Although the inventor of the nail clipper is unknown, the device first surfaced in the late 19th century. The first versions looked like overweight tweezers and were operated by squeezing, and the design hasn't changed much since then.
In 1881, a patent solidified the device's design. The nail clipper described in this patent was also used to button gloves, and it was built to dangle from a belt. Manufacturing these early nail clippers was expensive, so the device didn't succeed commercially. In the 1940s, American designer William E. Bassett made a cheaper, easier-to-use version. One innovation in Bassett's design was the two little bumps that prevent the arm of a nail clipper from shifting to one side while folded.