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Who invented the safety pin?


Those little devils are surprisingly hard to find when you actually need some.
Those little devils are surprisingly hard to find when you actually need some.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Here's one thing you will not learn about the safety pin from this article:

Why, when you need a safety pin, you can never seem to find one. Not in the bottom of your makeup bag, not in that little pouch of your backpack you're certain you stowed one for emergencies, not even in the kitchen junk drawer, which -- come on -- has 19 paperclips instead, and do you no good.

No amount of research can determine the cause of this phenomenon, and the mystery will remain until we unlock the secrets of space, or the pyramids, or all those other things that are eerie and obnoxiously hard to understand.

But here's what we will get you:

A surprisingly interesting account of the man who invented the safety pin. And Walter Hunt's tale is one of those achingly unfortunate stories that seem to accompany so many inventors. The guy was pretty much a genius at finding simple improvements to everyday objects, but the poor dude did not know the first thing about how to market, sell or -- most important -- trademark and patent his products.

Well, one of those needs a caveat. Hunt knew how to sell his products; he just didn't know how much the ideas were really worth. In fact, legend has it that Hunt was simply fiddling with a piece of wire while trying to figure out a way to pay off a $15 debt when he invented the safety pin in 1849. He sold the idea outright for $400. Please take a moment to imagine the royalties you could receive from every safety pin sold in the world today.

Depressed that you didn't think of it (and patent it) first? Well, just wait. Sure, the story of Walter Hunt and his inventions won't help you hold together that broken spaghetti strap on your dress, but you just might gain a stronger appreciation for the tiny pin that does.