Manila folder

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A manila folder with a paperclip

A manila folder (sometimes referred to as manilla folder) is a file folder designed to contain documents, often within a filing cabinet. It is generally formed by folding a large sheet of stiff card in half. Though traditionally buff, sometimes other colors are used to differentiate categories of files.

The paper was traditionally produced with manila fibers from abacá leaves, a.k.a. manila hemp.[1] This material was named after Manila, capital of the Philippines.

Before the end of the 20th century,[when?] papermakers replaced the abacá fibers with wood pulp,[2] which cost less to source and process.[3] Despite the change in production material, "the name and color remain".[3]


In the 1830s, a cotton and linen rag shortage occurred in the United States.[4] This caused papermakers to seek out additional production materials.[3]

In 1843, paper maker Mark Hollingsworth and his sons John and Lyman obtained a patent "to manufacture paper from manila fibers" of abacá leaves.[5] This family company became Hollingsworth & Vose.[5] The Guggenheim claims that this creation of manila paper was a way "of recycling manila rope, previously used on ships".[3] The resulting paper was strong, water resistant, and flexible.[3]

The paper shortage "only abated in the 1870s, when rag paper was gradually replaced by paper made from wood pulp".[4]

By 1873, the United States Department of Agriculture quoted Thomas H. Dunham, who described Manila paper as "nine-tenths jute" when praising jute production.[6]

In 1906, over 2,000,000 piculs of manila fibers were produced, making approximately 66% of the country's export profits.[1]

From 1898 to 1946, the United States colonized the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. The Guggenheim claims the "colonial government found ways to prevent Filipinos from profiting off of the abaca crops, instead favoring the businesses of American expats and Japanese immigrants, as well as ensuring that the bulk of the abaca harvests were exported to the United States" for use in military initiatives.[3]

The manila component of the name originates from Manila hemp, named after Manila, the capital of the Philippines.[2] This was historically the main material for manila folders, alongside the manila envelope and manila paper.[7]


The manila folder is a folder designed for transporting documents. It is traditionally made of thick, durable manila paper and sized so that full sheets of printer paper can fit inside without folding. As with the manila envelope, it is traditionally buff in color.

The manila envelope, a close relative of the folder, often has a mechanism on the closing flap that allows it to be opened without damaging the envelope so that it can be reused. There are two main methods to achieve this. The first incorporates a metal clasp with two prongs, which are put through a reinforced eyelet in the flap and then bent apart to hold, while the other has a cardboard button secured tightly on the flap and a piece of string fastened on the envelope body (or the reverse arrangement) is wound around it to form a closure. In a more general sense, similar envelopes made of brown, unbleached paper, used for cheapness, are also described as manila envelopes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Far-Eastern Review: Engineering, Commerce, Finance. G.B. Rea. 1906.
  2. ^ a b "An ode to filing". Otago Daily Times Online News. 11 June 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "A Manila Envelope: The Inspiration behind an Exhibition's Graphic Identity". The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation. Retrieved 2023-10-27.
  4. ^ a b "Reading Victorian Rags: Recycling, Redemption, and Dickens's Ragged Children". Retrieved 2023-10-27.
  5. ^ a b "Hollingsworth & Vose | Asbestos Products & Mesothelioma". Retrieved 2023-10-27.
  6. ^ Pamphlets on Cotton, Wool, Etc. 1873. p. 19.
  7. ^ Wordsmith, Chrysti (2013-04-12). "Word of the Week: Manila envelope, a holdover from Philippine fiber". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2022-09-21.