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History of the Rolodex

Arnold Neustadter owned and Hildaur Neilson invented the Rolodex

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Woman looking through rotary card file, side view
Noel Hendrickson/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images
Rolodex is the trademark name for the once popular desktop rotating card index with removable cards. The Rolodex was usually used for names, addresses, and telephone numbers. Take a look at the Rolodex pictures to the right. Once you would have seen a Rolodex on every office desk but nowadays most people store information digitally.

The name Rolodex is derived from a combination of the words rolling and index.

Arnold Neustadter & Zephyr American

The Rolodex was first marketed in 1958 by businessman Arnold Neustadter. Arnold Neustadter was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1910. He attended New York University and was employed at his father's box factory. In 1938, Neustadter started a company called Zephyr American that manufactured and sold all the inventions he owned including the Rolodex. He died in 1996.

Hildaur Neilson - Rolodex Inventor

Self-taught Danish engineer, Hildaur Neilson invented the Rolodex. Hildaur Neilson worked for Arnold Neustadter at Zephyr American. Hildaur Neilson was behind most of the inventing and design work at Zephyr American.

The Rolodex was based on a similar, earlier invention called the Wheeldex. Neilson engineered several improvements that made the Rolodex a better circular file card holder than the Wheeldex including: a second circular rail, plastic handles for easy turning, and a type of clutch.

The Other Dexs

Besides his now famous Rolodex, Arnold Neustadter and Zephyr American employees also invented several other inventions including:
  • Autodex, a phone directory book that automatically opened to the right letter
  • Swivodex, an inkwell that did not spill
  • Punchodex, a paper hole puncher
  • Clipodex, a stenographer's aid that attached to the knee

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