History of the clothes peg
Clothes pegs have been re-invented countless times over the course of their history. They have been collected, exhibited in national and international museums, been the subject of federal law, the object of monuments and the livelihood of millions.
Originating from the Shaker movement, or possibly even earlier as a result of an innovation brought home by fishermen who had hung their washing in rigging while out at sea, clothes pegs started life fashioned in one piece, a primitive stick with a slit in the end which is pushed over the washing to fix it to the line.
The first patented clothes peg issued in March 1832, described a bent strip of hickory held together with a wooden screw which proved to be totally impractical. Rain or even dampness would cause the screw to swell, rendering the pin inoperable. It took 21 more years for an improvement to emerge that would be deemed worthy of manufacture (if briefly): the “spring-clamp for clotheslines,” invented by David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont, in 1853 was made of two wooden “legs” hinged together by a metal spring and was the forebare of everything we have on our washing lines today.
Smith’s invention, has been tweaked and modified endlessly: 146 new patents were granted in the mid-nineteenth century alone and the quest for the perfect peg has continued to this day.