Patent Model For A Clothespin, Patent No. 272,762 (USA), February 20, 1883
“The object of my invention is to provide a new and improved clothes-pin which is so constructed that it prevents the clothes from being blown off the line. The invention consists in a clothes-pin having a spring-wire attached to the same, the free end of which wire passes through a slit in the end of one prong of the pin and rests 1 against the inner surface of the other prong, which spring prevents the clothes-pin from dropping from the line and prevents the clothes from being blown from the line… If a clothes-pin is provided with the springwire, it need not be pressed as far on the line as a clothes-pin of the usual construction, and it is thus not so apt to split, and consequently lasts longer.”
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. T11393.040.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 12.9 x 2.5 x 1.7 cm (5 1/16 in. x 1 in. x 11/16 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.