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The Flat Cap on ... Staples

Today The Flat Cap has been printing off some paperwork to give to Madge, his publicist and head of media relations. As there was rather a lot of material he stapled it together with the new stapler he had bought from his local Post Office. This got him thinking about staples and how they came about.

Staples come in many shapes and sizes and as well as keeping papers securely fastened they have also been used to hold various other materials together. In ancient times large metal staples were used to keep stones in place but they were very unreliable and after a number of accidents construction workers found safer ways to keep buildings from toppling over, or bits dropping off them. These ancient stone stapling machines also took at least ten people to move them from site to site and would seize up during damp weather. This made them dangerous pieces of equipment and they did not survive down the ages. Nowadays staples are generally much smaller and used on far lighter commodities. But if you do have larger staples you can use a hammer or a staple gun; both of which only need one person to operate them.

Staples and staple gun

The big problem with paper staples is that different manufacturers have different specifications and sizes. Attempts at standardising them have so far proved inconclusive with the result that you can buy a box of staples from one shop and get them home only to find that they don’t fit your machine. The Flat Cap thinks the EU should sort this out instead of deliberating over whether curly cucumbers can be legitimately sold in large supermarkets. Staples are most commonly manufactured from zinc plated steel, although you can also purchase copper plated and stainless steel versions; both of which do not rust. Very rich people such as Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch reputedly own gold staplers which take only gold staples. These are reserved for affixing only the most confidential paperwork. They can be bought along with gold tape dispensers as part of a gift set.

The first recorded paper stapler was made for the French king Louis XV who would use it to keep important documents such as treaties together. Each staple was inscribed with the royal insignia. Towards the end of his life the stapler went missing for a while and the king began to lose the crucial paperwork and spreadsheets that he would keep together to help him work out the cost of wars, how many mistresses he had, or what official functions he needed to attend. Sadly in 1774 Louis died of smallpox and before he could register his innovative device, but not before he had time to send his last mistress away from court to receive spiritual pardon. It was not until the mid nineteenth century that inventors began to patent the precursors to modern stapling machines. Then a Hungarian surgeon called Humor Hultl decided to adapt the stapler for medical use and used a machine to close the skin in place of sutures. His prototype was rather cumbersome, weighed eight pounds and took two hours to load with staples. This meant patients were left hanging about a fair bit and some probably got bored and went home. Others simply had their operations cancelled because there was nobody to move the stapler around the hospital.

The Flat Cap visited his local branch of office supplies retailer “Staples” to see if they could supply some interesting staples related facts. During a chat with Bob, who was buying some toner for his photocopier, he learned the following staples related information and trivia:

  • At the time of writing there are 107 Staples stores across the UK

  • US rapper Vince Staples owns a large collection of antique stapling machines and plans to open a stapler museum in his home town of Long Beach, California as soon as he retires

  • Staple Inn is a Tudor building on the south side of High Holborn Street in the City of London. It dates from 1585 and for a time featured on tins and pouches of Old Holborn tobacco which The Flat Cap used to buy from a man in his local pub (until he gave up smoking some years ago)

  • Injuries resulting from the incorrect use of staple guns accounted for 156 visits to hospital A&E Departments during 2015

  • Jamaican born English singer Neville Eugenton Staple was a rude boy in his youth and would routinely play pranks on fellow members of the ska band The Specials to cement his reputation. He now drives taxis in between his musical appearances

  • An office worker in a medium sized company will use more than 73,000 staples during their working life

  • Despite its name a staple food contains very little metal, but is one that is eaten routinely, and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet; in The Flat Cap’s case anything that requires frying

  • Staples Corner is a major road junction in London and was named after the Staples Mattress factory that once stood there. A B&Q DIY store was then built on the site and after this was damaged by a bomb in 1992 it was demolished and replaced by a branch of Staples Office Supplies

  • Famous opera singer Andrew Staples began his career busking in London tube stations before accepting a music scholarship to Eton College, where he was a keen member of the chess club

  • Author C S Lewis, or to give him his full name, Clive Staples Lewis, died on the same day that U.S. President John F Kennedy was assassinated. The author Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World, also died the very same day

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