The History of Scissors

It has been widely believed that Leonardo Da Vinci, the man who created the ideas for virtually everything, was responsible for the invention and use of scissors.

As much as Da Vinci was a genius, he did not create scissors. He focused more on naked statues and convoluted airplanes. Scissors were first seen in Egypt around 1500 B.C.; however, they were not really scissors.

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They actually closely resembled two wheat scythes that were glued together. Although this marked the first form of scissors, the true paradigm of modern-day scissors came around in Rome. Roman civilization was a plethora of different trades, careers, and luxuries. People were involved in dress-making, printing, philosophy, and cutting hair. Today, we view Rome as an advanced establishment, but this “advanced” notion wouldn’t have come around without scissors.

Imagine a dressmaker cutting cloth with a kitchen knife, or a barber wielding a bronze sword. The image that comes to mind is one of mutilated linen and customers with multiple bald patches. Because Romans used a pattern close to modern shears, they were the first to enjoy the bliss of clean, neat, haircuts. In 1761, Robert Hinchcliffe of Sheffield began to use cast steel to make scissors, as opposed to the original iron or steel. This highly durable material could withstand extreme force from angry users, was lightweight, and also very efficient.

Soon, he began running a successful scissor-making business in London, which soon blossomed into popularity. Meanwhile, a couple oceans away in China, a Chinese businessman named Zhao Xiao Quan was opening a small store. Inside this small store, he hammered away at iron mixed with a little steel, forming solid, good-quality scissors. His motto, “Good quality and excellent workmanship” showed how dedicated this man was. However, civil war began raging in China, and discord as wellas government interference brought Zhao Xiao Quan’s peaceful little shop to an abrupt close. He gave up his store and moved away, hoping to make a living elsewhere.

Thirteen generations later, Zhao Xiao Quan’s grand (x12) daughter sat in an office in her scissor factory, commanding an army of workers. This fit the very definition of mass production, so where did the “Good quality and excellent workmanship” go? Although Zhao Xiao Quan’s granddaughter made a good living, she had no financial ability to cut workers and live up to Zhao Xiao Quan’s standard. She had a solid and a steady income, but she had no pride in her products. This story has a happy ending, however. As the Chinese economy improved, Zhao Xiao Quan’s granddaughter was able to achieve the high quality and foreign exportation she’d wanted. Last year, the company sent their scissors to the Frankfurt Trade Fair.

Their scissors sat proudly next to Indian soaps and French curling irons, finally receiving the honor they deserved. Scissors have not had the respect they deserve in our lives, yet they have shaped the legacies of people like Zhao Xiao Quan and Robert Hinchcliffe. Scissors cut, chop, and snip their way through cloth, chickens, and even coleslaw. We can’t lead normal lives without them, even if we do have supercomputers or 3D printers. Scissors are important.

It’s a clean-cut fact.