Historical authors must always be on the lookout for accuracy. And so it was, that while writing a scene in The Rood in which my female heroine takes off an apron, I began arguing with myself (we writers do that a lot) about the “safety pin.”
Now, I knew that colonial aprons were not tied on, but were “pinned” on, or at least in most instances they were. In fact, women’s bodices and dresses were “pinned” as well. And I am talking “loooonnnggggg” pins, not the stuff our mothers used that stuck out of pincushions to await holding together fabric and a paper pattern. For more on this pinning done by colonial women, as well as pictures of these pins and a colonial women’s bodice that is “pinned,” check out Two Nerdy History Girls November 20, 2009 post titled Pins & Pinning.
But, I digress. The point is that in my head I still had colonial aprons attached with – you got it – a good old-fashioned safety pin.
Except there was no such thing in 1756.
Or 1780. Or 1820.
The safety pin as we know it today was invented by American mechanic Walter Hunt in 1849. He made the invention to pay off a $15 debt to a friend. Hunt was issued a U.S. patent on 10 April 1849, and he then sold the patent to W. R. Grace and Company for $400 (in 2008 this would have equaled $10,000).
Hunt paid the friend his $15, and he promptly kept the other $385 for himself. Of course, like I stated above, that woud be like keeping several tens of thousands of dollars today.
However, W. R. Grace and Company got the better end of the deal, for they would make millions of dollars from the safety pin.
I, for one, am grateful. The idea of large pins pinned to my breast front is not a comforting thought to say the least.
Oh, and the scene with the “pinned” apron.
Such is the life of a writer.