Saturday, June 28, 2008
Interview: The three-ring binder inventor
WilliamPennmanship was fortune enough to sit down with Gunther Hillsborough, the inventor of the three-ring binder at his home in Ardmore, Pa. In this heartfelt sitdown the 71 year-old opens up like never before. He dodges questions about his run-ins with the law and evades the entire Avalon,NJ topic. He also fails to address the ATV accident and his love of floating billiards tables. But he does touch on his major competitor from the 1970's and 80's.
WP: Thanks for taking the time to talk today. I'm going to start with a very difficult question. One you may have avoided in the past, but I'd really like your thoughts. What did the creation of the Trapper Keeper mean to you in the 1970's?
GH: Ahh. You do like to start with the tough ones. To be honest I thought I was finished. Absolutely done. I had this great product and it was doing very well and all the sudden this "super-binder" comes on to the market. I was like where in God's name did this thing come from?
WP: So you had no idea that this "thing" was being developed?
GH: I mean there were very quiet rumors floating around, but I can remember thinking that no person or thing could create this "super-power-binder" that was being talked about. I passed it off and didn't believe it.
WP: So what was your reaction when you first saw the Trapper Keeper in stores.
GH: Well, the first time I saw it was when I was dropping my youngest son off at school and a child on the sidewalk was holding one. I called the child over to the car and said what the hell is holding all of your papers like that? He said it was a Trapper Keeper. Trapper Keeper? After my son got out of the car I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour. Ask my wife. Also ask my wife and she will tell you that for three days after it came out I was convinced the Trapper Keeper was left behind by some alien space craft.
WP: So you thought that was it?
GH: I really did. I tried coming up with all these ideas to improve my binder to make one last stand. Should I add a fourth ring to the three-ring binder? Should I take away a ring and make it two? I panicked and in the end I simply added two small pockets for holding paper on the inside of the front and back covers.
WP: Genius. Unreal. When did you come up with the idea to sell paper that had three holes punched in it?
GH: There are some things I can't discuss.