This showed up at work a while ago, probably a refugee from the back of somebody’s desk.  We thought it was an old piece of lab equipment.


We weren’t sure what it was, beyond some sort of nibbler.  It looks like the business end of the nibbler has been hardened somehow.  Obviously the “jowl” under the jaw opens (it springs closed).  What you can’t see in the impression it gives, when held in the hand, that it has been used a lot.  The handles are very smooth.  One of my coworkers thought it might have been used to take samples for microscopy or other analysis.  The only clue is on the inside of the handles, which have stamped into them: “McBee Made in U.S.A” and “5227 626” (the last “2” being struck over a “1”).

It turns out that the tool is less immediately useful than one might hope:


It’s designed for marking paper cards as part of the McBee filing card system.  The decks must be long gone.  It’s interesting to me that the technology dates to 1896; people have been thinking about how to order data for a long time.

I wonder how much work went into the collection this tool helped organize.  Perhaps the last user kept it as a memento of long hours sorting information that today would represent another 256kb in a database somewhere.  Information science marches on.

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