We’ve found some weird and wonderful facts about commonly used stationery through the ages…
Did you know that a Parker 51 pen was used to end WWII? That’s the model that General Eisenhower used to sign the armistice with Germany. And General MacArthur used another Parker, a Duofold, to end the conflict with Japan.
They look a bit different from the things we use in the office, but the first scissors (two blades working in unison) appeared in Mesopotamia, that’s an area covering parts of modern-day Iraq, Kuwait and Syria, around 3,000-4,000 years ago. Amazingly, the design is still in use today as sheep shears.
It’s commonly believed that one of the world’s first staplers was made for Louis XV in the 1700s. As befitting a king, it’s said it was terribly ornate and that the staples even had the royal court’s insignia on them. (I can’t imagine a king doing his own admin, so I’m a bit suspicious about this one.)
One of the earliest uses of glue was found in Sibudu cave in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. 72,000 years ago someone mixed plant gum with red ochre and beeswax and glued a pointed stone into a piece of wood to make a spear – I can’t even use cake mix properly.
Did you know Post-it notes were invented because of bad glue? In 1968, a scientist at 3M invented a glue that wouldn’t stay stuck. In 1974 another 3M researcher was having problems with bookmarks falling out of his choir hymnbook and realised that this glue could keep them in place without tearing the page when removed.
Rubber bands aren’t just useful in the post room, they’re essential in tattoo parlours too. Tattoo machines vibrate a lot (obviously) and rubber bands are wrapped around them to help stop the needle bouncing around. Probably best not to use ones from the post room floor, mind.
Registrars of births, deaths and marriages in the UK have to use a special ink to sign documents. Normally ink fades over time, but the ink used by Registrars has a high iron content, so it actually becomes darker as the years pass by.
In mediaeval times in people used to eat off ‘trenchers’, which were plates made out of bread. Fast forward several centuries and a few thousand miles to Japan in the 19th century, where students used bits of bread as erasers and would nibble on them if they were feeling peckish.
Herculaneum was a town destroyed along with Pompeii by Mount Vesuvius. Archaeologists found an ancient painted noticeboard warning residents not to dump rubbish. Does this mean the Romans invented littering?
During WWII people in the French and Norwegian resistance used to wear paper clips on their lapels as secret signs to show solidarity. The idea was that it symbolised people holding together. (A Norwegian was credited with inventing the paper clip, but his design was actually different to the one used.)
After that fantastic read, why not try these great pieces…