Shredding documents is nothing new and has been around for some time. With the invention of papyrus in 4000 B.C., the need to destroy documents began. Before that time, cave drawings and stone tablets made it impossible to shred much of anything. The Egyptians used papyrus as paper for writing documents. When a mistake was made, or information needed to be destroyed, the papyrus was torn up manually.
Since then, shredding has come a long way. The first machine-run shredder began in Germany in 1935. Using kitchen tools as his inspiration, Adolf Ehinger created a device that would make disposed paper unreadable. Adolf printed anti-Nazi material. When he was confronted about some literature in his garbage can, he decided he needed to do something to eliminate sensitive material.
His biggest inspiration came from a hand-cranked pasta maker, commonly used during that time period. With that in mind, he created a hand-cranked shredder that sat in a wooden frame. It had an opening big enough to handle normal paper. He later created one with an electric motor. People laughed at his device and thought it was pointless. During the 1940s, he sold the shredders to different governments and embassies.
Thanks to the Cold War, his device grew in popularity during the 1950s. In 1959, his company (EBA Maschinenfabrik) created the first cross cut shredder. Cross cut shredders take paper and not only cut it into strips, but cuts it in multiple directions to create confetti. Krug & Priester purchased the company in 1998. Paper shredders were typically only used by government entities from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Years before Adlof Ehinger created the shredder; A.A. Low patented the idea of a paper shredder. A.A. Low was from New York City. In 1908, Low patented the “Waste Paper Receptacle.” Lowe’s Waste Paper Receptacle included a feeder and blades. It could use either a hand crank or a motor to operate. It also compacted the shredded paper. He designed it for use in banks, counting houses, offices and more. After his death in 1912, his inventions where auctioned off and were forgotten. Low was second only to Thomas Edison with his patents.
Shredders have played an important role in history. Shredders are sometimes associated with the term “Cover-Up.” The Nixon re-election committee used a Fellowes paper shredder during Watergate. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North used an Intimus 007-S shredder to shred documents during the Iran-Contra scandal. Cross cut shredders grew in popularity in 1979 after the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun by Iranian militants. Documents at the embassy where only strip-cut, allowing the pieces to be pieced back together by Persian carpet weavers. Due to the Iran incident, the government now requires strict shredding conditions.
Today, shredders are used in almost all business environments. New laws such as HIPAA and FACTA require that just about everything be shredded. Shredding now not only applies to paper. Items such as floppy disks, DVDs and CDs can be shredded as well. Shredder sales grew by over 7,500,000 units between 1990 and 2000. As you can imagine, shredders are here to stay.