Antique Cast Iron Paper Clip Collection

How would President Lincoln keep his important papers from Jefferson Davis?

In 2010, we found the coolest item at an English antique trade show. A jumbo cast iron clip. We were drawn to its interesting design. It looked a little gothic and a little Celtic, but was functional.  The “paper” clip was new to us, but had been around since the mid 1800’s. Once we found one, we started looking for others.

We’ve found them in England and here in the U.S. They are office products used in the Victorian era and were used to hold important business papers prior to the Civil War until the turn of the century. Some of them are Eastlake designs, and some of them are more geometric. Their clip mechanisms are either coil or band springs. The same design can have either mechanism. Some of them have patent numbers and/or dates on them. They range from 2 to 4” in width.

Even though we were drawn to the design element, they are a practical collectible. They have retained their tension and can still be used to clip together papers, reports, manuscripts, etc. Anything you don’t want to lose. The clips have big loop holes in their backs, so they can be hung on a wall or they can add a decorative element to one’s desk. They’re heavy, so they can also be used as a paperweight.

We date them from 1860 to 1890, which makes them well over a hundred years old. The mid 1800s saw a growth in the working office. Moving from an agricultural society to cities full of bankers, lawyers, and accountants meant inventions to improve productivity.

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