The History of the Straight Pin.
***Note: The following short summary about straight pins is taken from the “I’ve Got a Notion” segment of Stitched, our quilting podcast. You can listen to the full episode, called “It Takes A Hive” here:
The straight pin is a notion that most sewists can not live without!
Although for centuries many people have invented ways to secure fabric together, the history of the manufacturing of straight pins in America tends to lead us to a few men who applied for patents and started pin making companies. One of the most famous is John Ireland Howe.
John Howe was a physician by profession and after watching the inmate/patients at the New York Alm’s House laboriously make pins by hand-cutting and sharpening wire, he began to explore ideas for a pin-making machine. Howe sought out the help of a printer press designer named Robert Hoe to help him invent the machine that would soon become one of the first to make straight pins out of a single piece of wire.
Howe obtained a patent for his machine in June of 1832. After the machine was exhibited at the American Institute Fair in New York City, he was awarded a silver medal for his contribution to manufacturing.
In December of 1835, Howe formed the Howe Manufacturing Company. His manufacturing plant was soon manufacturing 70,000 pins daily. However, the packaging step was a slower one as his workers had to manually insert each and every pin into the paper cards in order to sell them.
Later in 1843, with the help of some of his employees, Howe developed a machine that could not only crimp the paper card but it could also insert the pins directly into the card, eliminating the human step and making the process of manufacturing so much quicker.
Although Howe’s process of making pins was a good one, the nickel coating on the outside of the wired pins was not perfect and the pins would rust as electroplating was not yet invented. To help remedy this, tailors or sewists of the day, would clean the rusted pins by rubbing them back and forth into a bag of emery grit to clean off the bits of rust. Today this bag of grit is known as the forebearer to another one of our favorite notions–the pin cushion!
To read all about this history of the pin cushion check out THIS POST:
And to find out more about a variety of pins and which pins work best with which fabric you can check out THIS POST.