Since paper was invented, there has been a need to destroy it. Originally this was done by hand, tearing it into small pieces. Eventually a machine was developed to finely shred documents that contained personal or classified information. Today privacy laws require that many different kinds of documents be shredded, including bank and medical records. Some shredders are powerful enough to slice through credit cards, CDs and DVDs.
A.A. Low of New York City obtained a patent for a "waste paper receptacle" in 1908 that essentially cut up papers. Lowe died in 1912 and his invention was never produced.
First Paper Shredder
Adolf Ehinger created the first machine powered paper shredder in Germany in 1935. He was driven to create his invention because of his anti-Nazi writings. He needed a reliable method to completely destroy his illegal papers.
A hand-cranked pasta maker provided Ehinger with inspiration for his invention. He eventually added a power source. At first, the only ones interested in purchasing his paper shredder were governmental agencies.
The Cold War of the 1950s provided a huge market for paper shredding. Secret documents had to be destroyed to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
Ehinger's company produced the first "cross cut" paper shredder in 1959. Although they were primarily used by governments and banks for decades, the threat of identity theft in the modern age has made them popular for personal use.
Paper shredders have been associated with Richard Nixon and Oliver North in their high profile "cover up" schemes.
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