Design Moment: Safety pin, 1849

For emergency clothing malfunctions, this handy invention is still unsurpassed

If there’s isn’t a board game where everyday objects are described and then guessed there should be.

In 1849 US mechanic Walter Hunt (1796-1859) filed patent 6,281 for “a pin made of one piece of wire or metal combining a spring, and clasp or catch”, – if he had helpfully added that the point of the pin is covered and secure, it would have made guessing “safety pin” easier.

While he has gone down in design history as a serial inventor he was a poor businessman (hence his obscurity), selling the patent to WR Grace & Co for €400 – the company went on to make millions from the handy invention.

Velcro has taken over so many of the functions of the safety pin – the newest iterations of cloth nappies for example are not held in place by safety pins topped with blue or pink catches depending on the gender of the baby as they once were – though for emergency clothing malfunctions, a safety pin is still unsurpassed.