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Paper Institute Seeks Information on Paper-Bag Machine Inventor

February 22, 1985

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ More than a century ago Charles Stillwell invented a machine that turned sheets of paper into bags.

The American Paper Institute of New York has offered a reward for information about this man whose name is on the patent, with an eye toward getting him inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in Arlington, Va.

The reward: $1,000 in cash or 102 paper bags filled with groceries.

The bag machine patent was taken out on June 12, 1883, and Stillwell, listing himself as a resident of Watertown, N.Y., assigned it to the Union Paper Bag Machine Co. of Philadelphia, which began mass producing the bags.

The company is no longer in business, at least under that name.

″It’s high time that Stillwell received the attention and respect he deserves,″ says the Institute’s Peter Bunten.

The machine, since improved, today produces more than 25 billion bags used to carry goods out of supermarkets and other stores.

″Stillwell’s descendants and anyone else with information or documents certifying his activities are urged to step forward, so that Stillwell’s contributions to American business and our way of life can be further recognized,″ Bunten said.

An Institute spokeswoman said in a telephone interview that City Hall archives listed two Charles Stillwells living in Philadelphia 102 years ago.

″One was an engineer, and one was an architect,″ she said. ″But neither of them may have invented the bag machine. We hope some descendant comes forward.″

The Inventors Hall of Fame is sponsored by the U.S. Commerce Department.

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