paper clip unchanged since 1899

It was invented in 1899. It hasn’t been improved since. What is it?


François Gojat



A fascinating article indeed from Slate magazine. We dull men value consistency, prefer not to change.

[Our club is in fact described as a two-step program: (1) we admit we are dull; (2) we’re not going to change.]

We hadn’t realized it until reading the article — paper clips need to be listed in our section on Safe Excitement — which the article points out:

Straightened out, they are used by office workers to distract themselves from the monotony of their intended use.

Nearly every reader of Joshua Ferris’ novel of office life, Then We Came to the End, becomes part of his collective narrator as they read the sentence, “If a stray paper clip happened to be lying around we were likely to bend it out of shape.”

And every white-collar underling must find familiar David Foster Wallace’s description of office life in The Pale King: “The way hard deskwork really goes is in jagged little fits and starts, brief intervals of concentration alternated with frequent trips to the men’s room, the drinking fountain, the vending machine, constant visits to the pencil sharpener, phone calls you suddenly feel are imperative to make, rapt intervals of seeing what kinds of shapes you can bend a paperclip into, &c.”