The effect of linking together two borrowed finger rings was described in “Zum Ringspiel”, a short article with no byline (likely written by Carl Willmann, the editor) in Zauberwelt, Vol. 5 No. 5, May 1899, p. 75. Two methods are given. In the first, it is suggested that one does a Chinese Linking Ring Routine with borrowed finger rings, where one or two of them have slits. No further details are given. The second method, which is described in more detail, uses two unprepared finger rings, which are apparently but not genuinely linked, using a secret loop of thread. (Using thread to create the illusion of linking has also been used as an alternative method in the Chinese Linking Rings.)
In The Sphinx, Vol. 20 No. 10, Dec. 1921, p. 353, Glenn Gravatt and Harold McFaddan published an effect description in which eight or nine finger rings are collected on a tray, then linked together into “a chain or any design.” The method was promised for a later issue and the readers challenged to come up with a method. Wm Larson Jr. (not Larsen) of Green Bay, Wisconsin, took up the challenge four months later in The Sphinx, Vol. 21 No. 2, Apr. 1922, p. 67, by suggesting the obvious: two “key” finger rings are secretly added to a number of borrowed ones. Perhaps this was essentially Gravatt and McFaddan's method, as they don't seem to have followed up on their promise. Their plot description is reprinted in The Fine Print, No. 4, Feb. 1997, p. 92. The effect of linking nine finger rings (four gaffed) and a method were also published by Theo Bamberg in Okito on Magic, 1952, p. 26.
Richard Himber popularized the effect with his “StaggeRING,” 1961 (see Genii, Vol. 26 No. 3, Nov. 1961, p. 90). Pete Biro claims that Himber's marketed version is the creation of Persi Diaconis, an employee of Himber's at the time. Diaconis, in turn, was inspired by a sequence in Freddy Fah's Linking Rings routine that involved linking a borrowed finger ring onto the large key ring (for a mention of this sequence, see The Gen, Vol. 9 No. 12, Apr. 1954, p. 364). Pete Biro made these claims in his “The Reel Works” column in Genii, Vol. 43 No. 4, Apr. 1979, p. 262, and later in Pete Biro's Magic: Comedy Linking Rings, 2009, p. 17.
U. F. Grant published his method in The New Tops, Vol. 3 No. 3, Mar. 1963, p. 25, and then marketed it a few months later (see Genii, Vol. 27 No. 11, July 1963, p. 463). His method of linking the magician's examined ring to a borrowed one used a slotted duplicate of the examined ring.