Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Red Swingline Stapler

I wrote the following essay for a 20th century artifact "show and tell" presentation in my English literature (104B at UCSB) discussion.

As just about everyone knows, a stapler beholds the sole purpose of binding together sheets of paper or other materials, simply by driving a thin metal staple through the sheets and folding over the ends to secure the paper. The most common places to find a stapler include offices and other places that process large amounts of paper on a daily basis. However, many college students also have one (but not all… many ask other students in class to borrow one).

While King Louis XIV of France supposedly developed the first stapler in the 1700s, the comedic film Office Space, released in 1999, drew new attention to the device. Milton Waddums, a fumbling and mumbling useless “employee” of Initech, made himself and the stapler famous for his true love of the red Swingline he flaunts on his desk. However, one casual day in the office, Milton’s Boss, Bill Lumbergh, confiscates the red Swingline, claiming Milton actually stole it from him at one point. Lumbergh’s action drives Milton to insanity, and Milton consequentially burns the building down. The stapler makes a final appearance at the end of the film when Peter Gibbons, the main character, recovers the slightly-burned artifact from the rubble that was once the Initech building.

Oddly enough, Swingline, a stapler and hole puncher manufacturer founded in 1925, did not offer a red version of its commodity at or by the time Office Space appeared in theaters. The popularity of the red stapler in the movie led Swingline to release a “limited edition series” red stapler in 2004. The Swingline website currently offers the “rio red Collectors’ Edition 747® business stapler” at the MSRP of $31.80.

Written and directed by Mike Judge, Office Space “pokes fun at work life in a typical software company during the late 1990s.” Judge based the film on his 1991 animated short films of the same name, which he created for Saturday Night Live. The feature-length film did not prove financially successful in theaters, and only broke even. However, the film proves itself a classic based on home video sales and rentals. Recently, Judge released a special edition DVD with additional content.

Source: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (“Stapler” and “Office Space” articles, available at