A paper clip is a thin wire in a looped shape that uses elasticity and strength of its construction materials to compress and hold pieces of paper together. Other types of clips use a two piece clamping system. Recent innovations are multi-colored plastic-coated paper clips.
The first patent for a bent wire paper clip was awarded to Samuel B. Fay in 1867. He wanted it to be used for attaching tickets to fabric originally. His design, however, is not really reminiscent to the modern paperclip design. The Gem clip, is the most common type of wire paper clip and is still in use. Its production started in early 1870s. Paper Clips are still sometimes called “Gem clips”. This original gem clip has been around for more than a hundred years and has proved to be the most practical and most popular version.
Johna Vaaler invented his own version of the paper clip that was not as good as the gem and was never manufactured due to the Gem’s market dominance. Vaaler was incorrectly memorialized as the paper clips creator by his own countrymen. This myth eventually made it into international dictionaries and much international literature on paper clips. The myth was started by the Norwegian patent agency. They failed to detect that Vaaler’s patent was the same as the gem design. Many soldiers wore paper clips during World War II as a sign of unity.
The wire in the paper clip is versatile and easily unfolded with little force. Many electric devices require a paper clip to provide a manual eject. They are also used as lock picking devices, sometimes to unfasten paper clips.