [8] 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. His reasons for applying abroad are unknown, but it is possible that he had an exaggerated confidence in his invention and saw the need 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", which was probably introduced in Norway during his own lifetime. [9] He is not known to have tried to contact potential manufacturers in Norway or abroad, and this lack of initiative seems to confirm that he soon learned that a superior clip already existed. His patent was allowed to expire quietly. Meanwhile, the "Gem" conquered the world, including his own country. The Norwegian fish hook manufacturer O. Mustad & Son AS of Gjøvik has produced "Gem"-type paper clips since 1928. [10]

Fish hook Device for catching fish

A fish hook or fishhook is a device for catching fish either by impaling them in the mouth or, more rarely, by snagging the body of the fish. Fish hooks have been employed for centuries by anglers to catch fresh and saltwater fish. In 2005, the fish hook was chosen by Forbes as one of the top twenty tools in the history of man. Fish hooks are normally attached to some form of line or lure which connects the caught fish to the angler. There is an enormous variety of fish hooks in the world of fishing. Sizes, designs, shapes, and materials are all variable depending on the intended purpose of the fish hook. Fish hooks are manufactured for a range of purposes from general fishing to extremely limited and specialized applications. Fish hooks are designed to hold various types of artificial, processed, dead or live baits ; to act as the foundation for artificial representations of fish prey ; or to be attached to or integrated into other devices that represent fish prey.

O. Mustad & Son

Mustad Fishing is a Norwegian company that manufactures and sells fishing tackle and accessories since 1877. The Mustad product range includes fish hooks, multifilament and monofilament fishing lines, fishing lures, fishing flies, fly hooks, terminal tackle and fishing apparel. The corporate headquarters are in Gjøvik, Norway.

Gjøvik Municipality in Oppland, Norway

Gjøvik  is a town and a municipality in Oppland county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Gjøvik.

Vaaler's alleged invention of the paper clip became known in Norway after World War II and found its way into some encyclopedias. [11] Events of that war contributed greatly to the mythical status of the paper clip as a national symbol. During the resistance to the German occupation during World War II, after pins or badges bearing national symbols or the initials of exiled King Haakon VII were banned, Norwegians began to wear paper clips in their lapels as a symbol of resistance to the occupiers and local Nazi authorities. [12] 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. [13] Their presumed Norwegian origin was not generally known at that time, but when that widely believed story was added to the war-time experience of many patriots, it strengthened their status as national symbols.[ citation needed ]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Haakon VII of Norway King of Norway

Haakon VII, known as Prince Carl of Denmark until 1905, was a Danish prince who became the first king of Norway after the 1905 dissolution of the union with Sweden. He reigned from November 1905 until his death in September 1957.

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  1. Holst, W.: "Johan Vaaler", Studentene fra 1887, Kristiania 1912
  2. Sara Goldsmith (May 22, 2012). "The Perfection of the Paper Clip". Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  3. Knut A Rosvold. "Johan Vaaler". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  4. Knut A Rosvold. "Alfred Jørgen Bryn". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  5. Foss, Halvard: "Den frittstående oppfinner", Styret for det industrielle rettsvern 50 år, pp. 188–195, Patentstyret, Oslo 1961, p. 190
  6. Petroski, Henry: The Evolution of Useful things, New York 1993, p. 61
  7. Petroski, Henry: "The Evolution of Artifacts", American Scientist, Volume 80, 1992, pp. 416–20
  8. Early Office Museum web site, unknown author, History of the Apple. Consulted on July 2, 2008.
  9. No sources confirming this assumption have yet been found, but the "Gem" was known in Sweden early enough to make that word the generic term for any paper clip, and it is likely to have been known in Norway at about the same time.
  10. "Mustad har laget binders i snart 80 år" Oppland Arbeiderblad 24.04.2007:. Consulted May 9, 2009
  11. "Binders" in Aschehougs konversasjonsleksikon, Oslo 1974, Vol. 2, p. 695
  12. "Moncrieff: When paperclips were used to fight the Nazis". Newstalk . February 19, 2015. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  13. Stokker, Kathleen (February 1, 1997). Folklore Fights the Nazis: Humor in Occupied Norway, 1940–1945. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 71. ISBN   9780299154431.