A perfect way to organize office and classroom information and keep notes in order


3 ring binders and other looseleaf binders have become the dependable and irreplaceable workhorses for personal, sales, school, and business organizations since the first loose leaf patent was filed in 1854. Traditional 2- and then 3- ring filing systems didn't begin to evolve until almost 20 years later, but, since then, numerous patents have attempted to improve upon the classic, useful design.

Looseleaf binder design has evolved in order to meet a variety of environments and needs. Despite the seeming simplicity of the concept, all binders are not alike! We'll offer you a checklist to help you understand what type of 3-ring binder is most effective for your usage.

Chicago Binder and File Company

Russell's Common Sense Binder, patented in 1877

Russell's Common Sense Binder, patented in 1877, shown as advertised as a product by Asa L. Shipman's Sons, New York, N.Y., in this 1893 advertisement above.



The very first looseleaf binder patent recorded in the U.S. Patent and Trade Office was awarded to Henry T. Sission of Providence, Rhode Island. His product's wide range of application was easily and quickly recognized. Since then, the files at the Patent Office have received plenty of applications dating back to the mid-19th century for binders of varying, innovative designs.

It would take 16 years for the Common Sense Binder to evolve into an actual 2 ring loose-leaf binder, seen in this 1899 Chicago Binder and File Co. advertisement. Hole punchers soon became another standard office product. The 2-ring looseleaf model would eventually give way to efficient versions of 3 ring filing systems that have become the standard in business and education.

Images of antique binders included on this page is courtesy of the Early Office Museum.

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What accounts for the popularity of 3 ring binders? Lightweight and safe portability, easy review capability and remove/insert access to filing paperwork, the ability to organize paperwork by alpha, numeric, or subject heading within each book using simple dividers, and their organized manageability on shelves and desks are some of the reasons for their popularity.

The various sizes of binder and the sizes of rings that are now available also allow you to select binders perfect for your particular usage. Larger-sized ring binders allow you more depth so you can store records for an entire week, month, product-line, etc. School work and sales catalogs are two other popular usages. Thinner rings binders are great to holding material dedicated for individual projects, lists, particular class lists, experiment notation, journaling, and other similar projects.

To determine the capacity of a ring binder, measure across the inside diameter of the ring. The overall size of the O-ring and elliptical rings can be measured from left to right and must be larger than the stated capacity because the mechanism must go around the contents. Overall size of D-rings must be measured from the inside also, though in this case, between the inside top and bottom.

 inside diameter of the ring 

Ring Binders

D-Ring Binders 

D-Ring Binder

Elliptical overlapping rings 

Elliptical overlapping rings

Selecting a quality 3-ring binder that won't fail you.

There's no doubt about it - some binders simply are built better than others! Also, usage and requirements vary so you'll want to ensure you purchase a binder design that effectively fits your needs without problems.

Here's a few questions to ask yourself before purchasing binders:

- How long will the binders be used? The choice of products made from less durable material vs. looseleaf binders that are durable and capable of handing high intensity, heavy-duty use largely depends on how long and how much the binder will be used.

- How often will your binders be referenced? Binders that are only occasionally referred to and which have a service life capacity of 5 years may require the same quality investment as for a binder being used for one year that's expected to receive constant handling.

- What conditions will the binder be working within? Binders must withstand all the conditions or rugged use they'll receive during their life. Some may undergo constant handling. If used in the field by sales people or at repair/installation facilities, dirt, oily hands, rain, and accidental dropping can be expected. Your one-time project funding may limit your capacity to replace your stock of these.

- Will your customers be using these looseleaf binders? If so, the overall appearance and design should convey business integrity, stability, prestige, and boast eye appeal.

- Are the binders for use by salespeople? Constant activity and constant reference requires rugged construction, easy handling, light-weight, clean-ability, and impressive styling.

- Is the looseleaf binder for trade use? Easy handling, low bulk, practical counter use, quick-sheet change out and clear indexing are some of the factors beneficial for dealers, wholesalers, and jobbers.

- Is high capacity important? D-ring and quality elliptical binders are known to hold approximately 25% more sheets than standard round ring binders.

- Are the binders primarily intended for shelf reference? Cover rigidity, spine identification, outstanding color and appropriate size are important considerations. Too, how easy is it to "grab" and pull out?

- Will your ring binders be carried frequently? Consider a light-weight material ring binder with the ability to withstand handling, drops, and soiling.