Saturday, May 18, 2024

At the Library: Welcome to International Safety Pin Day

by BPT Staff
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Andrea Gilmer, MLIS Community Engagement Librarian Bossier Parish Libraries

On April 10th we celebrate International Safety Pin Day. This unofficial holiday may be one of my favorites that I’ve discovered over the years.

One of the reasons I enjoy this topic so much is because of the inventor of the safety pin, Walter Hunt. Hunt can be credited with a surprising number of inventions for which he either never sought patents for or sold off his rights; he was so well known for his inventions that his contemporaries celebrated his life in a tribute in the New York Tribune when he passed away in 1859. Because he did not receive credit or much in the way of compensation for his inventions, Joseph Nathan Kane entitled his biography of Hunt, Necessity’s Child: The Story of Walter Hunt, America’s Forgotten Inventor.

Hunt is included in many books dedicated to the inventors of “ordinary things”. Some of his first inventions revolved around the needs of the milling community in which he worked and raised his family. He ended up in New York City in an attempt to raise the funds to manufacture the spinning and roping machine he’d designed to make the mill more efficient and keep the mill owner from cutting workers’ wages when profits were down. Once in NYC, he invented a foot-operated coach alarm so that drivers could warn pedestrians of their approach. He also invented a knife sharpener that would be inexpensive and small enough to be used by city residents. Hunt is even responsible for the first workable sewing machine, not that he received much credit for this invention during his lifetime; he even went on to improve his first design by adding a feature that fed the fabric through at a steady rate which lessened the issue of jamming. 

Finally, his invention of the safety pin came as a result of his nervous fiddling with a piece of wire; there are forms similar to the safety pin prior to Hunt’s design but his added the covering which prevents the sharp tip of the pin from sticking the wearer, and included the circular twist at the bend which acts as a spring. Hunt did patent this invention as a “dress pin” in 1834, but sold the rights for either $100 or $400 (my sources don’t agree) in order to pay a $15 debt he owed.

Hunt continued inventing up until his death in 1859 and has since been recognized for his contributions. For this reason, we celebrate International Safety Pin Day on April 10th and remember a man who gave us one of the most useful, ordinary, inventions that we use in our everyday lives. 

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318.746.1693

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318.949.0196

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318.326.4233

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New and Coming Soon:

  • Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray (Biography; Book)
  • Black Wolf: Antonia Scott Trilogy, Book 2 by Juan Gomez-Jurado; translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia (Fiction; Book, eAudiobook)
  • Gryphon in Light: Kelvren’s Saga, Book 1 by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon (Fiction; Book)
  • Vegan Mob: Vegan BBQ & Soul Food by Toriano Gordon with Korsha Wilson; photographs by Ed Anderson; illustrations by Photo Doctor Graphics (Non-Fiction; Book)

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