Tuesday 15 March 2016

Norway's Nearly Man

Today - as if you didn't know - is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Johan Vaaler, the Norwegian who didn't invent the paper clip. This is, admittedly, a slender claim to fame, but the thing about Vaaler is that he almost did it, and he is still often erroneously cited as the 'inventor of the paper clip'. What he did was to invent the version illustrated above - and go to the trouble of patenting it - while, unknown to him, the fully evolved double-loop paper clip was already being manufactured in Britain by the Gem Manufacturing Co. It was never patented, but has remained the definitive, unsurpassable paper clip (or, as the French would have it, trombone). The Norwegians, however, have a special feeling for the paper clip, and during the Nazi occupation, when all obvious national symbols were banned, many took to wearing a paper clip on their lapels as an emblem of resistance and solidarity. That's a better legacy than clipping together sheets of paper.

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