History and Story Behind Inventions: Safety Pin

About the story behind the invention of the safety pin, history and biography of inventor Walter Hunt.


INVENTOR: Walter Hunt, U.S.

YEAR: 1825

HOW INVENTED: Hunt, a New York Quaker, was in debt for $15. He had to find the money overnight. He tried to think of new products that were sorely needed. One thing needed was a pin that held separate articles together but did not prick the user. Musing over this problem, Hunt conceived a clasp pin with a guard covering its point. A "safe" pin.

In 3 hours, he worked out a sketch--"The distinguishing features of this invention consist in the construction of a pin made of one piece of wire or metal combining a spring, and clasp or catch, in which the point of said pin is forced, and by its own spring securely retained," explained his patent--and then he produced a tiny model, and sold it outright for $400. He never got another dime for it.

Hunt was a prolific and brilliant inventor. He also invented a repeating rifle, nail-making machine, paper collar, ice plow, dry dock, metal bullet with its own explosive charge--and, in 1832, a sewing machine (limited to sewing only a straight seam for a few inches). He suggested to his daughter she manufacture the sewing machine. When she objected that such a machine would force too many seamstresses out of work, Hunt dropped the idea and never patented it.

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