Patent Model For A Clothespin, Patent No. 119,938 (USA), October 17, 1871
“The nature of my invention relates to the construction of a bifurcated clothespin in such form that the act of placing it on the line will cause the points of the prongs to approach nearer to each other, and their inner surfaces near[er?]. The object of the invention is to produce a pin that shall be light and convenient to carry in the pocket; one that shall be easily put on and taken off the clothes-line; and one that shall always hold the clothes firmly to the line, notwithstanding any blowing about by the wind; and, finally a pin that can be made and sold at a lower price than any pin heretofore in use.”
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. T11393.011.
Our curators have highlighted 3 objects that are related to this one.
Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 7 x 2.5 x 1.6 cm (2 3/4 x 1 x 5/8 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.