June 22 – Pin-Making Machine Patented

Posted on June 22, 2014

Before this date in 1832, Americans bought pins made by hand in 18 separate steps.

What happened on this date in 1832? An American doctor named John Howe patented a machine that quickly manufactured pins in just one step!

More patents followed – one by Howe improving his pin-making machine, and several by his workers for machines that stacked pins or packaged them.

A straight pin is a piece of iron wire with a larger “head” on one end (to help people use it and to hold it in place) and a sharp point on the other end. Pins are most commonly used to hold pieces of fabric together but are sometimes used to attach papers as well.

The pin itself is ancient. Even prehistoric people made and used pins – although they tended to be made from thorns or bone or ivory. Ancient peoples also crafted pins out of bronze, silver, gold, and brass; these ancient pins often had highly decorative heads.

The modern iron straight pin was used as least as early as the 1400s, in France, and there are mentions of pins or “papers of pins” as part of a tailor's equipment from many areas of Europe at that time.

By the 1700s, pin-making was “industrialized” – which means that the labor of making a pin was divided among many people. Each person could become an expert at one step of the pin-making process, and could handle just one piece of equipment – making the process go faster. Adam Smith even used a pin factory as an example of the efficiency of the division of labor.

With this division of labor, a factory could churn out 5,000 pins a day.

With Howe's machine, a factory could churn out 70,000 pins a day! That's 14 times as many!

But the packaging step was still slow until 1843, when Howe and his workers developed a machine to crimp paper and insert the pins in the paper.

Do some pin art!

Also on this date:

Schoolteachers' Day in El Salvador 


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