The history of the hole puncher is fairly unknown or at least its origins are. Historians note two early patents given to men that called for a metal tool capable of putting holes in paper. The traditional hole punch has changed throughout history to include products for larger stacks of paper, smaller punches with shaped holes and hole punchers that place three holes in a sheet of paper at one time.
A German inventor designed the first ever hole puncher (also known as hole punch) of its kind in 1886. Frederich Soennecken created a type of office tool capable of punching small holes in paper. He applied for a patent in Germany and was awarded one on Nov. 14, 1886. He called the machine Papierlocher fur Sammelmappen and the device was simply called a hole punch. His invention led to designers in other countries, such as the United States, working on creating a better version.
First U.S. Patent
The first patent for a hole puncher in the United States was given to Benjamin Smith, a man working in Massachusetts. Smith worked with different tools and tried different designs before coming up with the idea of a hole punch. His design used two metal pieces with a hole in the bottom piece and a sharp cutting implement on the other end. The two pieces were attached using a spring that gave the punch strength to work through a piece of paper. Smith referred to the punch as a conductor’s punch when he was granted patent number 313027.
Charles Brooks created a different version of the paper punch in 1893, which he called a ticket punch. Brooks’ design was slightly different from Smith’s because it included an additional piece that held the pieces cut from the paper. The rest of the design was similar to Smith’s design: two metal pieces attached by a spring. Inside the bottom piece was a small jar that held the pieces as they were pushed out. The design was similar to the modern-day hole punches.
20th Century Advances
Throughout the 20th century the traditional hole punch retained much of the same look of the early models including the metal construction. After some work, hole punches took on the look of pliers and were easier to carry. Toward the end of the century there were even a few plastic versions released, though with the cutter itself still made of metal. It was during this time that manufacturers also released versions that used a shape in the cutter other than a circle, such as a square, star or heart design.
The United States Patent Office has recorded several patents for new hole punches since 2000. One of these uses a pressure plate and stacked rings, which allow the hole punch to punch through stacks of paper easier, without the user exerting a lot of force. Another hole punch uses manual lever spacers that allow the user to change the size of the holes and the spacing of the holes. This design is used by manufacturers like Swingline and Leverhand.
Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.