The safety pin is a variation of the regular pin which includes a simple spring mechanism and a clasp. The clasp serves two purposes: to form a closed loop thereby properly fastening the pin to whatever it is applied to, and to cover the end of the pin to protect the user from the sharp point. The fibula, a form of brooch, was invented by the Myceaneans on the Greek Peloponnesus between the 14th and 13th Century BC, and is considered an early precursor to a safety pin since they were used in a similar manner. Fibulae were used by Greek women and men to help secure tunics.
Photo: Wikipedia/Hunt’s Patent
American mechanic Walter Hunt is regarded as the inventor of the safety pin that bears resemblance to those used today. The safety pin included a clasp that covered the point and kept it from opening, and a circular twist at the bend to act as a spring and hold it in place.Charles Rowley (Birmingham, England) independently patented a similar safety pin in October 1849, although the company no longer makes these.
Hunt made the invention in order to pay off a $15 debt to a friend. He used a piece of brass wire that was about 8 inches long and made a coil in the center of the wire so it would open up when released. The clasp at one end was devised in order to shield the sharp edge from the user.
Photo: Wikipedia/Safety Pin
After being issued U.S. patent #6,281 on April 10, 1849, Hunt sold the patent to W. R. Grace and Company for $400 (roughly $12,000 in 2017 dollars). Using that money, Hunt then paid the $15 owed to a friend and kept the remaining amount of $385 for himself. What Hunt failed to realize is that in the years to follow, W.R. Grace and Company would make millions of dollars in profits from his invention.
Photo: Wikipedia/William Russell Grace
During the emergence of punk rock in the late seventies, safety pins became associated with the genre, its followers and fashion. Safety pins hold a value in certain cultures and traditions. In India pins are kept over generations and passed down to daughters. Ukrainians use pins as a way to ward off evil spirts when attached to children’s clothing. In other countries a safety pin is a form of good luck.
After the 2016 UK Brexit vote and again after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, safety pins were worn as a symbol of solidarity with minorities, refugees, immigrants and others who had been blamed and vilified in the press in the lead up to the vote.