Did Milton Bradley Invent the Paper Cutter?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to board games and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all board game urban legends so far.

BOARD GAME URBAN LEGEND: Milton Bradley invented the paper cutter.

It is pretty weird that in the relaof Board Game Legends Revealed, TWO of them involve the life of Milton Bradley (here‘s the earlier one).

In any event, last time around, I told the tale of how Milton Bradley’s career as a lithographer was turned upside down by Abraham Lincoln growing a beard, which led Bradley to try out different enterprises, ending up with the creation of the board game The Checkered Game of Life.

However, Bradley is ALSO credited in many places with inventing the paper cutter (just tossing one recent one out there, in Samuel Greengard’s 2008 book, AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life, he states declaratively “Bradley, who also invented the paper cutter”).

This is untrue.

It is basically a mixture between the standard “telephone game” approach to urban legends as well as the adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Bradley received a patent in 1881 for a one-armed paper cutter. That much is true. However, the patent was for an IMPROVEMENT on the paper cutter, which had existed in the modern form for nearly forty years at that point. Guillaume Massiquot developed the basic design of the modern paper cutter.

Here’s an 1878 advertisement for a paper cutter…

However, earlier versions of the device dated back even earlier to the 1820s…

So the little knowledge of Bradley patenting a paper cutter soon developed into Bradley inventing the paper cutter.

But hey, nothing wrong with improving a good invention! That’s still quite commendable.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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