National Paperclip Day is on May 29 and we are pulling out all the fun factoids and creative hacks that this humble little invention brings with it. The paperclip, in various forms, shapes, and sizes, has been around for a little under two centuries now, although who knows what the Egyptians invented to keep their papyri together. Such is the fame of the paperclip, that several memorials have also been created to honor it, for several different reasons. So we’re here to dispel the myth that the paperclip is simply a dispensable office supply by revealing the significance and alternative uses of this simple twist of metal.
History of National Paperclip Day
Did you know that there is some dispute as to who invented the original paperclip design, which is used to this day? We all love a good controversy, and who would have thought it would be over such a small, seemingly insignificant piece of stationery.
The first patent for the paperclip (a ‘bent wire paper clip’) was awarded to Samuel B. Fay in 1867, in the U.S. The original intent was to use it to attach tickets to fabric. However, its use for holding paper together quickly became apparent. Since then, 50 others also received patents for their versions of the paperclip, the most notable being Earlman J. Wright in 1877 and then Johan Vaaler in 1901. The ‘Gem clip’ design of the paperclip is what we recognize today, though the name might be unfamiliar. This was mass-produced in England in the early 1870s by the Gem Manufacturing Company but was never patented, even though it’s the most common design, which is used to this day. It was only in 1904 that Cushman & Denison registered a trademark for the ‘Gem clip’.
But, coming back to the controversy, our story can be traced back to the German occupation of Norway (from 1940 to 1945), during World War II. Due to Johan Vaaler’s paperclip design, it was (and still is) erroneously believed in his home country of Norway that he was the inventor of the paperclip. Therefore, in 1940, during the German occupation of Norway, students of Oslo University began to wear the paperclip as a non-violent symbol of resistance, unity, and national pride. The logic behind choosing a paperclip was because it ‘binds things together’, therefore it made sense to use it as a symbol of unity. 2015 was the beginning of National Paperclip Day, and it has been celebrated every year since then.
National Paperclip Day timeline
Samuel B. Fay receives the first patent for the paperclip in the U.S.
Students at Oslo University start wearing the paperclip as a symbol of resistance to Nazi rule.
A Holocaust Education class at Whitwell Middle School, Whitwell, Tennessee, creates an internationally recognized movement.
Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald buys a house, a year after trading in a red paperclip.
National Paperclip Day FAQs
Which is the world’s largest paperclip?
In Sandvika, Norway, a five-meter-tall paperclip was erected as a national reminder of its role in Norwegian history. However, a red paperclip memorial was created in Kipling, Saskatchewan in 2007, and that became the biggest paperclip. Three years later, in Miass, Russia, Evgeny Stepovik created a huge stainless steel paperclip measuring roughly 30 feet high, and that now holds the record for the largest paperclip.
What does the two-paperclip emoji mean?
The emoji, which shows two paperclips linked together, is usually associated with the boredom people feel during office hours, or when performing mundane office tasks. It makes it relatable to others.
What does it mean when there is a paperclip next to your text message?
This could mean several things — the person sending the message is not connected to WiFi, or they do not have access to data. It could also mean that your phone needs an update in order to send messages properly. In general, a paperclip symbol is used to indicate attachments as well, like in emails.
How To Celebrate National Paperclip Day
Watch the movie “Paper Clips”
Released in 2004, this American documentary traces the story of the inception of the Paper Clips Project, which began as a project at Whitwell Middle School, Tennessee to raise awareness about the 6 million Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust. By 2001, it had gained international recognition. Find out how by giving this powerful story a watch!
Read up on paperclips
Read the fascinating story of how Kyle MacDonald managed to buy a house by trading a red paperclip in for a fish-shaped pen. His two-story house in Saskatchewan has brought both him and the red paperclip international fame. How’s that for inspiration!
Create something special
Get your creative juices flowing and create some art using paperclips. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the things you can make with these little guys, especially as they come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes these days. Hint — Pinterest and YouTube can give you a little head start.
5 Useful Paperclip Hacks That Will Change Your Life Forever
If you have a broken zipper, simply thread a paperclip through the metal loop of your zipper, and voila!
No-fuss ornament hook
Broken ornament hooks get old really fast, so use paperclips to hang them with instead.
DIY cellphone stand
Follow that YouTube recipe on your phone by bending a large paperclip into a phone stand to prop it up.
Screwdriver for your glasses
When you find the frame of your glasses is getting a little loose, use a paperclip wire to tighten those tiny screws.
Snack bag seal
Why waste money on plastic clips (not to mention the environmental implications) when a couple of paperclips can seal your snack baggies, keeping the contents fresh?
Why We Love National Paperclip Day
Paperclips carry a historical legacy
The paperclip forever has a place in history as a powerful symbol of resistance to oppression, as it did in Norway during the German occupation during World War II. Thus it can be revived as a powerful symbol, relevant to any struggle where a group of people is being oppressed, and can be used to publicize it.
Paperclips are versatile
By now you know that the uses of paperclips are manifold. There must be several new paperclip hacks with each celebration of National Paperclip Day that comes around. We hope it inspires you to get creative and come up with your own, too.
Paperclips unite us
The paperclip as an item of stationery has literally been designed to hold things together. And it is now an office staple the world over. Isn’t it exciting to think about how cross-cultural and widely used this little item is? Therefore, we can’t think of a better mascot to signify unity on so many fronts.
National Paperclip Day dates