The History and Interesting facts about Paper Shredders

The first paper shredder is credited to prolific inventor Abbot Augustus Low of Piercefield, New York.

His patent, (which you can read in its entirety below), was for a “waste paper receptacle”. It was designed to offer an improved method of disposing of waste paper. He filed his patent on February 2, 1909, and received the U.S. patent number 929,960 on August 3, 1909.

One of the most interesting things about this ideas is that his waste paper receptacle invention was never manufactured.

Adolf Ehinger’s paper shredder was designed based on a hand-crank pasta maker and was manufactured in 1935 in Germany.

Supposedly he needed to shred his anti-Nazi propaganda to avoid the inquiries of the authorities.

Ehinger later marketed his shredders to government agencies and financial institutions converting from hand-crank to electric motor.

Ehinger’s company, EBA Maschinenfabrik, manufactured the first cross-cut paper shredders in 1959 and continues to do so to this day as EBA Krug & Priester GmbH & Co. in Balingen.

The U.S. embassy in Iran used strip-cut paper shredders to reduce paper pages to strips before the embassy was taken over in 1979.

After Colonel Oliver North told Congress that he used a Schleicher Intimus 007 S cross-cut model to shred Iran-Contra documents, sales for that company increased nearly 20 percent in 1987.

Until the mid-1980s, it was rare for paper shredders to be used by non-government entities.

After the 1988 Supreme Court decision in California v. Greenwood, in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside of a home, paper shredders became more popular among U.S. citizens with privacy concerns.

Anti-burning laws, concern over landfills, industrial espionage, and identity theft concerns resulted in increased demand for paper shredding.

The US Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million cases of identity theft take place per year in the USA alone and recommends that individuals defend themselves against identity theft by shredding financial documents before disposal.[4]

News agencies have driven awareness of information theft to the extent that most consumers, healthcare organizations and businesses understand the importance of destroying confidential information. Also, information privacy laws like FACTA, HIPAA and the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act are driving shredder sales, as businesses and individuals take steps to comply to avoid legal complications.


Shredders range in size and price from small and inexpensive units designed for a certain amount of pages, to large units used by commercial shredding services that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and can shred millions of documents per hour. Some shredders used by a commercial shredding service are built into a shredding truck.

The general small shredder is an electrically powered device, but there some that are manually powered, such as special scissors with multiple blade pairs and hand-cranked rotary shredders.

These machines are classified according to the size and shape of the shreds they produce. (As a practical matter, this is also a measure of the degree of randomness or entropy they conduct.) All types of shredders can range in size from standard scissors and other hand-operated devices all the way up to truck-sized shredders. There are also shredder selector sites that can help consumers choose a shredder that is appropriate for their needs.

  • Strip-cut shredders, the least secure, use rotating knives to cut narrow strips as long as the original sheet of paper. Such strips can be reassembled by a determined and patient investigator or adversary, as the product (the destroyed information) of this type of shredder is the least randomized. It also creates the highest volume of waste inasmuch as the strips are not compressed.
  • Cross-cut or confetti-cut shredders use two contra-rotating drums to cut rectangular, parallelogram, or lozenge (diamond-shaped) shreds.
  • Particle-cut shredders create tiny square or circular pieces.
  • Cardboard shredders are designed specifically to shred corrugated material into either strips or a mesh pallet.
  • Disintegrators and granulators repeatedly cut the paper at random until the particles are small enough to pass through a mesh.
  • Hammermills pound the paper through a screen.
  • Pierce-and-tear shredders have rotating blades that pierce the paper and then tear it apart.
  • Grinders have a rotating shaft with cutting blades that grind the paper until it is small enough to fall through a screen.

Here is the full Patent Description

This description is from the Google Patent Search database.

DESCRIPTION  (OCR text may contain errors)

A. A. LOW.



929,969. Patented Aug. 3, 1909.

\Rmwssms. \MWWRMW WMM/ I I )J trewn mints FZfi im El ill in tri e ABBOT AUGUSTUS LOW, OF HORSESHOE, NEW YORK.


No. eeaeco.

Specification oi. Letters Patent.

Patented Aug. 3, 1909.

Application filed. February 2, 1909. Serial No. 475,661.

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that l, i-iBnc-r jinousr’us Low, a citizen of the United States, residing at Horseshoe, St. Lawrence county, and State of New York, have invented certain new and useful improvements in. Waste Paper Receptacles, of which the following is a specification.

My invention relates to the provision of improved means for disposing of waste paper and is designed more particularly for use in oflices and other places where not only the collection and storage of waste paper is desirable, but also its cancellation or mutilation in such manner as to render it unavailable or unintelligible for re-use or for information.

The invention consists primarily of a receptacle having a cutting or cancelling device interposed between it and a receiving hopper, whereby the papers are disintegrated and rendered useless as such before they enter the body of the receptacle, in which latter the fragments are stored temporarily in a suitable bag to be removed from time to time for the disposition of the waste.

My invention also includes a device for compressing and packing the disintegrated paper within the receptacle; means for stopping the device automatically, and certain other features in the construction and arrangement of parts hereinafter described an d claimed specifically.

