By: Pam Cain
AVP, Peoria Branch Manager
NMLS # 662881
The first paper shredding machine was patented in 1909, but the inventor died before he could produce his first functional prototype. The second paper shredding machine was used to save a German engineer from the Nazi secret police. He invented a hand-cranked machine to shred thousands of pieces of anti-Nazi propaganda. He later converted the hand-crank paper shredder to a motor-driven paper shredder and marketed it to government agencies and financial institutions. In 1959, this same company manufactured the first cross-cut paper shredder.
But it wasn’t until a decade later that President Richard Nixon brought the practice of document destruction into the national spotlight when he had vast quantities of paper shred as part of the attempted cover-up of the Watergate scandal.
Another key event in the history of paper shredding was in 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries seized piles of strip-shredded documents from the American Embassy in Iran. They easily pieced together the strips, uncovering very sensitive intelligence information. That’s when cross-cut shredders became the norm in government operations; a practice that spread to most business shredding. Today, cross-cut shredding is critical for businesses as they are charged with keeping clients’ personal information confidential.
Personal Shredding a Relatively New Household Task
At-home paper shredding became more popular following the 1988 Supreme Court decision of California v. Greenwood. In the decision, the court held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside of a home. And with communities forbidding the practice of burning trash, people needed a way to dispose of confidential paperwork shredding.