The History of the Paper Shredder

Walk into any office today and you will find a paper shredder occupying a place of prominence. Every day, the corporate world prints and shreds thousands of documents to protect confidential information from falling on the wrong hands, while individuals also use this machine to protect themselves from identity theft and fraud.

Ever wondered how people did without paper shredders? Before 1935, people did this the old school way, shredding paper with their hands, which was/is not a guarantee that someone would not put the pieces back together. The story of the paper shredder goes way back, and it is not without controversy.

Paper Shredder Origins

Oshreddable documentsn February 2, 1909, a brilliant inventor, Abbot Augustus Low, filed a patent for the first ever paper shredder. He named it “waste paper receptacle,” and introduced it as a way for organizations and governments to get rid of printed information they no longer needed. His invention never saw the light of day.

Twenty-six years later, Adolf Ehinger made the first functional shredder from a hand-crank pasta maker. He invented it to shred his anti-Nazi writings, which he feared would get him questioned by the authorities. It must have worked so well that Ehinger proceeded to make an electric one that he availed to the government and private entities. His company, EBA Maschinenfabrik, manufactured the first crosscut shredder in 1959, and it continues to do so under the name EBA Krug & Priester GmbH & Co. Cross cut shredders do not only cut paper into tiny strips, but they also cut it in multiple directions to render them completely useless.

Important Moments In History

paper shredders were used during the iran-contra affairOne of the moments that changed the narrative for shredders was when the Oliver North reported to Congress that he had used a Schleicher Intimus 007 SL shredder to destroy Iran-Contra documents in the 1979 Iranian-US embassy takeover. This endorsement solidified the place of shredders and saw the company’s sales soar by almost 20% in 1987.

At the early stages of this development, individuals did not see the need for paper shredders. Matter of fact, they laughed at Ehinger’s ‘ridiculous’ invention. In the 50s and 60s, you would almost only find one in government entities. When the Supreme Court ruled in a late 80s case that warrantless searches of garbage left outside of a home would not be prohibited, Americans with sensitive information started acquiring shredders. Since then, their popularity has only grown.

Continued Invention

Currently, a shredder can turn to waste, not only paper but also floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs. They have become necessities in offices, regardless of what the organization deals with. In a bid to curb the estimated 9 million cases of identity theft, the US Federal Trade Commission urges individuals, healthcare organizations, and businesses to shred their documents before disposing of them.

Types of Shredders

  • Strip-cut: as the name suggests, it cuts paper into strips. This kind of shredder is not the best because the strips can still be put together.
  • Cross-Cut: It cuts paper twice, making it into diamond shapes. It is much safer.
  • Particle-cut: It converts paper into different shapes, either circles or square.

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