The first paper shredder is credited to Abbot Augustus Low, a prolific inventor with the patent being filed on February 2, 1909… but his invention was never manufactured
Adolf Ehringer’s paper shredder (which was based on a hand crank pasta maker), was manufactured in Germany in 1935. The story is that he needed to shred his anti-Nazi propaganda to avoid the authorities questions. He later marketed his shredders to government agencies and financial institutions, changing from a hand crank to an electric motor. His company (EBA Maschinenfabrik) manufactured the first cross-cut shredders in 1959, and they continue to do so to this day as EBA Krug & Priester GmbH & Co. in Balingen.
Until the mid-eighties, it was rare for paper shredders to be used by non-government entities. One very high profile example of their use was when the U.S. embassy in Iran shredded documents before the embassy was taken over in ’79 (Google the “Iran hostage crisis” kids).
After Colonel Oliver North told Congress that he used a Schleicher cross-cut model to shred Iran-Contra documents, Schleicher sales boosted by almost 20 percent in 1987.
Paper shredders became more popular in the U.S. due to privacy concerns after the 1988 Supreme Court decided that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside. Anti-burning laws in many states also resulted in increased demand for paper shredding.
More recently, concerns about identity theft have increased personal use, with the FTC recommending that individuals shred financial documents before disposal.
Information privacy laws such as FACTA, HIPAA, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act are also increasing shredder usage, as both individuals and companies are taking more steps to securely dispose of confidential information. Most companies now are outsourcing their document destruction to a shredding service, like American Document Destruction, Inc. We will either shred the material on site with mobile shredding trucks or brought back to our facility for shredding here. Documents that need destruction are usually placed in locked containers that are emptied by us on a regularly scheduled basis.
Stay tuned for part three of this series…