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Binders full of women: A brief history lesson

October 18, 2012|By David Lazarus
  • Shannon Stapleton/Pool/Getty Images
Shannon Stapleton/Pool/Getty Images (mc0lktp7/600 )

Thanks to Mitt Romney, binders are in the news. He likes his full of women, of course, but binders have other uses as well.

And we have Friedrich Soennecken to thank for them all.

The son of a blacksmith, Soennecken founded a German office-supply business in 1875. His first brainstorm was a type of nib -- the bit of metal at the end of a pen that allows you to, well, write. He also published books on penmanship.

No less an authority than Friedrich Nietzche, the German philosopher, praised the quality of the paper and pens Soennecken's company produced.

Most accounts say the three-ring binder as we know it today was born in 1886 when Soennecken came up with a device that allowed easy storage of paper with holes punched along the edge.

Other captains of industry followed with their own tweaks and improvements -- particularly getting the distance between punched holes just right.

But there are also reports that Henry T. Sisson of Rhode Island is the true father of binderhood. He's said to have registered patents in 1854 for two- and three-ring binders.

What's indisputable is that three-ring binders quickly became the standard worldwide for collection and storage of loose-leaf paper. Long before tablet computers, they succeeded in placing information at your fingertips.

So when Romney enjoyed the benefits of having binders full of women, he was in fact standing on the shoulders of giants.

As are we all.

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