My Personal Swingline History

Not a history of the staplers, just of how I became involved, OK?

I'm sure we all either remember or were that one kid on the block whose mind was never very far from dreaming about staplers. The kind of kid, who, in school, used to doodle all kinds of staplers in his or her notebook, staplers that were custom, stock, all rendered in the loving detail of a true staplerophile. We were the kids who could tell a Hotchkiss from a Bostitch just from the sound. We were the kids who would tag along with dad to the office on Saturdays, just to get a look at the sleek black 747s that stood proudly on each desk, ready to secure any paper to any other. We were the kids who saved up our allowances for years, just so that on the very day we were old enough, we could head over to the office supply store and buy our first stapler, the very first stapler we could really call our own!

God, we loved those staplers. Any staplist who has not recieved some sort of major head trauma can tell you everything about their first stapler...staple capacity, location of the tacking lever, pressure, how the interfold/exterfold switch worked...everything. It's really magical.

I know I may be getting worked up a bit, but I think some information about how I got involved in stapling is in order here. My first stapler, the one that got me hooked on all this, the one that inspired that sentimental diatribe above, was a used dark green Swingline 747, 1974 model. As you all must know, when the 747 came out in 1968, it redefined stapling. It was a completely new design- crisp, modern, and very european, following in the footsteps of the best of the Bauhaus and International Style. That's part of what first attracted me to it. Another thing was that it was a Swingline, and, at the time, the only Swingline I could afford was a used one, save, perhaps for some of the tiny Swingline Pips. While many of my friends went out and got new Bostiches, Hotchkisses, or whatever, I had to have, for reasons obvious to any staplist, a Swingline.

My first old 747 was a bit beat up when I first got it, but I spent lots of time on it, stripped it down, rebuilt it and painted it a candy-apple red, and, let me tell you, I had one of the hottest staplers in my high school. It was a great time to be a cocky teenager with a hot stapler. I finally had to get rid of old "Madeline" three years later when I jammed her beyond repair in a collegiate wall-tacking competition. I was up against big staple guns, but my Madeline and I had come through before, but this time she had had enough. I still miss her.
A few years later I decided to get back into recreational stapling, but this time I found a new and unexpected ally: my grandfather. I had no idea he had any interest in staplers or stapling. Then, one day I found an old photo of an early electric stapler, from about 1935, and in front of it, wearing the Swingline Company Competition Team colors, was my grandfather! I was shocked and delighted. When I showed him the photo, he got a faraway look in his eyes and muttered the name "Edna Rae."

I later learned that Edna Rae was the name of that first electric stapler, the one my grandfather had made his considerable reputation as a staplist on. He, pleased and proud of my interest in staplers, told me more:

"When I first was getting to liking stapling, back in, oh, must have been the early 20s, I was just a kid, and stapling was just for big shots. My friends and me, we had a rich pal who had a big Bostitch stapling rig back at his place, a huge mansion it was, and he'd let us fellas come over sometimes for some good staplin. But he never let us forget that it was his stapler! Sure, we could use it, but only when he said so and only on his terms! Well, this made all of us pretty fiesty and steamed, but what could we do? It was his stapler ! A beauty, too. Took two guys to operate it... a feeder and a punchman. Helluva stapler. Mahogany, brass, it was beautiful. We all wanted it, or at least something like it that we could own! We were tired of the rich guys controlling all of stapling, especially in competitions, because I knowed I could do better than them fancy boys! Anyway, a few years or so later, Swingline, which was pretty young, then, they came out with the Swingline 5... a one man stapler, terrific design, we all loved it! It was cheap, too... still beyond our reach, but getting close. Then, by 1932, lots of stapling advances had been made, and there came out the Swingline 3... the first stapler anyone could afford. It was a streamlined beauty, and I ran out and got one the very first day." I asked my grandfather what happened to his old Swingline 3, and he told me that he had kept it until my Mom was born. The old 3 just wasn't big enough for a family's considerable stapling needs, so he got a more sedate, but still wonderful Swingline 44, precursor the the famous 747.

continued in a future installment...

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Copyright 1995 The Van Gogh-Goghs