Patent Model For A Clothespin, Patent No. 45,119 (USA), November 15, 1864
“Clothes pins as ordinarily made are objectionable on account of their liability to become detached from the line by the shaking of the clothes, which are thus allowed to fall to the ground, and also on account of their liability to split from the strain upon them when forced onto the line. My invention has for its object to produce a clothes-pin which, when secured in place, will not be liable to be accidentally detached from the lines; and it consists in a wedge-shaped piece which slides up and down between the jaws of the pin and is operated by a rod or plunger passing longitudinally through its center, in connection with a notch or indentation in the jaw opposite to the wedge, by which means, when the wedge is forced down, the pin will be securely fastened or locked upon the line, thus avoiding all danger of the clothes being blown away or falling to the ground.”
The earliest American patent for a clothespin was granted in 1832, though designs for hanging one’s laundry were likely known in England before then. In 1853, Vermont inventor David M. Smith patented a groundbreaking version of the device that employed two hinged arms, a design that more closely resembles today’s clothespin. These patent models represent some of the 146 patents issued for clothespins between the years 1852 and 1887. Most have been largely forgotten as a product of shortsighted ingenuity, but this collection nonetheless sheds light on the patent frenzy of the late 19th-century. Most patented clothespins in this period were for minor improvements, and almost all share a common goal: to keep clothes on the drying line without falling off. Some, including a later version patented by Smith in 1867, propose alternative materials for existing designs (in this case, substituting the wire for a cheaper wooden joint). Others dispense with a joint altogether in favor of a cut wood model, like the easily portable version patented by Henry Mellish in 1871. Today, an estimated 60 percent of all American homes have an automatic clothes dryer, rendering the clothespin more or less obsolete—except in the case of children’s craft projects. Indeed, Vermont’s National Clothespin Factory, the last factory producing wooden clothespins in the United States, closed its doors in 2002.
It is credited
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.005.
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Its dimensions are
H x diam.: 10.2 x 1.9 cm (4 x 3/4 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.