Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Safety Pin 10th April 1849

For those who follow the museum on Twitter (@dartmoorlife) you will see today’s tweet about the invention of the safety pin in 1849. More information on the invention of the safety pin see below.

Walter Hunt (1796-1859) is credited with patenting the safety pin. His other inventions include a forerunner of the Winchester repeating rifle, a successful flax spinner, knife sharpener, streetcar bell, hard-coal-burning stove, artificial stone, road sweeping machinery, velocipedes, ice ploughs and mail making machinery.[1] Alongside this, he is also known for creating a commercially unsuccessful sewing machine.[2]

The design and patent for the safety pin (No 6281) can be seen below and was obtained on the 10th April 1849.[3] It can be read in the document that the distinguishing feature of this pin lies in the construction of the pin. Made from one piece of wire and a catch, in which the pin can be safely retained, it was the first pin to have a clasp and spring action.[4] Hunt claimed that it was designed to keep fingers safe from injury - hence the name.

Image 1- Figures showing different parts of the pin.[5]

The invention of the safety pin came about when Hunt was twisting a piece of wire whilst trying to think of something that would help him pay off a fifteen dollar debt.[6] The safety pin proved a way to do so after he sold the patent for $100.

Hunt also made improvements to the sewing machine which was patented on 17th June 1854 (No 11,161).[7]  This machine was America’s first eye pointed sewing machine.

Sewing machine.[8]

[1] Inventors, 'Walter Hunt', 2012. [Online] Available from : www.inventors.about.com/od/hstartinventors/a/safety_pin.htm. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[2] Inventors, 'Walter Hunt', 2012. [Online] Available from: www.inventors.about.com/od/hstartinventors/a/safety_pin.htm. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[3] Google Patents, 'No 6281', 2011. [Online] Available from: www.google.com/patents?. id=4vBEAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&dq=6281&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q=6281&f=false. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[4] Google Patents, 'No 6281', 2011' [Online] Available from: www.google.com/patents?id=4vBEAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&dq=6281&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q=6281&f=false. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[5] Google Patents, 'No 6281', 2011' [Online] Available from: www.google.com/patents?id=4vBEAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&dq=6281&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q=6281&f=false. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[6] Inventors 'Walter Hunt', 2002. [Online] Available from: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/279.html. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[7] Google Patents, 'No 11,161', 2011. [Online] Available from: www.google.com/patents?id=lyVNAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&dq=11,161&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q=11%2C161&f=false. (Accessed 7/04/2012).
[8] Google Patents, 'No 11,161', 2011. [Online] Available from: www.google.com/patents?id=lyVNAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&dq=11,161&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q=11%2C161&f=false. (Accessed 7/04/2012).

The safety pin is also mentioned in Wulffson, Don L, (1981) The Invention of Ordinary Things, New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.

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