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The history of the paper shredder

History is one of those subjects that you either love or hate. But regardless of your opinion, history teaches us about the past and provides a pretty good explanation of how we got to today. So what about the history of secure shredding? As you search for businesses for your drop off paper shredding service needs, have you wondered where did the idea originate? Have you thought about how it has changed over the years?

The first patented paper shredder

A little digging into the history of the paper shredder reveals Abbot Augustus Low as the inventor of the first paper shredder. Hailing from Piercefield, New York, Low’s intention was to design a machine to efficiently and effectively dispose of paper. He filed the patent for the shredder on February 2, 1909 and it received approval on August 31, 1909. Sadly he died before the machine was constructed and thus never saw the machine work.

Controversy over the origins of the paper shredder

But what’s history without a little controversy. Even with something as straightforward as shredding, not everyone believes Low was the true inventor. Adolf Ehinger made and repaired tools and small machines in his shop in Balingen, Germany in the 1930s. Despite the similarity in name with the infamous Adolf Hitler, Ehinger was not a fan of the Third Reich. In fact, in his spare time he was secretly printing anti-Nazi propaganda. This was dangerous work due to the sensitive information he was producing. Ehinger knew he needed a way to protect his confidential information from the authorities.

Inspiration came from his kitchen in the form of a pasta maker. Inside a wooden frame, Ehringer built an opening wide enough for sheets of paper to pass through the shears. When he figured out how to make the machine with an electric motor, the aktenvernichter, or paper shredder, was born. He patented the invention in 1936 in Germany and took his new invention to a trade show to officially unveil.

Ehringer’s machine caught on and during the 1940s, local Germans and government entities bought the device. He continued to grow his company and refine the shredders that were being sold around the globe to government departments and banks. In 1959, his company, EBA Mashinenfabrik, introduced the first cross cut shredders which allowed the paper to be cut in horizontal and vertical directions.

Continued innovations with the industrial shredder

As many inventions do, paper shredders evolved and through the 1990s became smaller, with less readable shreds. Paper could not be reassembled as easily as it could on the first machines. Subsequently paper shredding became more secure and high speed as well as wide spread. Over the years equipment has continued to improve, particle size made smaller, and the run time at which the cross cut paper shredder operates greatly increased. They also became affordable enough for the average consumer to purchase in the form of a home office shredder to shred credit cards and confidential information.

Shredding services continue to be an important part of information destruction for consumers and businesses as they are at increased risk for identity theft, fraud and business liability.  For more information on how DataShield can safely and securely protect your personal or business information, give us a call at 402-204-0054 or visit us online at


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