In the accompanying drawings, Figure 1, is an elevation of my improved waste paper receptacle; Fig. 2, a central vertical section of the same; Fig. 3, a top view of the same Fig. e, a horizontal section upon plane of line l il ig. 2 and Fig. 5, a horizontal section upon plane of line 55Fig. 2.

A, is an inclosed boX or casing of any suitable shape and construction provided with a door a. Attached to the upper part of the box, preferably on the door a, is a ring r, provided with hooks 1″, or equivalent devices for the support of a waste paper bag li -said ring 7″, holding the mouth of the bag extended and open to receive the paper from above.

H, is a receiving hopper situated. on the top c of the receptacle. In the lower part of this hopper H, or interposed between it and the opening a into the receptacle, is the canceling or disintegrating device D, consisting of a rotatable cutter, grinder or equivalent mechanical e: iedient adapted to cut, tear or otherwise disintegrate the paper to such an extent as to practically render it useless, excepting as paper waste, and prevent its use as a means of information or fraud. The disintegrating device D, may be operated by an electric motor M, a crank or any other suitable means, as may be found most expedient.

In order to compress the waste paper in the bag B, I provide a packing follower F, formed with a central opening f, through which, ordinarily the waste paper falls into the bag. This opening f, may be closed however by a slide 8, when it is desired to compress the waste and the follower F, is then depressed. and lowered into the bag as far as may be desired by means of a rack K, and pinion p, or other equivalent mechanism. The slide 5, may be inserted. to close the hole f, through the medium of a door g.

I prefer to operate the device by means of the electric motor M, and to arrange for the automatic stopping of its operation when the feed of paper to the hopper His discontinued. This I accomplish by inserting in the electric circuit 6, two switches e, and 0 The first c, is closed by hand to start the motor. The feed of paper between the feed rolls 1 and 2 raises the upper roll 2 so that it raises and closes the switch 6 when the hand switch 6, may be again opened, since the switch 6 will maintain a closed circuit through e as long as paper is passing between the rolls 1 and 2. When the paper has all been fed in the roll 2 drops, causing the switch 6 to break the circuit and stop the apparatus. Thus the device is in operation only when required for actual use.

ily device is especially advantageous for use in oflices, banks, counting houses, &c., under conditions, where the practical destruction of correspondence, memoranda, liquidatedbonds, accounts, books 850., and the like is a desideratum, in that it reduces the paper and disintegrates it to such an extent that it can only thereafter be sold or used as paper waste,an article thus produced having a special market value, but serving no other purpose,since the particles of paper are useless for identification, information, or fraudulent purposes of any character. Furthermore the reduction and storage of the paper waste is a safeguard against fire that might otherwise occur or be promoted. by the presence of papers scattered around proiniscuously.

The axis of the roll 1, may be formed to receive a crank which may be used in lieu of the motor, if desired, and the disintegrating j device may also, as heretofore intimated be operated directly by a crank or other mechanical expedient.

hat I clann as my invention and. desire to secure by Letters Patent 1s,

1. in a waste paper receptacle of the char- 3 ctcr dcsignated, the combination with the receptacle and receiving: hopper, of a disintel grating device interposed between said recepj tacle and said receiving hopper, for the purpose described.

2. In a waste paper receptacle of the character designated, receptacle, a receiving;

hopper, a disintegrating device interposed between said hopper and the receptacle, a packing follower 1n the receptacle, and means for actuating said packing follower, substantially 1n the manner and for the purpose described.

3. .ln a waste paper receptacle of the char- 1 acter designated, the combination of receptacle, a receiving hopper, a disintegrating de j vice interposed between said. hopper and the receptacle, a packing follower in said. reccptacle formed with a central opening, a slide for closing said openni and means for actuating said packing follower, substantially in the manner and for the purpose described.

4-. In a waste paper receptacle of the chm.- acter designated, the con’ibination of a receptacle, a receiving hopper, a disintegrating: device, interposed between said hopper and the receptacle, and a detachable bag in said receptacle arranged to receive the waste paper 1 after it leaves the disintegrator, substantially in the manner and for the purposedescribed. 5. In a waste paper receptacle of the char 1 acter designated, the combination of a receptacle, a rec iving hopper, a disintegrating device interposed between said hopper and said receptacle, a detachable bag in said receptacle arranged to receive the waste paper from the disintegrator, a packing follower in said receptacle formed with. a central opening, a slide for closing said opening, and means for 1 actuating said packing follower, substantially in the manner and for the purpose described.

6. In a waste paper receptacle of the character designated, the combination with the receptacle of a receiving hopper, a disintegrating device interposed between said receptacle and said hopper, an electric motor arranged to operate said disintegrating device, and means for automatically stopping the motor when the feed of paper is discontinued.

7. In a waste paper receptacle of the character designated, the combination with the receptacle of a receiving hopper, a disintei grating device interposed between said receptacle and said hopper, an electric motor arranged to operate said disintegrator, rolls in the hopper arranged to feed the paper to the disintcgrator, one of said rolls being free to yield to the paper fed to the disintegrator, and a switch controlled by said yielding roll 1 in such manner as to open the circuit when 3 the feed of paper is discontinued, for the purpose described.

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