During each of the classical Greece and Rome periods, different forms of safety pin and clasp were in use. In fact, the forms of each period were so indispensable that a safety pin could be used to accurately date any entire archaeological find. Safety pin-heads commonly took the form of serpents, horses, lutes and heads with abstract designs.
The Egyptians didn’t use the safety pin or button, but they used straight pins and needles made of metals. Bronze pins eight inches long with decorated gold heads have been found in Egyptian tombs.
The Goths who overran the Roman Empire used straight pins, made most often from horn or bone, to fasten their mantles over their shoulders.
During the Roman Empire, a consul wearing a tunic fastened by two safety pins over entire head suggesting that in Rome the size of a fibula may have indicated rank. The Romans used the term safety pin fibula for the clasp or for a certain leg bone.
Pins fitting gifts were considered as a sign of royalty in ancient Greece. It is believed that almost all early Greeks used safety pins to fasten their tunics, since the button wasn’t known to everyone at that time.
Athenian women used long, dagger-like pins to fasten their chitons over their shoulders. According to Herodotus, a group of angry women misused the pins to stab to death an Athenian soldier, from then, the city forbade the wearing of the Ionian tunic, which did not require pins.
The law was later revoked but by then, women were using buttons and safety pins.
In Medieval Europe, metal pins remained rare and costly items reserved only for the rich people. The wealthy women used elaborately fashioned safety pins of ivory, brass, silver, and gold, while the poor had to use simple wood skewers. By the fifteenth century, pins were being manufactured from drawn iron wire, and a pin-making industry was well established in France.
During the fourteenth century, “pin money” was the term used which means a small amount allotted by a husband for his wife’s use, or money for incidental items because pins were expensive enough to be real items in the budget. Husbands had to present their wives on the first or second of January with enough money to buy her pins for the year as a part of custom or tradition. “Pin money” went by the boards in the nineteenth century, when mass-production made pins the inexpensive purchase they are today.
In 1838 ,the father of the American pin industry was Samuel Slocum founded a pin factory in Poughkeepsie, New York, capable of manufacturing 1,00,000 pins a day. Though Slocum was not the first to design a machine for manufacturing pins, his pins were the first to be mass-produced in this country.
Slocum’s pins had solid heads, and came to be known as Poughkeepsie pins. It was Slocum who deviced a machine for packaging pins in grooved paper boards.
On April 10, 1849, a New Yorker by the name of Walter Hunt was granted patent Number 6,281 for a device he called the safety pin but he is forgotten as the “inventor” of the safety pin. The would-be pin magnate rather hastily conceived his idea, made a model, and sold his patent rights for the sum of $100, all within three hours! The safety pin, or devices virtually identical to it, had been in use for more than 2,500 years, diaper-wearing babies have expressed their gratitude ever since, with hours of sob-free slumber.