Inventor of stapler had many other skills

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Did you know that the Minnesota Historical Society credits our own Charlie Henderson with the invention of the automatic stapling machine?  Many of his innovative inventions are found at the Methodist Church Museum display on West Courtland, which is open again next May.

However, two of his earliest inventions are the grain bag tiers.  Charlie's son, Don Henderson, submitted the history of his fine collection to the Historical Society which you will find fascinating. 

Charles C. Henderson, a native of Ohio, first came to the Preston-Cherry Grove area with his parents in 1880 where he opened a blacksmith shop.  About 1892 he met and married Annie Schaben in 1895, and they returned to this area.  Charlie worked at Tom Frankson's Neck Yoke Factory located (in Allen's Hall) where the present cheese factory is today on South Section Avenue.  Later, working for the Conley brothers where he invented the silent shutter (worth another story), he became known as a skilled die maker.  The family finally settled in a home on West High Street in Spring Valley where he opened a shop in a “hen house” on the property.

The invention of the bag tiers came about thus: Henderson was acquainted with local resident Bun Page who traveled for a grain company.  He called on grain elevator operators who noticed the difficulty experienced by employees trying to tie the grain sacks, a time consuming and frustrating task.  There had been a cumbersome 5.5-pound bag tier invented, but it was too heavy to work well.  After Page discussed the matter with Henderson, the latter came up with a first model of a small lightweight bag tier that weighed only 6 to 7 ounces.

The tier worked by the walnut handle spiraling down to the hook end; the hooks were then fitted into wire loops, and the handle was drawn toward the user, twisting to neatly tie the grain bag. Henderson greatly improved the original model with a design that was lighter and faster to use.  This model had a brass handle, which slid forward when pressed by the operator, eliminating the wait for the handle to swivel down. The rights to the bag tiers were acquired by the Valve Bag Company in Chicago, about 1916, with J.G. Bates, and Mr. Henderson received little for his mechanical ability.

Bates then asked him to produce staples for tacking labels on boxes.  This, Charlie could do in an efficient manner, which led eventually to designing and producing the staplers themselves. Although Charlie was employing 15 to 20 men at his shop, the stapler and staples required a great deal more space for manufacturing production.

The “city fathers” decided it was worthwhile to invest $5,000 in a suitable building that was constructed along Pleasant Avenue near the Chicago Great Western railroad tracks.  A partnership was formed with Bates owning 51 percent of the stock.  Again, lacking business acumen, Charlie was duped into turning his stock over for a few hundred dollars.  Long story, but the firm finally moved to Chicago and floundered as all the blueprints were in Charlie's head, and they couldn't run it without him! 

Charlie returned to his shop on High Street, and continued to serve the countless machinery needs in the community.  Charlie rarely expressed any bitterness about his financial shortcomings, and if anyone needed a metal piece machined for a certain purpose, Charlie could do it!  

The staple factory still stands on Pleasant Avenue where the Missouri mules worked for Reid Murdoch...ask about that!